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R.Jackson Armstrong - Ingram  

author, archivist, musicologist, U.S.A.

1954 - 2004

Author of Studies in Babi and Bahá´í History: Music, Devotions, and Mashriq'l-Adkhar (Kalimat Press, 1988), Written in Light: Abdu'l-Baha and the American Bahá´í Community, 1998-1921 ((Kalimat Press, 1998), and Images of America: Henderson (2002), he has written numerous articles utilizing his archivist knowledge. A few articles were printed in Arts Dialogue and the BAFA newsletter.

Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, 2002.
Photo courtesy of the Henderson Public Library.
link to come

Excerpts from the Dec. 6, 2004 issue of the South Bend Tribune

Jackson was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and educated himself so he was able to get a B.A. from Goshen College (Indiana, U.S) in one year, graduating in 1978. He married Karen Eggermont of South Bend, Indiana in 1976 and they have two sons, Conan and Tiernan.

Jackson started work at the Bahá´í House of Worship Archives in Wilmette in 1982. Then he worked for a telephone survey company, while living in South Bend, Indiana. In 1991, he set up the St. Joseph County Archives in South Bend, and worked with a variety of record holders in the area. During this time, he received his Archive Certification from the Illinois Historical Society, Chicago. In addition, Jackson taught evening Cultural Anthropology courses as an adjunct at Indiana University South Bend from 1993- 1997.

In 1997, Jackson moved to Carson City, Nevada, to continue archival work at the State Archives, becoming the state's first Electronic Records Archivist from July to October of 1999. After working as Archivist and Records Administrator for the city of Henderson, Nevada, from 1999 to the end of 2001, he became State Archivist for the state of Alaska in 2002. Health problems forced a return to Henderson, Indiana, where he continued to free- lance as an editor, consultant, and author for Kalimat Press, as well as a lecturer and consultant to other organizations.

In 2002, he published a book on Henderson, Nevada, entitled Images of America: Henderson. His work on electronic archives includes Digital Imaging Guidelines for Nevada Libraries and Archives (2003). His writing is considered of importance by many.

Jackson was a highly intelligent and creative individual who loved knowledge for its own sake. In his teens, he performed puppet shows for school children, limiting himself to puppets without strings using muppet-like creatures, as well as Chinese and Balinese puppets. After his marriage, he composed a melody to his wife, and, in 1983, a composition of his was performed at the Bahá´í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. Reading and writing were his favorite past-times. He enjoyed good conversation, good music, and loved nothing better than to expound on what he learned to a rapt audience.

R. Jackson Armstrong - Ingram died in Henderson, Nevada after a short illness, in October 2004.

Some links to articles written by Jackson
Article about Susan Moody (1851- 1934). An early Chicago Bahá´í and pioneer in the development of education and healthcare for women in Iran.

Of Jackson...
"I had known Jackson for many years, since the early 1980s. I always found him to be a brilliant intellectual, a careful scholar, and a conscientious archivist. He was a very close friend, and he had an endless capacity to fascinate me with his passion for research into Bahá´í history. But, of course, his research interests did not stop there. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of vast areas of Middle Eastern history and anthropology, European culture, and American history, as well. He was also well known and well published in his own field of archival preservation and research.

He was born in Northern Ireland to a Protestant family, I believe. He grew up in Ireland, where he became a Bahá´í. He attended the Queen's University in Belfast, and he pursued a Ph.D. there.
Most recently he was deliberately trying to keep his formal work schedule to a minimum in order to devote himself to research and writing. He certainly accomplished that. His most recent article: "The Shah, the Skirt, and the Ballet: A Menage a Trois, or Just Ill- Founded Gossip?" in Qajar Studies, Vol. IV (Rotterdam, 2004) was a brilliant and witty inquiry into the notion that Nasiru'd-Din Shah, after his first visit to Europe, ordered the women in his harem to wear short skirts in imitation of the ballet dancers he had seen. Jackson was able, within a few pages, to demonstrate that this is a silly and unsubstantiated myth which cannot possibly be true.
He was also working on a book for Kalimat Press, a second volume of Written in Light, with photographs of 'Abdu'l-Baha in the Holy Land. I hope that this book can eventually be published posthumously. He had spent a great deal of time conducting research for and writing on this book. I remember being startled by how emotionally invested he was in it. He once told his friends that he had been working with a photograph of the funeral of 'Abdu'l- Baha in the Holy Land. In the picture, he noticed that there was a group of poor Palestinian women who had come into the street to observe the funeral procession. They were wearing only the ordinary Arab smocks that the masses could afford. However, he could clearly see in the photo that they were weeping hopelessly and beating their heads with their fists. And he himself fell into tears at the realization of what 'Abdu'l-Baha must have meant to the poor people of 'Akka and Haifa.

Jackson's untimely passing is certainly a great loss to Bahá´í studies. I hope that his library and his papers can be preserved and deposited in an archive somewhere for the benefit of future scholars. They will certainly find there a treasure chest of materials gathered over a lifetime of diligent research."

Tony Lee, 2004.

"I enjoyed frequent talks with him, sharing our poems, and his great wealth of information on the Faith collected in his research as well as an archivist at the American National Bahá´í Center. Of particular interest to me has been his work on the black slaves in the early Faith, Mubarak and his colleagues in particular.
One of his last papers on the subject (presented he said at the Toronto Conference) helped me greatly to understand the 19th century Iranian culture and slavery described so well in Ronald Segal's Islam's Black Slaves in his chapter, "The 'Heretic' State: Iran."
I am predicting that Jackson's paper, "Black Pearls: The African Household Slaves of a 19th century Iranian Merchant Family" along with Tony Lee's Preface in the late Abu'l-Qasim's book, will enjoy a first position in the information on the topic of slavery in the early Faith. I understand from him that his article on the subject was being published by a venue outside of the Faith. I suspect it will add a great deal to our knowledge and appreciation of the slaves who were among our dawnbreakers.

Here is a poem I wrote for Jackson after sharing with him during our visit in Las Vegas.

Yellow Roses
for Jackson Armstrong-Ingram
Las Vegas

You are dressed
in yellow roses. Under
orange and blue lights,
your mop of white hair,
tied back as though
it cried for control,
shines under firelight.
Sparks snap up
the chimney,
startle revelers,
dance the hearth, the floor.

We talk of changes, chances,
finite and final blows when faith
falls like stars. I recount
the thousand torches
burning villages of the heart.
How like those logs, they spit,

Jackson Armstrong - Ingram, 2002
with his book, Henderson.
Photo courtesy of the Henderson Public Library. link to come

pop, rise on fingers of flame.
I am petrified by your secrets
and the poems in your soft knowledge.
I sigh for a time when pain
is white roses floating seaward.

Cal E. Rollins, 2004

Excerpt from the article:
All together now: Liturgical refrains in Bahá´í Worship

by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram

The translation of the "Song of the Holy Mariner" was published in the May 17 1922 (Azamat, 78, Vol 13,
no 4) issue of Star of the West pp. 75-77. The text is preceded by a note as follows:

Note the following instruction given by Shoghi Effendi: "Where the asterisks ( *** ) are placed the following chorus or burden of the song is every time repeated: 'Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!' After the last three verses of the song the chorus is as follows: 'Glorifed be our Lord, the Most High!' " {Emphasis added)

This wording clearly implies that Shoghi Effendi conceives of this as a 'performance' text. I do not discuss this text in my book, "Music, Devotions and the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár" (Kalimat 1987).

There I discuss the Lawh-i-Naqus in the brief section where I recount the exposure to, and use of, the Eastern Bahá’í devotional tradition by Western Bahá’ís before discussing the main topic of the book: the development of Western practices. Of the various Bahá’í texts in this form, the Lawh-i-Naqus seems to be the one to which Western Bahá’ís had most exposure. Indeed, it would seem that even on the first pilgrimage (1898-9) Bahiyyih Khanum taught the refrain to some of the young women who visited Akka. This might suggest that both this text, and the form it represents, had a particular resonance for Bahá’í practice in the Holy Land at that time.

Obviously, the problem with such a form is that someone with good enough knowledge of language and cantillation is needed for the verse part. Except for possibly some of the meetings arranged by Fareed around 1906, this was probably not often available to the Western community. However, I do think there was likely some use of the refrain as a 'free-standing' devotional practice. After all, the Western community did have a tune for the Arabic text of 'The Remover of Difficulties' at this time and this seems to have been widely used. The refrain from the Lawh-i-Naqus would be even easier to learn and, like 'The Remover..,' could be repeated a number of times. There does seem to have been a small, but appreciated, repertoire of sung short original texts available to the early Western Bahá’í community. But a verse/refrain text that required someone who could cope with the more complex cantillation of the verses would have been beyond them.

I am not aware of any attempt to use English translations of these texts in a cantillated form in the general US Bahá’í community. However, there would have been a model in the Bahá’í liturgies produced for St Mark's in the Bouwerie church in New York (possibly from as early as 1914, but certainly by the 1920s). These were likely cantillated in an Anglican high church fashion. They are arranged/paraphrased from translations of Bahá’í texts and include sections with responses, etc. Thus, at the time the 'Holy Mariner' was first published there was a model for its use, but a very culturally restricted one.

The longer term problem in the development of Bahá’í community devotional practice in the US was that the original impetus was in a, roughly-speaking, Chicago low-church context and by 1917 there was a power shift in the community to those from an East Coast high-church context. Although the St Mark's liturgies (which are actually of some interest) might seem likely to have more than a localised impact due to their association with this new power center, in actuality that group became disenchanted with both St Mark's and the idea of distinctive Bahá’í devotional practices. They were the 'Bahá’í Movement' boosters and tended to deprecate anything that was distinctively 'religious' especially if it was in any way 'enthusiastic.' As these verse/refrain forms derive from a very 'enthusiastic' and experiential Sufi concept of devotional practice it was not likely that they would be fostered by the US Bahá’í institutions during their development in the inter-war years...

Excerpt from Arts Dialogue, February 2000, page 23

  • Article: All together now: Liturgical refrains in Bahá´í Worship, Arts Dialogue, February 2000
  • Article: Considerations in Setting Sacred Text for the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, part 4, Arts Dialogue, Dec. 1996
  • Article: Considerations in Setting Sacred Text..., part 3, Arts Dialogue, Sept. 1996
  • Letter: Singing at Feasts, Arts Dialogue, September 1996
  • Article: Considerations in Setting Sacred Text..., part 2, Arts Dialogue, June 1996
  • Article: Considerations in Setting Sacred Text..., part 1, Arts Dialogue, March 1996
  • Announcement: About his book with quotations, Music, Devotions and Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, BAFA newsletter, January 1991
  • Reviewed: Music, Devotions and Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, by Anneke Schouten - Buys, BAFA newsletter, December 1988

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