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AFS Review: In Memoriam

Judith McCulloh​ (1935-2014)

Sunday, July 13, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate
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By Elizabeth E. Peterson (American Folklife Center) — 

Judy McCulloh was born in 1935 in Spring Valley, Illinois and grew up in Northmoor Orchard near Peoria. She died in the early hours of July 13, 2014 in Urbana, Illinois. During her 30 years as an editor at the University of Illinois Press, Judy was the creator and guiding force behind the Folklore in Society Series, which produced 13 books, and the Music in American Life Series, which produced 130 titles and garnered 20 Deems Taylor ASCAP awards.  The Music in American Life Series is a towering achievement, producing scores of books that have changed the way we think about music and culture.  Any book she ushered through to publication could be trusted to be substantial, informative and fun to read. Through the Music in America Series in particular, Judy established folk and roots music and other forms of popular music as respected fields of inquiry to an extent never achieved before.  She truly raised the bar. Judy received her Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University. 

She was President of the American Folklore Society in 1987 and served on the Executive Board as well.  She was also the Treasurer of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1982-86 and remained active with SEM for over 50 years.  She served on the Board of the American Folklife Center for many years, chairing the Board through some of the difficult period when the fight for the Center’s permanent Congressional re-authorization was especially heated and the outcome in doubt. We are thankful that she rose to this challenge. She received numerous honors and Lifetime Achievement Awards during her life from the organizations she worked with.  She was elected to the AFS Fellows.  She received Distinguished Service Awards from the University of Illinois, Ohio Wesleyan University (an alma mater) and the Society for Ethnomusicology. In 2010, Judy received the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, which is given for major contributions to the excellence, vitality and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. Awards are not the measure of a woman or man but in this instance they stand as small tokens of the great esteem in which Judy was held by so many. There are many in this Society who are deeply indebted to Judy McCulloh, and many in the folklore field writ large who are thankful for her devoted service, forthrightness and generous spirit.

Betsy Peterson read the following at the 2014 Opening Ceremonies of the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting: 

"There are many in this room tonight who are deeply indebted to Judy McCulloh. I know our Society and the folklore field writ large are thankful for her devoted service, forthrightness and generous spirit."  

Judy McCulloh was born in 1935 in Spring Valley, Illinois and grew up in Northmoor Orchard near Peoria. She died in the early hours of Sunday morning, July 13th in Urbana, Illinois.

During her 30 years as an editor at the University of Illinois Press, Judy was the creator and guiding force behind the Folklore in Society Series (which produced 13 books) and the Music in American Life Series which produced 130 titles and garnered 20 Deems Taylor ASCAP awards.  The Music in American Life Series is a towering achievement, producing scores of books that have changed the way we think about music and culture.  You could always trust a book that she  ushered through to publication to be  substantial, informative and fun to read.  She gave us hours of reading pleasure.  Through the Music in America Series in particular, Judy established folk and roots music and other forms of popular music as respected fields of inquiry to an extent never achieved before.  She truly raised the bar for all of us.

Judy received her Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University.  She was President of the American Folklore Society in 1987 and served on the Executive Board as well.  She was also the Treasurer of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1982-86 and remained active with SEM for over 50 years.  She served on the Board of the American Folklife Center for many years, chairing the Board through some of the difficult period when the fight for the Center’s permanent Congressional re-authorization was especially heated and the outcome in doubt. We are thankful that she rose to this challenge.

She received numerous honors and Lifetime Achievement Awards during her life from the organizations she worked with.  She was elected to the AFS Fellows.  She received Distinguished Service Awards from the University of Illinois, Ohio Wesleyan University (an alma mater) and the Society for Ethnomusicology.

In 2010, Judy received the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, which is given for major contributions to the excellence, vitality and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts.  Our President, Michael Ann Williams, will describe further honors in a moment.

Awards are not the measure of a woman or man but in this instance they stand as small tokens of the great esteem in which Judy was held by so many.

We will miss our dear friend and colleague.  And I for one will miss seeing her in the book room at these meetings.



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