The pianist Blind Tom began drawing crowds to his performances as a child in the 1850s. His black family and various white guardians fought for rights to earn money from his career until his death in 1908. Blind Tom himself, who was born into slavery and given a series of last names over the years, was autistic and unable to fathom the legal battles.
Near Tom’s hometown, Columbus, Ga., a county judge named George R. Greene, who died last year, at 63, spent decades buying artifacts related to Blind Tom and researching the musician’s accomplishments and tragic life. In February, James D. Julia’s auction house in Fairfield, Me., will offer Mr. Greene’s collection (estimated at $10,000 to $20,000 for everything), which was long displayed at his private local history museum in a former post office in Phenix City, Ala., near Columbus.
Mr. Greene found portraits of Blind Tom, concert ads, witness descriptions of his strange leaps and rambling speeches during shows, and sheet music for songs that he composed partly based on street sounds and hymns. Deirdre O’Connell, the author of “The Ballad of Blind Tom” (Overlook Press), wrote in an email that while Mr. Greene bought some rare individual pieces, the collection’s most valuable aspect “is its completeness.”