Kentucky by Heart: Kentuckians share more of their state’s favorite interesting and rated personalities


Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on some of the most “interesting” and noted Kentuckians throughout history and the present, according to locals.

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

One of the state’s top poet-writers is Richard Taylor of Frankfort, Kentucky Poet Laureate in 1999-2001. Chris Helvey, also from Frankfort, said this about him: “He is an amazing teacher who has helped thousands of people of all ages see this world in a new and refreshing way, and taught us to express more. fully our personal visions.

Richard Taylor (Photo courtesy of the University of Transylvania)

A retired Air Force loader from Maysville, Chief Raymond Snedegar, served 32 years in the service of America. George Stacey, of Washington Courthouse, Ohio, said that in Snedegar’s many years of flying into combat, “he performed many heroic deeds but none more heroic than on April 4, 1975. On that day he was the chief stevedore on the first giant C -5A at the start of Operation Babylift. The aim of this operation was to rescue the Vietnamese orphans from a situation which was rapidly deteriorating during the fall of Saigon. The plane was loaded with more of three hundred orphans, volunteers and crew members.

Unfortunately, a seizure occurred when the aircraft suffered rapid decompression, severely damaging the tail of the aircraft. “

While the pilots were trying to take control of the plane and make an emergency return to Saigon, Ray was busy getting everyone ready for an emergency landing, ”said George. “Despite the heroic actions of the pilots, the plane crashed just before the runway. Ray was able to escape with injuries, (but) he continued to return to the smoldering wreckage and helped save many lives. Ray made this a lifelong crusade speaking to aviation groups and anyone else interested in how to handle emergency situations involving aircraft.

Dr Louise Hutchins (Photo courtesy of Berea College Magazine)

Kentucky State Beekeeper (beekeeper) Tammy Horn Potter believes that Dr Louise Hutchins, wife of Berea President Francis Hutchins (1939-1967), is considered the physician and first lady of Berea College for her contributions to the state and beyond.

“She was a pediatrician and even received a federal grant to provide vasectomies to men in eastern Kentucky. I think only one man accepted the offer, ”Tammy said. “She was passionate about caring for women and children and spoke very clearly about family planning.

When she arrived in Berea in 1939, she was the only pediatrician in town until her retirement in 1967, and after that, according to Berea magazine, “the Planned Parenthood supporter continued to dedicate herself to health care. children and indigent mothers “.

Tammy offered a humorous treat on a photo of the “First Ladies of Higher Education” that included Louise Hutchins. “As she ran a clinic, she felt the time spent traveling to take a photo was frivolous. So the photo shows a dozen perfectly groomed women – and Louise in the middle with a scowl on her face.

Louise Slaughter (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another Kentuckian Tammy special mentioned was New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of Harlan County. Slaughter was also a blues / jazz singer and microbiologist. She passed away aged 88 in 2018. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee, called Slaughter “a force to be reckoned with, who always brought his courage, his fire and his strength. dynamic leadership at every meeting “.

For historical times, the Richmond CPA David Shew considers Abraham Lincoln to be his most interesting Kentuckian and for contemporary times, John Y. Brown, who he said “made Colonel Sanders an international hero.”

Students of Professor Henderson Roy Pullam interviewed hundreds of Kentucky notables through the Bonnet program developed under Roy’s tutelage. His favorite subject was a colorful former Kentucky politician and Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

“I loved Happy Chandler,” Roy said. “My favorite story he told me was (about) his father’s advice, ‘Don’t go to girls’ shows; you might see something that you don’t want to see. I went, and I did. . .I saw my father. ‘

Steve Flairty is a teacher, speaker, and author of seven books: one biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a children’s version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes # 5” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly columnist for NKyTribune, and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Tribute Word Sketches. “(Photo of Steve by Connie McDonald)

Roy took his students to see Chandler at his house in Versailles every year. “He was so gracious, just like mom, his wife. Before we left, he always sang “My Old Kentucky Home”. It was so touching. Mom told me not to come between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Roy asked why. “Happy loves, that damn soap opera, Days of Our Lives,” replied mom.

Roy later visited the icon when he learned he was ill, unaware of the severity of his condition. “Mom took me to see Happy,” Roy said. “He didn’t have that famous million dollar smile. He looked at me and said, ‘Podner, I can’t go.’ It was really sad. I left Versailles almost in tears. Less than a month later, he was dead. It was as if someone in my family had died.

I have always believed that the importance of Wendell Berry to our state is often overlooked by fellow Kentuckians. Here are the words of tribute from Frankfort writer Michael Embry:

“Wendell Berry has been an important voice for farmers, environmentalists and peace activists through her writings and speeches,” said Michael. “He is an internationally renowned poet, essayist, novelist and critic. He is the recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Jefferson Lectures, and the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

John Hoffert is always excited when he talks about EO Robinson, a landlord who owned about 15,000 acres in the rugged interior of the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky. It was used to cut timber for the Robinson Timber Company in Cincinnati in the early 1900s.

“He then donated the land to the University of Kentucky,” said John, “and 100 years later it is known as Robinson Forest and used for an in-depth study of forestry problems. He also started a Robinson Mountain Fund which continues to provide college scholarships and other grants for the past 100 years.

The story of EO Robinson is of personal interest to John and his family, primarily because his family now lives in Robinson’s former residence in Highland Heights, Ky.

Harry Caudill (Photo from Pinterest)

Jerry Deaton grew up in County Breathitt, not far from being a strong advocate for the rights of the Kentucky mountain people. He greatly admires the service of the person.

“Harry Caudill has become one of Kentucky’s most vocal critics of the coal industry and big government, as both entities took advantage and left behind thousands of paupers of eastern Kentucky in the middle of the twentieth century, ”Jerry said. “Harry was tireless in his efforts to ensure that the people, land and government of Eastern Kentucky had a voice in what was happening to them. He is responsible for many policies and events that have improved conditions for them. mountain dwellers.

One thing is certain. Kentucky has more than its share of individuals who, to say the least, generate great interest because of the often colorful lives they have carved out for themselves. Some are known, others unknown. The few shares here are just the start. Let me know of others that I may shed light on in future columns.


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