Jesse Stuart Historical Marker
Backstory and Context
While growing up as farmer's boy in W-Hollow, Stuart began writing around his teenage years, and in high school, Stuart submitted some of his work to some literary magazines. During the time Stuart was in high school, it was common for high school students to earn certificates and teach while they attended classes, and that is what Stuart did during his senior year. After graduating high school in 1926, Stuart went onto Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN and his degree in English. Afterwards, he developed his teaching skills by taking classes at the George Peabody College for Teachers. However, Stuart went through some difficult obstacles later when he went to the English graduate degree program at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, such as losing his graduate thesis and other belongings when his dormitory caught fire. Later, Stuart left Vanderbilt when he decided he did not want to be a literary scholar but rather a creative writer. Stuart began working as the principal for McKell High School after leaving Vanderbilt.
In 1936, with the advice from his professor at Peabody, Stuart applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel abroad for a year of studying and writing. At the time of his proposal, Stuart had already published two book, Man with a Bull Tongue Plow (1934) and Head O' Hollow (1936). The next year, he received word that his proposal for the fellowship was approved, saying he was one out of sixty-one Americans to receive the grant that year. The Greenup County Board of Education granted him a year's leave for the engagement. The purpose of his fellowship was to the study the commonalities of Scottish and Appalachian folklore and literature.
After his return from his Fellowship, Stuart continued to teach English and worked in the education system. In addition, Stuart participated in many ventures to help improve the quality of life within the region, such as advocating for the development of the state bookmobile program, serving as the chair for the Greenup County Library, and raised money for the Gertrude Ramey Orphanage. Stuart was also part of the Lion's Club and the Greenup Methodist Church. All of his contributions earned him some major awards later in his life, such as 1954 Poet Laureate for Kentucky, the 1955 Centennial Award for Literature at Berea College in Berea, KY, the Academy of American Poets achievement award in 1961, and the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. By the time Stuart passed away in 1984, Stuart left behind sixty novels, forty seventy-five short stories, and over three thousand poems for all the world to read and relive his life in Eastern Kentucky.
Gifford, James. Kazee, Erin. Jesse Stuart: An Extraordinary Life. Ashland, KY. Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010.
Jesse Stuart (1906-1984) Historical Marker, The National Historical Marker Database. n.d. Accessed October 18th 2019. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=73779.