Ruby Turner Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Ruby Turner, writer, musician, songwriter, and activist, was born in Baytown, Texas in 1956 and moved to Austin with her family when she was seven. Ruby (then Loretta McKay Masters) attended second grade at Casis Elementary and finished elementary school at Andrews after her parents purchased a home on Walnut Hills Drive and Turner. She acted and sang in the choir at Pearce and at Reagan High School and went on to study acting and literature at the University of Texas, graduating with an English degree in 1984. She played a mouse in The Butterfly at UT and the female lead in a Moliere play at Theatre in the Rye in 1979. Turner wrote theatre reviews for the Daily Texan and for the Austin Chronicle under the name Loretta Hanna and later adopted the pen name Ruby Turner when her book "Dancing", a collection of autobiographical stories and a winner of the Austin Book Award, was published by LittleDog Press in 1993. She also published stories in The Sun, Ratatosk, and Trash Soup and her story “The May and the Milk Moon” was published in the Spring 1996 issue of Shenandoah.
The mother of three sons from an early marriage, Turner married the composer and musician Walter X White in 1992. She changed her name to lili li in a legal name change in 2003 and her acoustic Americana duo with her husband was called lili and walter. The duo had residencies at the Carousel Lounge and at Sam’s BBQ, played on KOOP Radio, and produced three albums, lili and walter (2009), Who Drinks from the Lilies (2011) and Sam’s BBQ (2014), all of which include songs written by Turner and White and have photographs taken by Turner as cover art. Ruby Turner’s suppressed activist blog Accused of Dancing was written as protesters for economic equality camped at Austin City Hall during the Occupy Movement. Her essay about the gentrification of East Austin is included in the Austin History Center historic home file for 1208 Chestnut Avenue, which was built in 1946 during Segregation. Ruby Turner returned to her pen name for her 2019 memoir "Art and Memory: Eryk Markham 1950-1995", written about her life, her poet-actor-director cousin who died of AIDS, and the Austin arts community.
Eryk Markham was a singer, poet, painter, actor and director. His 1990 production of "Jacques and His Master was nominated for five B. Iden Payne awards including Best Director. Several of Eryk’s poems are included in the Doug Dyer Papers and the Austin History Center has a file on Eryk that includes his “The 8 Commandments of HIV (or The Gospel according to Eryk Markham),” ending with a parable and a personal note about his love for his mother and her gift to him. Eryk spoke openly about his life and about the art of dying with fellow actor Richard J. Smith in “Poet tempers artistry with lessons taught by AIDS,” an article that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman in 1994. Eryk chose Austin as home, earning a degree in music history from the University of Texas and working at the Austin Public Library.
Eryk’s mother Millicent was called Millie by her family and friends. She married Melton Welch when Eryk was a small boy and he adopted Eryk. As an adult Eryk changed his name from Mark Welch to Eryk Llewellyn Robards Markham. His half siblings are Melton Welch, Meredith Robinson née Welch, and Marshall Welch. Eryk was close to Billie Masters, his aunt, and dedicated his poem “Watteau’s Concern for Harlequin and Colombine” to her and to Kristina Carlson. He was also close to Billie’s writer daughter lili li and had many faithful friends. Eryk is buried in the historic Oakwood Cemetery. His stone, chosen by his sister and brothers, is inscribed Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit/He touched nothing he did not adorn.
Biographical information provided by lili li, 2019.
The Ruby Turner Papers are comprised of born-digital and digitized text documents, photographs, and an oral history interview that document the lives of Ruby Turner and her poet-actor-director cousin Eryk Markham in Austin, Texas from the 1970s-2019.
Open to all users.
Advance notice is required for any audiovisual materials that do not have an access copy already created. Turnaround time for requested access copies will be no less than one week and is determined by the number of items requested and their duration.
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Physical Characteristics or Technical Requirements
Access to digital content is only available through a dedicated workstation in the Austin History Center Reading Room.
These records were donated by Ruby Turner in 2019. Some of the materials are digital scans of items from Austin History Center collections, see related materials.
Ruby Turner Papers (AR.2019.041). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2019/079
Donation Date: 2019
Some reordering of files by document type occurred at the file level to provide easier access to users. Processing and finding aid by Nikki Koehlert in December 2019.
The digitized files were received on flash media. The materials were processed in accordance with the AHC's digital processing guidelines including disk imaging, virus scan, and checksums.For more information, see the Born-digital Processing Manual.
Original file names were retained.
Detailed Description of the Collection