On Wednesday morning, the 74-year-old Lithia Springs resident was killed in a two-vehicle collision in Cartersville. A native of Virginia, Stovall served as the Booth Western Art Museum's entertainment and sponsorship manager since 2004.
"Obviously, it's devastating to us. We're all kind of in a state of shock," said Booth Executive Director Seth Hopkins, adding Stovall is survived by his wife, Margaret. "Doc's been here almost since the beginning. He's been a fixture here. He's obviously one of the more visible people on the staff of the museum. He has been very important in leading a number of things that are core parts of the Booth like the [Southeastern] Cowboy Gathering, which we just had a couple of weeks ago, where he organizes the music contests and the poetry contests.
"He's really developed the Georgia Youth Cowboy Poetry Contest into a statewide activity that we're known for. That was something that he really envisioned and got started from the very beginning. The Gathering was something he had been involved with down in Douglasville, Ga., and helped us initiate our event up here. ... He was a very warm and outgoing person. He always had a smile and a joke for you. [He] would make friends with anybody immediately. I think his cowboy friends would say, 'He lived the cowboy creed or code and was very honorable, loyal and was just a remarkable person.'"
To help foster interest in cowboy poetry, Stovall spearheaded the Georgia Youth Cowboy Poetry Contest for students in middle and high school. Along with providing them an opportunity to compose an original poem for the competition, he also introduced youth in Bartow and its surrounding counties to cowboy poetry through complimentary workshops.
"Cowboy poetry is really a lot of fun and through the contest we have discovered so many great poets," Stovall told The Daily Tribune News in 2009. "Writing cowboy poetry teaches them to do so many things that are lost in today's system. I tell them, 'Look around you, the single biggest problem in the country and the world is communication.' The contest also teaches them to read and recite poetry and to read it in such a way that they can retain what they read."
Highly regarded in the cowboy music and poetry industry throughout the United States, Stovall received a number of accolades, some of which include being proclaimed Georgia's Official Cowboy Balladeer by the state legislature in 2002, inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and presented the Cowboy Keeper Award from the National Day of the Cowboy Association in 2009. Along with working at the Booth, he continued to perform with longtime collaborator, poet Jerry Warren as well as his Doc Stovall and The Tumbleweed Cowboy Band.
"Doc was a musician and a poet at heart, I think," said Warren, who performed with Stovall for 18 years. "He started out in country music, and when he found the cowboy/western music genre, it was like a tulip that blossomed and he found his niche. In his role with the Booth's museum up there, he had an opportunity to exercise that, and he brought the Cartersville and north Georgia area a wealth of talent in that genre that most of the people east of the Mississippi River don't even know that it exists.
"But it preserves the Western culture and heritage of this country, which is unique to this country because this is the only country on the face of the Earth that developed east to west. And the development of this country will forever be preserved in history by virtue of the cowboy because the towns and villages sprang up along the way of the cattle drives and shipping points and railheads and river ports and those kind of things. And Doc was a student of that history and loved to write and sing about those kinds of things, and I was fortunate enough to get to travel to 37 states with him doing cowboy entertainment in the time that I've known him."
For Booth Director of Special Projects Jim Dunham, Stovall was a true entertainer who was inspired by the TV Westerns of his youth.
"He absolutely loved the period from the 1940s up through the 1960s when the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Rex Allen era dominated the entertainment world," said Dunham, who often presented the "Trails Plowed Under" program with Stovall. "We both grew up at a time -- you couldn't turn television on in the '50s and '60s without watching Westerns. There was as many as 30 a week that you would see if you'd turn on television. So there was more than all the reality shows and 'CSI' shows and 'American Idol' shows put together.
"So I would say that what Doc was is essentially a guy who was in love with the frontier movement of America because of the entertainment industry that he had grown up with. And he was sort of following in the footsteps of those guys that had been cowboy singers and cowboy entertainers. He was first and foremost an entertainer, and he was an entertainer whether he was using the spoken word or whether he was singing."
Funeral arrangements for Stovall were unknown at presstime.