Historians looking to memorialize blues musician

Historians looking to memorialize blues musician
Blind Roosevelt Graves, a blues musician, is one of many people buried in the Old Mississippi City Cemetery without a marked headstone. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Blind Roosevelt Graves, a blues musician, is one of many people buried in the Old Mississippi City Cemetery without a marked headstone. Now, the Historical Society of Gulfport is taking steps to learn more about him and build a memorial at his final resting place

With our state being the birthplace of blues music, people like Gulfport resident Jonathan Hilbun take a special interest in blues artists like Blind Roosevelt Graves.

"Roosevelt Graves, he was born in Jones County, rural Jones County, in about 1908 to 1909. He was born blind. He, like a lot of blind musicians and people at the time, he made a living by playing music," Hilbun said.

Hilbun said Graves is one of a number of people buried in the Old Mississippi City Cemetery without a properly marked headstone.

"A lot of people died in the early to mid 20th century with no money for grave markers, no money for headstones. And even though Roosevelt Graves was a former recording artist and a musician, chances are he probably didn't have the business savvy to protect his rights," Hilbun noted.

Records show Graves died at the age of 54 in Gulfport after a lifetime of recording spiritual songs.

"He died at Memorial Hospital in 1962 after about a two-week hospitalization. He had a massive heart attack," Hilbun noted.

Hilbun says he's actively seeking the public's help in finding out any further information on the last few years of Graves' life spent on the coast.

"We're hoping that some community members who knew Roosevelt Graves down here when he lived in Gulfport may learn about this initiative and come forward with some information about what they know or remember about him. As far as the world knows, no one even knows what he looks like other than a handful of people who have given a very consistent description," Hilbun noted.

Blind Roosevelt Graves is honored on two Mississippi Blues Trail markers. One is in Hattiesburg and another is in Gulfport.

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