Bess Lomax Hawes: November 2009
Bess Lomax Hawes passed away in November 2009 at the age of 88. She gave a wonderful keynote address at the Gathering in 1996 when she reminisced about her father, folklorist John Lomax, who published the pioneering collection, "Cowboy Songs and other Range Ballads", 100 years ago this year.
To a generation of folklorists, Bess Hawes was a powerful mentor, building the National Endowment for the Arts' Folk Arts Program over 15 years starting in 1977. She and the Folk Arts Program supported the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in its first years, a time when other sponsors were turning us down. We will always be grateful for her contributions to the cowboy poetry renaissance and for her personal commitment to the artful life of Americans as demonstrated in a few sage words from her 1996 keynote: "Today as we struggle to help maintain the variety of natural life on the planet, we must concern ourselves also, with the support of cultural variety while we can still catch the echoes of these varied musical systems and varied poetic systems and hear them speaking to our deepest hearts."