Dr. Joshua Clegg Caffery, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies at UL- Lafayette, is our guest. Josh has deep historical ties to the university, having earned master’s and doctoral degrees in English and folklore studies from UL – Lafayette. His great-grandfather, Sen. Robert Martin, is the namesake for UL – Lafayette’s Martin Hall.
Locals are familiar with “Ambassador Caffery Parkway” which is named after one of Josh Caffery’s family members, Jefferson Thompson Caffery, one of the first graduates of UL – Lafayette (then known as “Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute), who served as a U. S. Ambassador to Columbia and Cuba and worked for 43 years in foreign service under eight U.S. presidents: Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, F. D. Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.
Caffery’s family has also had many successful politicians and business people of note, including Donelson Caffery, a civil war veteran and U. S. Senator representing Louisiana, as well as Patrick T. Caffery, a New Iberia native who served as a Louisiana State House Representative and member of Congress, and other family members who made profitable livings as sugar plantation owners. The late Louisiana Governor, Murphy James “Mike” Foster, Jr., was a relative, having family connections through the common thread of the Murphy family. Caffery emphasized that President Andrew Jackson was the catalyst for the opportunities opened to his family in the early 1800s which led to their economic success.
A young man, husband, and father of two small children along with his talented wife, Claire Oliver, Josh’s career has already taken many paths which have incorporated his skills and interest in folklore. He is the author of two books, “Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Collection,” which included a Grammy-nominated CD compilation, and “In the Creole Twilight: Poems and Songs from Louisiana Folklore,” a collection of poems inspired by Louisiana myth, legend, and oral history.
Caffery served as head of the English Department at Episcopal School of Acadiana. He was an Alan Lomax Fellow in Folklife Studies at the Library of Congress and also served a fellowship in folklore at Indiana University. He took a sojourn into private enterprise, working for the acclaimed jewelry manufacture, Stuller, in helping them identify and market the ideal pieces to meet their clients’ needs.
An acclaimed musician, known for the French folksongs he performed with the Red Stick Ramblers and Feu Follet, Josh Caffery received a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album for his performance and songwriting on the “En Couleurs” album by Feufollet. He also received a Grammy nomination in 2016 for Best Regional Roots Album, “I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax In The Evangeline Country.“
The Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was established in 1973 to plan, promote, and pursue programs that provide scholars, students, and the public with a better understanding of Louisiana history and culture.
His current work with the Center for Louisiana Studies has included raising funds to restore the J. Arthur Roy House located at the Northwest Corner of University Avenue and Johnston Street. For locals interested in really making UL – Lafayette a destination of choice, having the Roy House restored is a wonderful way to make a difference with your tax-deductible funds. For more information and to make a contribution, please visit https://louisianastudies.louisiana.edu/about-center/roy-house. J. Arthur Roy was a prominent business man at the turn of the century and his house is the only registered historical building on UL-Lafayette’s campus.
The UL Center for Louisiana Studies is also responsible for overseeing the UL Press which highlights the work of many authors/artist. One recent release, When I was an Alligator, sold out its first printing in just one month. For more information on UL Press, visit https://ulpress.org/.
We thank Josh Caffery for his service to our community. It is important that we stay engaged with the success of UL – Lafayette and in sustaining our cultural heritage. Please visit https://louisianastudies.louisiana.edu/ for the work undertaken by our university under the direction of Josh Caffery.