History In The Pines With Dana Goolsby People Travel ETX

Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins

Lightnin’- Bluesman Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins had ties to Houston County. A statue was erected in his memory across from Camp Street Café in Crockett. Locals say Hopkins played on the street and in establishments along Camp Street in his youth. Camp Street was in the center of the Black Business District in Houston County. Hopkins music was heard from Camp Street all the way to Carnegie Hall. Lightnin’ Hopkins recalled Houston County, none too fondly, and mentions it in his music. Hopkins sang about serving on a chain gang for the county.

Hopkins told Andy Silverman of the Swarthmore College Phoenix in 1963, “I was in trouble. I had a hundred days down on the chain gang.” Later, while being taped in a recording studio, Hopkins said “Man come to me; put me in jail in Crockett. I did pretty good and I runned off. I hit the road, Jack. They come to the Trinity, got me out of the Trinity [river]. I wore a ball and chain. Man, I can show you a scar on my leg. You see that? There? That’s from wearing that man’s outfit.”

According to Timothy J. O’Brien, PhD who has authored a book about Hopkins, there is no evidence remaining that would confirm Hopkins ever served on a chain gang in Houston County despite his mentioning it many, many times throughout his life. O’Brien emphasizes that Hopkins was a storyteller, poet and songwriter. According to the city of Crockett’s website, the blues singer was once arrested in Crockett, but makes no mention of charges or time served.

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