Published January 23, 2024

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Danny Wingate of Elk Creek, Grayson County.

Danny Wingate looks at the camera in golden light while wearing a cowboy hat.
Danny Wingate photographed outside the Birthplace of Country Music in 2020. Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program

Danny was a lifelong practitioner of many mountain crafts, such as wood tool making, axe-split shingle making, leatherwork, and green woodworking. He shared his expertise with others through his demonstrations at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, where he demonstrated blacksmithing at the very first festival in 1973, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2004, with his wife Cleavie who demonstrated in the Heart of Appalachia Foodways area. In 2014, he apprenticed Sam Linkous in traditional building methods, specifically greenwood joinery. In 2020, Danny joined Virginia Folklife at our REAL FOLK exhibition opening at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. We send our respects to Danny’s family and friends, and are grateful for the wisdom he shared with us and others.

“We’re losing an encyclopedia” said Roddy Moore, Director Emeritus of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Danny. He said Danny was a voracious reader, especially books on 19th- and early 20th-century technology. His interests were “broad and deep,” according to Roddy. “But he was also one of those people spent a lot of time talking to the older people in the community about folkways.”

“Along with his dear wife Clevie, Danny was a treasured participant in many facets of the Folklife Program,” said former Director of the Virginia Folklife Program Jon Lohman. “His myriad skills were only matched by his lifelong dedication to sustaining the mountain crafts and building arts and sharing them generously. We are so grateful for our time with him and he will be missed.”

In addition to splitting shingles, working leather, and building replicas of historical cannons, Danny had a hand in movie making, wrangling livestock for films like Last of the Mohicans and even appearing in a scene in For Richer or Poorer starring Tim Allen. He had to shave his beard for the role, which Roddy had never seen before then. “That smile was always there,” remembered Roddy. 

He is survived by his loving wife, Cleavie, his sisters Barbara Kisley, Suzanne Wingate and Geneva Louise Howard, and nieces and nephews. More information can be found in his obituary here.