About The Artist
Henry Franklin "Dick" Justice is known mostly through his 1929 Brunswick Recordings, one of which "Henry Lee" appeared on the 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music.
A native of Wayne County, West Virginia, some years later the Justice family relocated to Logan County that was experiencing a coal boom where Dick spent most of the remainder of his life. His music displayed both Anglo-Saxon and African-American influences.
Musically, Justice played with both black and white musicians which included the black recording artist Bayliss Rose to whites ranging from blues musician Frank Hutchison, the fiddle band Williamson Brothers and Curry to future — but contemporary to the others — Aunt Jenny Wilson.
Dick's single recording session took place in Chicago over two days, May 20-21, 1929. In addition to his six solo released numbers (plus two unreleased vocal songs), he also furnished guitar backup for Clendenin, West Virginia fiddler Reese Jarvis (B: February 2, 1900 — D: July 29, 1967) who placed four traditional tunes on disc. Ironically, the two first met at the recording studio and never saw each other afterward, but did their numbers quite adequately.
After his Chicago recording experience, Justice returned to Logan County and coal mine labor. His World War II draft card indicates he was working at The Eagle Mines, Inc. in Logan. The 1940 census records show he was a 'mine motorman.' It is unlikely that he ever knew that his recording of Child Ballad No. 68 "Henry Lee" would help start a renewed interest in old-time music. What he did know was that his ten-year old son Dallas would perish from injuries received in a tragic fire in 1955.
Ancestry records from the 1940 U.S. Census indicated he was married to Marie Justice. It also showed that he had a daughter, Ernestine and a son, Gary.
"Dick" Justice passed away seven years later and was buried beside his son.
Almost nothing of the details of the man's life was known until research by West Virginia University professor Chris Haddox found Justice's virtually forgotten grave in 2018. Later assisted by historian Brandon Ray Kirk and anthropologist Gloria Goodwin Rahejva, more data was uncovered. His entire recorded output (and other Logan County musicians) appeared on Old-Time Music from West Virginia (Document DOCD 8004) in 1997.
Credits & Sources
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