Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame - Gurney Norman
Author Gurney Norman honors his late friend and fellow UK professor Harry Caudill, an inductee of the inaugural class of the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.
Six gifted wordsmiths who have entered The Great Scriptorium--the library in the sky--were inducted Thursday night into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.
During a champagne reception at Lexington’s Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, the honorees, selected from more than 200 nominees and a list of 13 finalists were featured in readings by some of Kentucky’s leading contemporary literary figures. The inaugural class spanned from one born in 1814 to one who died in 2001 and was distinguished in that it did not include the iconic likes of Jesse Stuart nor Thomas Merton.
Neil Chethik, director of the Carnegie Center, said the idea behind the ceremony was to bridge the past with the present in creating a tribute to the state’s rich literary heritage and its growing reputation as “the literary capitol of mid America.”
The first inductee was William Wells Brown (1814-1884), America’s first African-American novelist, who wrote the first accounts of President Thomas Jefferson’s multi-race children more than 150 years before that rumor was proven by DNA testing. One of his essays, written in the 1860s, was read by Transylvania University professor Jeremy Paden.
Boyle County poet/author Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881-1941), best known for her mountain-based novels and stories was presented by poet Frank X Walker, a fellow Boyle Countian and University of Kentucky English professor.
Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), best known for All the King’s Men (1946) was presented by Transy professor Maurice Manning.
Author/attorney Harry Caudill (1922-1990), whose Night Comes to the Cumberlands gave credibility to the War on Poverty, was presented by his friend and fellow UK professor Gurney Norman.
Harriette Simpson Arnow (1908-1986), whose 1949 novel Hunter’s Horn finished second to William Faulkner for the Pulitzer Prize, was presented by Berea College professor and environmental activist Silas House.
James Still (1906-2001), best known for the novel River of Earth, was presented by George Ella Lyon, who personally knew both Still and Arnow through retreats at the Hindman Settlement School.
The other finalists included Stuart, Merton, Thomas Clark, Guy Davenport, John Fox Jr., Janice Holt Giles and James Baker Hall, who will all be considered next year along with living Kentucky writers.