Lena Triplett Milam, music teacher and pioneer in the development of community music in Beaumont, was born at Sweet Springs, Missouri, on October 19, 1884. She was one of four children of Henry Franklin and Amanda (Wheeler) Triplett. Lena attended school in Sweet Springs and later in Ennis, Texas. She received her teaching certificate from North Texas Normal School and taught two years at Baptist College in Lexington, Mississippi. In 1901 her family moved to Beaumont, Texas, where Lena's father had been hired as superintendent of schools; she followed in 1903. After teaching for two years she married Allen Barnes Milam and moved to Sulphur, Louisiana. In 1911 she returned to Beaumont with three children. She resumed teaching and in 1919 became music supervisor of the Beaumont schools, a position she held until her retirement in 1955. She received a B.S. degree (1936) and an M.M. degree (1942) from North Texas State Teachers College. In 1937 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Under Mrs. Milam's direction the Beaumont High School Orchestra became well-known throughout the state. She developed a music-appreciation program that involved the community as well as students. She was a charter member and president of the Music Study Club and an active member of the Woman's Club, the Altrusa Club, the American Association of University Women, the Business and Professional Woman's Club, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She served as co-chairman of the city's first Music Week celebration (1922) and helped develop the Beaumont Music Commission (1923) and the Beaumont Symphony Orchestra (1953). She also founded and directed the Schubert Ensemble, a group that gained considerable distinction for its community performances in the 1930s. In 1929 she organized the First Methodist Orchestra, an ensemble that became a regular part of the church's Sunday night services.
Lena Milam was president of the Texas Federation of Music Clubs from 1932 to 1934 and served on the organization's national board until her retirement in 1955. She often served as chairman of the music division of the Texas State Teachers Association and was on committees of the Texas Music Educators' Association, the National Education Association, and the Texas Music Teachers Association. During the summer months she participated in workshops, attended conventions, and taught summer classes at various institutions. She frequently taught at the College of Industrial Arts and North Texas State Teachers College in Denton, the University of Texas in Austin, and the American Institute of Normal Methods in Auburndale, Massachusetts. She was the author of a graded music-workbook series published by the Steck–Vaughn Company of Austin. She wrote a Handbook for Junior Clubs Counselors, published by the National Federation of Music Clubs in 1954.
Beaumont recognized Mrs. Milam's contributions on many occasions. In 1935 the Rotary Club honored her as "Beaumont's Most Distinguished Public Servant." She was the 1944 recipient of the Golden Deeds Award conferred by the Exchange Club of Beaumont. She died in Beaumont on November 8, 1984, a few days after her 100th birthday. The Lena Triplett Milam Scholarship in Music was established in her honor at Lamar University.
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L. Randolph Babin, Lena Milam, 1884–1984: Music Educator and Pioneer in the Development of Community Music in Beaumont, Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, Louisiana State University, 1987). Lena Milam Papers, Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont.
Music and Drama
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
L. Randolph Babin,
“Milam, Lena Triplett,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 06, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
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