From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Hawkins, William Lawrence

(born: July 27, 1895  -  died: February 15, 1990) 

William L. Hawkins said that he was born on a farm in Madison County, KY, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Mary Scudder. As a young man, he was a trapper and horse trainer, but when his girlfriend became pregnant he was sent to live in Columbus, OH.

He began to paint when he was 80 years old, using materials that came from junk piles and throwaway material at construction sites in his artwork. Hawkins also collected photographs that he used in his work. One of his signature techniques was to paint a frame around his work that included his name and the place and date of his birth. Several months after his death, Hawkins' work was shown at the Columbus Museum of Arts during the 1990 Columbus Arts Festival. 

William Lawrence Hawkins was a WWI veteran. He died in the Veterans Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He was the son of Rebecca Scudder and Lawrence Hawkins.  

*William L. Hawkins birth location is given as Madison County on his marriage certificates and his Army enlistment records in Ancestry. Union City, KY, has also been given as his birth location. 

For more see Souls Grown Deep: African American vernacular art of the South, vol. 1, by P. Arnett and W. Arnett; "Columbus arts fest combines music, art, dance and street fair," Dayton Daily News, 05/19/1990, p.22; see William Hawkins at the SAAM website [Smithsonian American Art Museum].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Madison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Souls grown deep : African American vernacular art of the South
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)
NKAA Source: Dayton daily news (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hawkins, William Lawrence,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 1, 2023,

Last modified: 2023-02-15 19:08:30