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Ralph Steele Boggs

1987 Florida Folk Heritage Award

Ralph Steele Boggs (Miami) was a folklorist of international reputation who specialized in Hispanic and American folktales, riddles, and proverbs. Due to Boggs’ initial interest in linguistics, he studied with Archer Taylor, who convinced him to do his dissertation on folklore. He received his Ph.D. in folklore and Spanish from the University of Chicago in 1930. Shortly thereafter he published the Index of Spanish Folktales, the first of many major works dealing with the folklore of Spain and Latin America. Boggs was also recognized nationally for his collection of Spanish folklore from Ybor City, compiled during the 1930s. 

Boggs taught Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina and founded the Curriculum in Folklore at the University in 1939—one of the first graduate programs of its kind in the country. In addition, his friendship with Stith Thompson brought him into contact with Indiana University, where he helped to develop the first Folklore Institute using the same methods he had developed in the past developing folklore institutes at other institutions. 

Later in life, Boggs did substantial work in the Dominican Republic, and married Dominican folklorist Edna Garrido. He spent his final academic years teaching at the University of Miami and conducting research in Florida and Latin America. He was an active charter member of the Florida Folklore Society, and after retirement continued to pursue studies in Latin American folklore.