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Folklorist Mack McCormick’s Blues and Folklore Archive Donated to Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History


HOUSTON, November 17, 2022 -- Earlier today, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced its acceptance of the donation of the late Robert “Mack” McCormick’s blues and folklore archives as a gift from his daughter, Susannah Nix.   For the past five years, Baker Botts L.L.P. has advised and represented Ms. Nix and the McCormick Estate on this significant gift on a pro bono basis.

Mack McCormick, who lived most of his life in Houston, Texas, was one of the foremost folklorists in the United States. Starting in the 1950s, he documented and preserved information on the lives and music of musicians throughout the South, and especially Texas.  He accumulated a massive archive of unreleased recordings, photographs, interview tapes, research notes, correspondence, essays, and other materials pertaining to Texas and Southern music and folklore. His archive also contains materials from his years managing the careers of famous Texas musicians such as Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb, correspondence with musicians and other folklorists like Pete Seeger and Alan Lomax, and research on the lives of important musicians like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson.

Ms. Nix, an award-winning romance author, observes:  “My father spent most of his lifetime assembling an extensive collection of original field research, including several years working for the Smithsonian Institution.  He would be pleased to know that his work has found a permanent home at the Smithsonian so it can finally be made available to other researchers and enthusiasts for years to come.  I can attest to the great care the Smithsonian’s team of archivists have taken to collect, process, and preserve my father’s life’s work.”

Bill Kroger and Roger Fulghum of Baker Botts have represented Ms. Nix for the past five years, donating their time and services on a pro bono basis.

“I have known of Mr. McCormick’s important archive since I was a young man, working in my parents’ Houston music stores before going to law school.  The documents in these files provide a unique, comprehensive picture of the lives of diverse Texas and Southern musicians, many of whom have only previously been vaguely known or appreciated.  It is an absolute highlight of our careers to represent Ms. Nix on this project.  Her generosity and determination to see that this collection is preserved in its entirety and made available to the public has been remarkable.   And the professionalism and dedication of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and its staff, during these difficult years during the Covid-19 pandemic, is nothing short of heroic.  It has been an honor to work with everyone involved in this project,” Kroger said.

Adds Ms. Nix:  “The archive has so much historical significance.   I am grateful to Baker Botts for the time they devoted to make this vast gift a reality, and for the hard work and care of the Smithsonian and their professional staff.” 

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