Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Kenneth Haxton


Kenneth Haxton Kenneth Haxton, Photo courtesy of Bill Johnson.

Major Works

Selected Musical Works (Haxton wrote over 175)

  • The Sound and the Fury, (Five Movements) 30' Conralto Solo
  • Into the Broad Daylight (Warren) (2'30")
  • Witchcraft By A Picture (Donne) (2')
  • High Spirits (2' 50")
  • Waltz (5')
  • Fugue (Organ Solo)
  • Sorrow (3' 35")
  • Largo
  • Nocturne
  • Moses for Narrator, Soprano, Tenor, Chorus (SATB) and Orchestra (80')
  • Sight and Sound (Percy) SATB
  • Spotted Horses (6' 45")
  • Elegy (10')
  • Headlong (premiere performance April 6, 1999, by Karen Fosheim of  Delta State University at Bologna Performing Arts Center, Jackson, Mississippi)
  • A Rose for Emily 

Literary Works

  • Hide Me In Sheol (unpublished novel) - 1948
  • To Say One (unpublished novel) - 1960
  • The Outward Side (unpublished novel) - 1971
  • Geminae (Novel) - 1982
  • Death In D Major (Novel) - 1989
  • The Undiscovered Country (Only Published Novel) - 1997
  • Joys of the Flesh, Aches of the Heart (Short Stories) - 1987
  • The Robins and the Sparrows (Play) - 1977
  • My Sister As Phoenix (Screenplay) - 1989
  • Hold On (Screenplay based on story by Ellen Douglas) - 1995 

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Kenneth Haxton: A Biography
By Noah Hilton (SHS) 1998

Note:  Kenneth Haxton died in Greenville, Mississippi, on Sept. 18, 2002.

Kenneth Haxton is an extremely talented Mississippi writer and musician.  He was born on October 20, 1919, in Greenville, Mississippi. (At the time of this writing and interview, he was seventy-nine years old. He basically grew up in Greenville and has spent all of his life there. Haxton is a very talented Mississippi musician, as well as an upcoming, gifted writer.  It is quite evident that Kenneth Haxton excels in many artistic aspects of life.

While attending Greenville High School, Haxton became interested in music. Noah Hilton, SHS researcher His determination to learn allowed him to teach himself to write music by simply reading it.  After graduating from high school in 1937, Haxton decided to attend Ole Miss.  He graduated with a major in English. Even though Haxton was in college, he continued his musical career.  In fact, he actually became a composer while attending Ole Miss.  Hugh Alexander, who later became one of his band members, roomed across the hall in the dorm from Haxton.  The two musicians started a group that practiced for five years before actually performing in public.  This group later became known as the Greenville Symphony Orchestra (James).

Haxton began writing musical compositions for his group to play.  The title for one well-known Haxton musical composition came from William Faulkner's The Sound And The Fury.  On June 10, 1966, he finished writing this masterpiece.  Years later, on May 1,1982, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra performed Haxton's The Sound And The Fury ( James).  The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra later  played the world premiere of this composition.  Throughout the years, Haxton's musical compositions have been performed in Memphis, Greenville, and throughout Mississippi.

This successful musician is now on the verge of becoming a prominent writer. Even though Haxton has written six books, only one of these has been published,  The Undiscovered Country. The published book is a mystery novel about the southern part of the United States.  Haxton is currently revising he Geminae, which is another novel he has already written.  In the future Haxton hopes to get around to revising his other novels, so they can also be published.  (Haxton Interview)

Haxton joined the Navy for four years, and in 1942 he became a communications officer.  During World War II,  Haxton served on a Northern Atlantic battleship and also became a liaison between the Pentagon and the White House.  In 1946 this now-experienced Navy veteran became a Lieutenant in the Navy  (James).

Kenneth Haxton is an outstanding individual  with his many skills and hobbies.  During his lifetime, Haxton has written one hundred seventy-five musical pieces, three hundred crossword puzzles, and directed many plays.  One of his hobbies is playing and collecting antique instruments.  This seventy-nine year old can play almost any instrument,  including  the piano, cello, oboe, string and woodwind instruments.  Haxton believes vast knowledge of music allows him to write better for each instrument.  He  has a collection of animals that he has hand-carved for his grandchildren.  Haxton also enjoys reading and writing.  (Haxton Interview and Miller).

Haxton's family is also very gifted.  The highly-acclaimed writer Ellen Douglas (Josephine Haxton) is Haxton's ex-wife.  They were married for thirty-five years.  She originally used the name Ellen Douglas to keep her real name a mystery in the hopes of avoiding upsetting family members.  Haxton encouraged and helped Ellen get started on her writing career.  Together they  have  three  talented and intelligent sons.  One son, Ayres,  has been a Mississippi State Representative and is currently in law school. (Dixon). Their son Brooks Haxton lives in Syracuse, New York, and has written eight poetry books (as of 1998).    Like Kenneth Haxton, son Richard is a popular musician.  Richard just recently came out with a CD, and is a teacher in Los Angeles, California.  (Haxton Interview, 1998).

Haxton's Mississippi surroundings helped him develop his writing and musical skills.  Eudora Welty and William Faulkner are two Mississippi writers who have inspired and influenced his writing (Haxton Interview).  Although Haxton is mostly known for his music, his writings may also become important as well.

UPDATE 2008: Kenneth Haxton died in Greenville, Mississippi, on September 18, 2002, of a brain tumor at the age of 82. He was a composer, musician, conductor, novelist, businessman, and wood carver.. According to his obituary in the Mississippi History Newsletter in November, 2002, "Haxton was a mentor to the many young people who worked at his Greenville store, Nelms and Blum, over the years, and many of them went on to become artists, writers, and musicians themselves. With the late Hodding Carter and Ben Wasson, Haxton founded the Levee Press, which published limited editions of works by Welty and Faulkner." His wood carvings called Wild Life: Animal Carvings By Kenneth Haxton were exhibited at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi, from September 13, 2003 to November 30, 2003. Don Jamison states in the Delta Business Journal that Haxton was a self-taught musician who favored classical compositions and composed some 175 musical selections—ranging from organ solos to complete symphonic works. Many of his compositions are based upon literary works by notable Mississippi authors. His friends included such well-known Mississippians as Faulkner, Shelby Foote, and Hodding Carter. (See Timeline below for more information).

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Timeline

1919-       Kenneth Haxton was born in Greenville, Mississippi, October 20.

1932-       Moved to Greenville, Mississippi

1935-37-  Editor of the high school paper, which was The Pica

1936-37-  Editor of the high school literary magazine, which was called Thresholds

1939-40-  Was managing editor of The Mississippian

1941-44-  Attended Ole Miss

1945-       Married  Josephine Ayres (Ellen Douglas) in Natchez, Mississippi, January 12.

1945-       Richard Haxton was born, November 14

1948-       Ayres Haxton was born, April 4.

1950-       Brooks Haxton was born, December 1

1959-       Kenneth Haxton, along with Hugh Alexander, founded the Greenville
                Symphony Orchestra, October 29

1983-   Faulkner festival played Haxton's Moses, The Sound and the Fury, Kenneth Haxton, Photo courtesy of Bill Johnson.  Ran in Delta Democrat Times on October 26, 1997.
  Rose For Emily, and Spotted Horses

1984-  Tupelo Symphony played Haxton's Affirmation

1991-  The Natchez Literary Festival featured the Haxton family.  Each family member, which included Kenneth, Ellen Douglas, Richard, Ayres, and Brooks, performed and sampled their talents or works.

1998-- First published novel available entitled The Undiscovered Country.

1999-- Headlong (musical composition--Karen Fosheim plays premiere performance on piano,  April 6, at Jackson, MS.  Bologna Performing Arts Center)

2002--Kenneth Haxton died in Greenville, Mississippi, on September 18, 2002, of a brain tumor.

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Phone Interview with Kenneth Haxton (1998)
By Noah Hilton (SHS)

1.    When and where were you born?

        I was born on October 20, 1919, in Greenville, Mississippi.

2.    What high school did you attend?

        During high school I attended Greenville High School.

3.    Will you tell me a little about your college years?

        After graduating from high school, I attended Ole Miss for four years.  Hugh Alexander went to Ole Miss while I was there.  He and I started a band together.  We practiced for five years before really performing.  This group later became known as the Greenville Symphony Orchestra.  I majored in English during college.

4.    Are you married?

       No.  My ex-wife is Josephine Haxton, who goes by the name Ellen Douglas.  We were married for thirty-five years.  She is an accomplished writer.  Her works include the novel A Life-Time Burning and a short story On The Lake.

5.    I have heard a little about your successful sons.  Will you tell me about them?

        Ayres is currently enrolled in law school.  Brooks lives in Syracuse, New York, and has published eight poetry books.  Richard is a professor in Los Angeles, California.  Richard is a popular musician and came out with a CD not too long ago.

6.    When did you become interested in music?

        I have always enjoyed music ever since I was young.

7.    What is your favorite music?

        Classical music is, by far, my favorite music.

8.    What instruments do you play?

        I play a little bit of every thing.  I play the piano, cello, oboe, viola, English horn, and many others.

9.    Who taught you how to read/write music?

        No one really.  I basically taught myself.

10.    Who or what inspired you to become a musician?

        I was inspired just by listening to records over and over again.

11.    What is the name of the group you started and where have they performed?

        The group is the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, and they have played all throughout Mississippi including Memphis and Greenville.  The Greenville Symphony has performed my musical composition from William Faulkner's Sound and the Fury.

12.    How many books have you written?

        I have written six books, but only one of these has been published.

13.    Will you tell me about your books?

        The published book is called The Undiscovered Country.  It is a mystery novel about the southern part of the United States.  I wrote the rest of my books years ago and need to be revised before being published.

14.    Are you writing a book now?

        Yes, I am in the process of rewriting my novel Geminae.  It is about invented people.

15.    Which do you like best, writing music or books?

        I enjoy both of these.  I like them equally.

16.    What are your hobbies?

        I enjoy reading, music, making crossword puzzles, and hand carving animals.  I have written one hundred seventy-five pieces of music and made three hundred crossword puzzles.  Some of my crossword puzzles get published in New York Times.

17.    I understand you were in the Navy.  Could you tell me something about your life in the Navy?

        Well, I was in Navy for four years.  I became a communications officer and served on a Northern Atlantic battleship during World War Two.  Later on, I received the status of a Lieutenant.

18.    How has Mississippi influenced your music/writing?

        It was hard not to be influenced by Mississippi writers such as Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.  I actually did a musical piece based on William Faulkner's novel The Sound and the Fury.

19.    What advice would you give to musicians?

        Listen and read as much music as you can.  Take your time.

20.    What advice would you give to writers?

        Read as much as you can.  Take your time.  You need to rewrite, rewrite,  and rewrite.

21.    What advice would you give to students?

        Buckle down and listen.  Stay in school.

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Noah Hilton comments on The Undiscovered Country by Kenneth Haxton

The Undiscovered Country is a mystery novel about a woman's death.  It includes Kenneth Haxton's interpretation of Southern life and culture.  Even though I have only read through chapter three, I can tell you that it is a very descriptive mystery.  The more you read, the more interesting the novel becomes. 

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Related Websites

Jim Cody tells about his interesting experiences with Kenneth Haxton and Haxton's Faulkner compositions. (Below the middle of the web page)

The Undiscovered Country by Kenneth Haxton reviewed by Mary Dayle McCormick in Mississippi Wildlife magazine in 1999.

Mississippi State Legislature issues proclamation on death of Kenneth Haxton which contains important biographical information.

Panthea Reid in Virginia Quarterly Review reviews Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell by Ellen Douglas (Josephine Haxton) and mentions Kenneth Haxton.

McCormick Book Inn tells about Literary Greenville by by Mary Dayle McCormick.


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Bibliography

Campbell, Sylvia.  Haxton As Elusive As Characters She Portrays.The Clarion-Ledger: Jackson Daily News 17 October, 1982.

Dixon, Louisa.  Re:  Thanks For Writing Back!  [Online] Available email:  nononoah@yahoo.com from louisad@cyberhighway.net, November 10,1998.

Dixon, Louisa.  Thanks For Visiting Class!  [Online] Available email:  nnj1@ra.msstate.edu from louisad@cyberhighway.net, October 27, 1998.

Haxton, Kenneth.  Interview by Noah Hilton.  November 18, 1998.

Haxton, Kenneth.  The Undiscovered Country.  Greenville, MS:  The Levee Press, 1997.

James, Susie.  ______ Will Be World Premiere.  (First word is missing from title) Delta Democrat Times 28 March, 1982.  1B

Miller, Carol.  Kenneth Haxton.  Available email: nnj1@ra.msstate.edu from ladycat@tecinfo.com, May 11, 1998.

Miller, Carol.  Re:  Kenneth Haxton.  Available email:  nononoah@yahoo.com from ladycat@tecinfo.com, November 11, 1998.

Miller, Carol.  Unsung Composer/Author.  Available email:  nnj1@ra.msstate.edu from ladycat@tecinfo.com, March 22, 1998. 

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1998, 2008
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