Nimrod Workman

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Nimrod Workman
Born November 5, 1895
Died November 26, 1994
Knoxville, Tennessee
Occupation singer, coal miner and union activist

Nimrod Workman (November 5, 1895 - November 26, 1994) was an American singer, coal miner and trade unionist. His musical repertoire included traditional English and Scottish ballads, Appalachian folk songs and original compositions.


Nimrod Workman was born in Inez, Martin County, Kentucky and was named for his grandfather,His family Was Scottish. At the age of 14 he went to work in the Howard Collieries coal mines in Mingo County WV, and he continued working as a coal miner for forty-two years until he was forced to retire due to black lung and a slipped disc.His Wife was Mollie Bowens she was 80% Italian her Mother Angelina was 100% Italian.

Throughout his coal mining career he was active in union politics and United Mine Workers of America organizing. In 1920–1921 he worked alongside Mary Harris "Mother" Jones in West Virginia, and participated in the Battle of Blair Mountain uprising. In later years he advocated on behalf of black lung victims, and was able to receive union compensation for his own health problems in 1971.

Following his retirement as a miner he became known as a folk singer, with frequent performances around Appalachia as well as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the 1982 World's Fair. In 1986 he was a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Workman recorded two albums, Passing Thru the Garden, with his daughter Phyllis Boyens, which was released by June Appal Recordings in 1975. In 1978 he released Mother Jones' Will on the Rounder Records label. In addition he contributed songs to several albums of traditional and coal mining music.

He was the subject of a documentary Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category, produced by Appalshop Films, and appeared as himself in the documentaries Harlan County, USA, Chase the Devil: Religious Music of the Appalachians, and The Grand Generation. He is heard leading the singing of "Amazing Grace" in the funeral scene in Coal Miner's Daughter, which also featured Phyllis Boyens as Loretta Lynn's mother.

He spent most of his life in Chattaroy, West Virginia, though in later years he lived in Mascot, Tennessee. He died in Knoxville, Tennessee at the age of 99.



Compilation Tracks[edit]

  • The Land of Yahoe (1996, Rounder) "Way Out West in Kansas"
  • Meeting's A Pleasure: Folk Songs of the Upper South, Vols. 2-4 (2005, Musical Traditions) "Dixon Said to Johnson" "Charlotte of Edinboro Town" "The House Carpenter" "I'm Drinking from the Fountain (with Mollie Workman)" "Day Is Breaking In My Soul" "Black Dress Blues"
  • Traditional Music on Rounder (1981, Rounder) "Watergate Boogie"
  • Come All You Coal Miners (1973, Rounder; Albatros) "Both Lungs is Broke Down" "The N and W (Don't Stop Here No More) " "Don't You Want to Go to that Land"
  • Harlan County USA: Songs of the Coal Miner's Struggle (2006, Rounder) "Coal Black Mining Blues"


  • Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category (1975). Directed by Anthony Slone and Scott Faulkner. Whitesburg, Kentucky: Appalshop.
  • Harlan County USA (1976). Directed by Barbara Kopple
  • American Patchwork: Appalachian Journey (1991). Directed by Alan Lomax
  • American Patchwork: Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old (1991). Directed by Alan Lomax
  • Coal Miner's Daughter (1980). Directed by Michael Apted
  • Chase the Devil: Religious Music of the Appalachians (1990). Directed by Jeremy Marre
  • The Grand Generation (1993). Directed by Marjorie Hunt, Paul Wagner, and Steven Zeitlin

External links[edit]