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McIntosh legend remembered for talent
As Art Rosenbaum thought about the legacy of the late Lawrence McKiver, visions of an old porch and long-ago conversations came to his mind.

Rosenbaum, a professor emeritus in the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens, had the privilege of not only meeting one of the original members of the McIntosh County Shouters back in the 1980s, but he could also call him a friend.

McKiver died March 25 at the age of 97.

"We'd sit on his porch and he'd talk at length about his life, his work and the hard times he went through," Rosenbaum said. "He'd had a rough life and the tradition of shouting helped sustain him and his people. Lawrence was open and willing to talk to outsiders such as myself about the tradition and its history, its meaning when a lot of others weren't."

McKiver had been participating in the ring shouting tradition since he was a boy, having learned from his ancestors, Rosenbaum said. While working for the Georgia Folklore Society in the early 1980s, Rosenbaum first heard McKiver and his group perform at the Georgia Sea Island Festival.

"When I attended the festival, it was the group's very first public performance. I was very impressed at the beauty and dignity of the tradition, with the call and response pattern and percussion with stick drumming," Rosenbaum said.

McKiver and the McIntosh County Shouters had been invited to the festival by two of Rosenbaum's friends, George Mitchell and Fred Fussell. They met after learning about a community of singers who'd managed to keep the tradition alive since it began during the days of slavery.

"From the time that we first met him, Mr. Lawence McKiver was always kind and welcoming to us. And he was fully aware of the uniqueness of the shout tradition that he and his friends were continuing," Fussell said.

Rosenbaum created an album of the McIntosh County Shouters, featuring them in television documentaries and dedicating an entire chapter of his book, "Shout Because You're Free," to McKiver.

"McKiver will be remembered as one of the last great bearers of American folk traditions," Rosenbaum said.

Funeral services were Saturday in McIntosh County.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320.

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