In 1951, D.W. Brosnan, Southern Railway executive vice president of operations and future chairman, began holding meetings for company officers in Almond, N.C., a small town in the mountains west of Asheville.
He asked Snow Baker, a lieutenant in the railroad's police department, to put together some musical entertainment. In short order, Baker rounded up a harmonica, a washtub bass and a guitar from railroad staff, then recruited a "mountain man" who could play banjo and crack jokes, cleaned him up and hired him for the band. Thus was born the "Almond Hillbillies."
With the help of ad hoc groups such as the "Diddie Singers," a chorus of men who led the audience in sing-alongs, and bawdy skits put on by employees spoofing the foibles of the railroad, the Hillbillies entertained the railroaders under a large tent in Almond until 1965, when the Almond meetings ceased and the band disbanded. Some of the original musicians continued to play on their own.
Today's Lawmen continue to entertain employees and guests at the Forest with mountain, folk, train, bluegrass, gospel, country, beach, pop and rock music during the fall and winter months. The spring and summer months find the Lawmen on the road traveling throughout the system to perform at company functions and public events. They are full-time professional musicians who log some 200 performances a year and have appeared on national television, at the Grand Ole Opry, the Smithsonian Institution and at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Foundation in Meridian, Miss., along with some of country's top stars including Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker, Ricky Skaggs, Collin Raye, Billy Joe Royal and T. Graham Brown.
Although The Lawmen no longer carry badges and guns, the services they provide remain a valuable and unique asset for the company