1996 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Born in 1930, Don Grooms was raised in Cherokee, North Carolina. He came from a family with Cherokee and Appalachian heritage. As a child, he played a cornstalk fiddle, cigar-box banjo, and a $3 Silvertone guitar. His maternal grandfather made wooden banjos. At 10, Grooms began playing for square dances and at 14 he belonged to a dance band that played pop tunes. Upon graduation from high school, Grooms started business school, but military service in Korea interrupted his studies. Upon his return, he attended Florida Southern College in Lakeland and then Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
A career as a journalist led Grooms from Dallas to Los Angeles, Washington DC, and ultimately Gainesville. In Dallas, he worked for the Associated Press, wrote publicity at an advertising agency, and edited the Southern Methodist University school newspaper. For a time, he specialized in print journalism, working with the American Bar Association, a tourist magazine in North Carolina, the Citizen-Times in Asheville, North Carolina, and a semiweekly newspaper in Waynesville, NC. Returning to Dallas, he worked as a radio and television reporter and covered the 1960 presidential election. After working for Lyndon Johnson in Dallas and Washington DC, he taught journalism at the University of Florida, where he increasingly concentrated upon dramatic and documentary writing for television.
In Gainesville, Grooms returned to the guitar and songwriting, which was influenced by the work of Will MacLean. Several of his productions for WUFT-TV, including Shawnaboktahatchee and A Farewell to Hogtown, related to folk cultural topics. He also programmed a singer-songwriter radio show at the University radio station. Grooms retired in 1993 after 31 years teaching, and died on January 10, 1998.