Big Joe Williams
Rural Cemetery in Crawford, MS
In upwards of fifty people completed the journey to the grave of Big Joe Williams. Milling around the hillside, most folks seemed apprehensive about standing in a graveyard with a bunch of scattered headstones and evidently unmarked graves. Blewett Thomas informed the crowd of several other interments in the small cemetery, but he did not know why the musician’s family had selected such an atypical and desolate site. Since Wiencek could discern “no apparent order” inside this unfamiliar city of the dead, he concluded:
“It was most certainly a black burial ground. Some of its interments had graves marked just with a single, small, bare stone, while other graves were marked only with a rectangular depression in the earth. In fact, the unmarked grave of Big Joe Williams had been one of them” for almost a dozen years.
The shiny, tall new stone erected in memorial of “Big” Joe Williams served as the backdrop for a host of photographs, as “this old country cemetery seemed the perfect setting” to humbly honor such a giant in the history of American music. The ending of the graveside service led to a subsequent reception at the Crawford Public Library. With its excess donations for the project, the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund purchased one of the blues artist’s modified guitars from his sister Mary May and donated it to Sid Graves, founding director of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.