William "Bill" Mansfield
A native North Carolinian, Bill Mansfield began studying folklore when his mother taught him to play the juice harp. His interest in vernacular music grew, and in 1979 he received an apprenticeship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study banjo under master musician Fred Cockerham. The success of this grant inspired him to further study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where in 1992 he earned a Master’s Degree in folklore. He studied the often overlooked area of occupational folklore as well as conventional genres of music, dance, craft, and narrative.
In the past 30 years Bill worked as a public sector folklorist in various positions. He was a park musician and an oral historian for the National Park Service. He served as a museum curator for the North Carolina Museum of History, in Raleigh; the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC; and the Museum of the Albemarle, in Elizabeth City, NC. He has also conducted several folklife surveys in eastern North Carolina, one of which resulted in Song of an Unsung Place: Living traditions by the Pamlico Sound, published by Coastal Carolina Press in 2001.
From 1994 through 1995 Bill served as folk arts specialist for the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, and he helped present at the Florida Folk Festival. Between 2005 and 2007 he worked with the Florida Folklife Program, researching occupational folklore of the state’s agricultural traditions and cattle ranching heritage. In 2007 he accepted a position as the Folk Arts Specialist with the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently he lives in Alexandria, VA, with his wife Lu Ann Jones.