The composer of New Mexico’s state song, ‘O, Fair New Mexico’, comes from a family whose name is synonymous with New Mexico history.
Elizabeth Garrett is the daughter of Sheriff Pat Garrett, best known as the lawman who gunned down Billy the Kid in 1881. While the young lady born to the arduous deserts of 19th Century New Mexico might often be eclipsed by her father’s legend, her story is truly remarkable.
Elizabeth spent most of her life blind, some reports saying she lost her sight at an early age, others saying she was born without sight. Garrett moved with her family around the southwest before being enrolled in a school for the blind in Austin, Texas.
There, she began her studies of music, a craft common at schools for the blind. She excelled at the piano and voice training. In addition, Garrett studied composition, which would carry her to a career in music.
Against the odds, the young woman’s song, ‘O Fair New Mexico’ would be selected as the official state song in 1917, just a few short years after New Mexico became the 47th state. Garrett would perform the song as a keystone to her live performances around the region throughout her career.
She took up residency in Roswell as an adult, teaching music and become a good friend to author and activist Helen Keller. Elizabeth Garrett passed away in October of 1947.