Bobby McMillon Legacy

On November 28, 2021, the world lost Robert Lynn McMillon, a “folklorists’ folklorist” and keeper and inheritor of an incredibly deep ocean of lore, music, and knowledge. Bobby left behind a priceless and significant (if disorganized) collection of papers, books, and recordings. In gathering Bobby’s material, it became clear that a dedicated effort to categorize and preserve his work needed to be undertaken by people who knew the singer and folklorist well.
 
We seek start-up support to embark on a year-long effort to organize and process Bobby’s work in order to best: (1) steward his legacy, (2) make his knowledge and talent widely accessible, and (3) ensure that his work has a permanent home (the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Appalachian Studies at Mars Hill University) in the mountains he loved so deeply. In addition, since some of Bobby’s papers and recordings are incomplete or poorly labeled, we aim to lovingly “fill in the gaps” with our own memories, understanding, and knowledge of his life’s work.
 
Funds from this GoFundMe will be used to jumpstart the effort to:
--Preserve and organize Bobby’s materials.
--Support the coinciding memory documentation project with Sheila Kay Adams and others. 
--Create a love offering for Bobby’s widow, Joyce (who generously donated Bobby’s materials, many of which were valuable and rare.)
 
For more on Bobby McMillon, click here.
 
Any donations for this important journey will be deeply appreciated. We all loved Bobby dearly, and will be embarking on this project regardless of the funds raised, but in order to do it “right,” we need resources that we currently do not have.
 
 
Our Team is led by:
 
Sheila Kay Adams
Is a celebrated author, storyteller, and seventh generation ballad singer from the deep traditions of Madison County, NC. For forty-seven years she counted Bobby as one of her dearest friends. They performed together numerous times, from the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration on the Mall in Washington, DC to the “Brown Paper Bag Bawdy Ballad” concerts in Marshall, and Black Mountain, NC. For her work, Sheila has received the North Carolina Society of Historians’ Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award, and the North Carolina Folklore Society’s Brown-Hudson Award. In 2013, Sheila Kay Adams received the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. In 2016, she was awarded the North Carolina Heritage Award, North Carolina’s highest award for the preservation of the traditional arts. In 2019, Adams was one of the first nine to receive the Folk and Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship from South Arts, Inc. In 2020, along with her daughter, she received the North Carolina Mentor/Apprentice Grant for a year long apprenticeship. She is also the author of acclaimed works My Old True Love and Come Go Home with Me.
 
“Bobby was my best friend. We had a connection with our love of the old folks, the old days, the old songs, the old ways. It was a love that bound us together for almost 50 years.”--Sheila Kay Adams
 
 
Rodney Sutton
Rodney Sutton is a prominent and highly respected representative of the dance and music traditions of his home state of North Carolina. He is particularly known as a traditional step-dancer, adept at both flatfooting and clogging, and also as a dance caller. In 2013 and 2014, he recorded Bobby extensively as a part of the Bobby McMillon Anthology Project. Over the past 25 years, Sutton has videoed many of the “Old Masters” concerts during Old-time Week at the Swannanoa Gathering, archiving what has turned out to be the final concert of many of these noted musicians!  Sutton has danced with the Green Grass Cloggers for 50 years, serving as its director from 1977-79. He was co-founder and principal dancer with the Fiddle Puppets Dance Company - now known as Footworks - from 1979-1990. In 2012, he received the Sam Queen Award from the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival Folk Heritage Committee in Asheville, NC.
In 2019, Sutton was one of 9 artists selected to receive a first ever Folk and Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship from SouthArts. He currently is participating as a mentor on a yearlong NC Appalachian Folk Life Apprenticeship Grant where he is teaching Willard Cline Watson III dance steps that Sutton learned back in the 1970’s from renowned flatfoot dancer, Willard Watson Sr.
 
“Bobby was one of the smartest, sweetest people I have ever met - and his recall of songs, tunes and stories was as strong as ever up to his last days! I cherish the many hours I spent with him at his and Joyce's home.” –Rodney Sutton
 
 
 
William Ritter
is a folklorist, musician, and seed-saver living in Bakersville, NC. In 2019, he and Bobby received a $10,000 grant from the NC Arts Council and SouthArts for a year-long apprenticeship focused on storytelling, mountain folkways, and Appalachian folk songs. This year he was named to SouthArts Emerging Traditional Artist Program cohort, which recognizes and supports a new generation of traditional artists ages 18-35 that have demonstrated a high level of skill in, commitment to, and leadership in their traditional art form.
 
“I’ve learned so many songs from Bobby, and I will always treasure them. I could have tried to record him more, and I know I’ll have those little regrets for not learning this or that, but I certainly do not regret choosing first and foremost to be his friend more than his documenter.” –William Ritter
 
 
Below is a clip of Bobby singing out of one of his many handwritten "blue books," a priceless, multi-volume collection of songs, folkways, and more that will be part of the permanent collection at Mars Hill.
 
 
We will be gradually making videos, recordings, and writings available online at William's Songtoseed Website.
  • Susan Sherlock 
    • $50 
    • 1 mo
  • Mary Eagle 
    • $5,000 
    • 1 mo
  • Miriam Wright 
    • $100 
    • 1 mo
  • Anne Rutherford 
    • $25 
    • 2 mos
  • G. Alex Bernhardt Sr 
    • $100 
    • 2 mos
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Fundraising team (8)

William Ritter 
Organizer
Raised $1,240 from 11 donations
Bakersville, NC
Sheila Kay Adams 
Team member
Raised $925 from 20 donations
Derek Piotr 
Team member
Raised $276 from 6 donations
Rodney Sutton 
Team member
Raised $225 from 4 donations
Leila Weinstein 
Team member
See all