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Ben Gray Lumpkin Collection

Identifier: COU:1004

Scope and Contents

The Ben Gray Lumpkin Collection primarily covers Lumpkin’s professorship and personal papers, as well as Lumpkin’s own publications and books from his own collection. I. BOOKS AND PAMPHLETS contains Lumpkin’s books and pamphlets on folksongs, folklore, and a few examples from his professorship in the Department of English and Speech. There are also publications such as the Colorado Folksong Bulletin, which Lumpkin edited and contributed to and clippings from the Silver Star Record. Box 4 contains several zinc plates that were used for publishing folksongs in Western Folklore.


  • 1948 - 1983


Ben Gray Lumpkin was born on his grandfather’s farm between Holly Springs and Hudsonville, Marshall County, Mississippi on December 25, 1901 to John Moorman and Harriet Gray Lumpkin. He was home-schooled until age 8, when he was old enough to ride his own mare to public school in Hudsonville. The family moved when they purchased a new farm in Lowndes County, Mississippi, and Ben attended school there until the ninth grade, when he was sent to live with his aunt to complete high school in Tupelo. Lumpkin graduated in 1921 and went on the University of Mississippi. Lumpkin received his B.A. degree in 1925 from the University of Mississippi and immediately entered the work force with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History from September 1925 to March 1929. He also worked for the Mississippi Division office of Southern Bell Telephone Company from March 1929 to August 1930. Lumpkin taught high school English, among other subjects, in Vina, Alabama from August 1930 to January 1932. At this time, he began part-time graduate work, also with the University of Mississippi and received his M.A. degree in 1935. It was also around this time that Lumpkin married his first wife, Helen Patricia Maltby, in 1936. He continued to teach English at the University of Mississippi until 1937, when he moved to University of North Carolina and received his Ph.D. in 1944. Aside from teaching, Lumpkin also wrote technical manuals for the U.S. Quartermaster Generals office at Camp Lee, Virginia from 1944 to 1946. Lumpkin started his career with the University of Colorado in 1946 when he began as an English instructor teaching freshmen and introductory English classes. Later in his career, Lumpkin turned his love of collecting Colorado folksongs and folklore into his own English classes that he taught until his retirement in 1969 . Professor Lumpkin said he first heard Colorado folksongs sung by Fletcher Simms, a Negro wage hand that worked on his father’s farm in Lowndes County. Later, in 1922, a professor of Lumpkin’s at the University of Mississippi invited him to hear the songs of John Lomax, a singer/songwriter of western cowboy songs. Lumpkin also attended folklore classes at the University of North Carolina and was responsible for editing and publishing the Colorado Folksong Bulletin, which detailed much of his field work on Colorado folksongs and folklore history. Professor Lumpkin was established as Professor Emeritus in 1969 and subsequently retired to Tennessee, where he met and married his second wife, Marion Cordelia Page, in 1971. Marion was also active in collecting and performing folksongs from the Montgomery County, Tennessee area. Professor Lumpkin died in Clarksville, Tennessee, on January 31, 1982.

Reference Source: Cassandra Volpe and William Kearns, “Guide to the Ben Gray Lumpkin Collection,” University of Colorado-Boulder AMRC Music Library, (accessed April 6, 2012).

Although there is conclusive evidence that Lumpkin taught folksong, folklore, and narrative poem courses in 1968-1969, there are none listed in the English and Speech Department Course Catalogs for the years before 1968.


6 linear feet (4 Records boxes)

Language of Materials



Ben Gray Lumpkin (1901-1982), earned a BA (1925) from University of Mississippi, where he stayed and worked as a secretary-clerk in the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History and also the Mississippi Division Office of Southern Bell Telephone Company. After receiving his MA also from UM (1932), he taught English until 1937 and eventually at the University of North Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. here in 1944. During WWII, Lumpkin wrote technical manuals for the U.S. Quartermaster Generals office at Camp Lee, Virginia (1944-1946). In 1946, Lumpkin came to the University of Colorado to teach English and folksongs, where he remained a professor until his retirement in 1969. This collection includes publications, letters, and personal writings of Lumpkin’s American West, folksong and folklore interests as well as his professorship.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States