A Brief History of the Texas Folklore Society
Founded by John Avery Lomax and Leonidas Payne in 1909, the Texas Folklore Society has now been preserving and presenting the folklore of Texas and the Southwest for well over a century. It held its first meeting on the campus of the University of Texas in 1911. Mrs. Bess Brown Lomax was on the program, and she gave a paper on the now famous "Boll Weevil" song, which Lomax had collected in the Brazos bottom in 1909. The Society is the oldest state folklore organization continually functioning in the United States.
The Society meets each year on Easter weekend (Thursday night through Saturday at noon), when members sing folksongs and play folk instruments at a "hootenanny," tell tall tales, and present papers on a variety of folklore subjects. All sessions are open to the public. Annual meetings have continued regularly since 1911, except for interruptions in 1918-1921 and 1944-1945 caused by the great wars and their after-effects, and in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation. The Society has held meetings in over thirty different cities around the state, some in concert with other organizations that share similar interests. The 100th Annual Meeting took place in Austin in 2016.
With a diverse interest in research areas, the Society has published over 100 volumes of folklore-related works, from pamphlets on folk songs to full-length hardcover books on topics from the Mexican rodeo to folk music to death customs and superstitions. The Texas Folklore Society has brought to Texas and sent out from Texas the finest scholars and lecturers in the field of folklore, and it has sponsored programs displaying folk arts from Texas and the world. We'd love to have you join us at our next meeting!
The Founders and the Secretary-Editors
Stith Thompson edited the first Publication of the Texas Folklore Society, later renamed Round the Levee, in 1916, while serving as the Society's Secretary and Treasurer. Since then, there have only been five Secretary-Editors, a title coined by J. Frank Dobie, who resurrected the organization in 1922 and held the position for the next twenty years. Mody Boatright followed with another twenty-year term, and he was succeeded by Wilson Hudson.
In 1971, F. E. Abernethy took over, and the headquarters moved from the University of Texas to the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Ab served as Secretary-Editor for thirty-three years, and in 2004 he turned over the reins to Ken Untiedt who held the position for sixteen years.
April, 2020, the membership agreed to move the home office to Granbury, Texas, with host institution Tarleton State University in full support. Frances B. Vick was elected as the Society's first female Secretary-Editor.