Is Lightnin' Hopkins Finally About to Get His Own Official Historical Marker?

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Both Rocks Off and our predecessor in the music editor's chair have written about what a travesty it is that there is no official marker honoring perhaps the most famous and influential musician to ever call Houston home, country-blues icon Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins. Along the way, we've both mentioned that we're hardly the only ones that feel that way either.

Now Houstonian R. Eric Davis has taken the next step and filed the necessary paperwork with the Harris County Historical Commission to erect a Texas State Historical Marker on the Project Row Houses property in Third Ward. Known as the "King of Dowling Street," Hopkins is buried in Forest Park Cemetery, across I-45 from the neighborhood where he spent most of his time in Houston.

An Illinois native who moved to Houston in 1993, Davis and his daughter went to Forest Park last August to find Hopkins' grave and originally, he says, "couldn't do it." After getting some "very specific" instructions, they eventually did. Having been there ourselves, Rocks Off can say firsthand that it's pretty easy to miss.

"We were stunned," Davis says. "We found his headstone and it's this 12-18 inch slab of granite. I was taken aback that this was the only memorial this guy has, for all that he did."

Davis went home and researched the process to obtain a historical marker and drafted a proposal he filed with the HCHC. He expects to hear an answer by Thanksgiving, and says the commission has "pretty much assured me it's going to happen."

If the HCHC does approve Davis' proposal, it goes before the Texas State Historical Commission in Austin. One of the requirements, ironically, is that petitioners are responsible for raising their own funds to pay for the markers as no public monies are budgeted for such things. (Ahh, Texas.)

Davis estimates he's raised about ten percent of the approximately $1,700 necessary to pay for a Hopkins marker. He's set up an account at Bank of America and is asking people to help him come up with the rest - donations can be deposited at any BoA branch nationwide - by February 1 so the memorial can be installed by next fall. Here is the account information:

Lightnin' Hopkins Marker Fund

Acct. No. 5860 1320 5659

Rocks Off encourages our readers to give whatever they can spare to finally help make this a reality. We asked local blues scholar Dr. Roger Wood, who has beaten the drum for a public Hopkins memorial a time or two himself, to comment on Davis' efforts, and here's what he sent back:

"I am familiar with the work that Eric Davis has done to bring this project to fruition, and I am impressed and grateful.

"The absence of a historical marker commemorating Lightnin' Hopkins is something that many of us have long complained about, sometimes cynically - evidence, we perhaps have assumed, of the distorted priorities of our civic leaders, etc.

"Meanwhile, Eric singlehandedly chose to research the tedious process for establishing historical markers, compile the necessary research and paperwork and shepherd the proposal through the multiple steps required by the county and state bureaucracy. He has handled every detail, as far as I can tell, with impeccable professionalism.

"Now it's up to the rest of us to finish the job by raising the money that the state requires to pay for the marker. I will be making a contribution to the cause, and I encourage others to do so too.

"Eric has done Houston a big favor by initiating this effort and bringing it this far. Those of us who care about its cultural history - and dig the blues - should support it."

Hear hear.

Davis can be reached at redavis59@comcast.net.

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