Research Notes: The Angelina Four

The Angelina Four at Kelty’s Lumber Co., Lufkin, Texas, 1940 Ruby Lomax,
Library of Congress. Alphonso “A.H.” Charlton; Tom “T.J.” Bailey; Jerry Watkins, and Jethro “Jabbo” Williams.

I’ve mentioned these guys before when writing about the work of John Avery and Ruby Lomax, but thought that they needed their own spotlight.

The Angelina Four was a quartet of men who were employed by the Angelina County Lumber Company in Keltys, a community outside of Lufkin. The East Texas musicians recorded 15 pieces, a “singing commercial” – Angelina Longleaf Pine, – and 14 songs that included popular, gospel and spiritual music with rich harmonies.

Notes from Lufkin Recordings. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Please explore these links for citations and further reading:

Amy Bertsch, “Lufkin Recordings,” East Texas History, accessed May 17, 2021.

Megan Biesele, “Keltys, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2021.

John Foster, “Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950,” Design Observer.

Lomax, J. A., Lomax, R. T., Bailey, T. J., Charlton, A. H., Watkins, J. & Williams, J. (1940) Angelina Longleaf Pine. Lufkin, Texas.

*Some of these sources document outdated and now-unacceptable language, policies and ideas around race. Like the authors of these academic works, I do not condone or wish to ignore potential negative impact by reporting or linking to them. In writing about history, I often must weigh the benefit of sharing the “entire picture” against the potential harm in doing so. In this case, I felt that it was important to tell the whole story of the Angelina Four, understanding that the entirety of their lived experiences likely contributed to their creative work and place in history.

Research Notes: Ruby & John Avery Lomax

Ruby Terrill Lomax and John Avery Lomax produced folklife documentary work that comes up a lot when I am researching East Texas History. Along with her husband John Avery Lomax, Texas folklorist Ruby Terrill Lomax traveled the state and other Southern regions for the 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. The Lomax’s multi-genre journey documented Southern folk musicians and their communities through sound recordings, photographs and other ephemera, and spends valuable time in communities of Color and documenting the creative contributions of incarcerated people. The collection’s primary home is in The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Here are a few items of interest from the collection:

Disc Sleeve with Notes, American Folklife Center
The Angelina Four at Kelty’s Lumber Co., Lufkin, Texas, 1940 Ruby Lomax,
Library of Congress
Enka Square Dance Team dancing at the Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina,
Ruby Lomax, Wikimedia Commons

The project’s recordings can be found here: Lomax Iconic Song List, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress also has the 300+ page Field Notes manuscript from this trip, which you can download for easier reading.