Born: August 8, 1906
Greenup County, Kentucky
Died: February 17, 1984
Jesse Hilton Stuart was an accomplished poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist by the time he was in his 40s. He received the 1934 Jeannette Sewal Davis poetry prize for his first major book of poetry, Man with a Bull-Tongued Plow (1934), which included 703 sonnets, many mimicking the style of great Scottish poet Robert Burns. The book was described by the Irish poet George William Russell as the greatest work of poetry to come out of America since Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass. He was the recipient of many awards, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship (1937), the Academy of Arts and Sciences award, the Berea College Centennial award for literature, the Academy of American Poets award and several honorary degrees.
Stuart was a remarkable and original writer. He was prolific, publishing 59 major works — eight for young people, seven autobiographical, one biographical, two collections of essays, two history/sociology, 11 novels, eleven collections of poetry, and 17 collections of short stories.
Critics were divided on their opinions of Stuart, many suggesting that his writing was uneven. Others heaped great praise. Regardless, he consistently commanded a broad popular audience. Because of the supposed uneven quality of his writing and its apparent intense regional focus, he was often ignored by the literary mainstream.
Born in a log cabin in Greenup County’s W Hollow to Mitchell and Martha (Hilton) Stuart, he was the first in his family to finish high school, graduating from Greenup High School in 1926. He worked his way through Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1929. While there he studied under Harry Harrison Kroll, a well-known novelist of his day and one of Stuart’s greatest influences. With Kroll’s encouragement, Stuart began writing poems, some of which were published in the school newspaper. Author James Still was among his classmates.
Stuart returned to Eastern Kentucky and, after two years of public school teaching and administrative service (he twice served as principal of McKell High School in Greenup County, 1933-1937 and 1956-1957), he decided to enroll in graduate school at Vanderbilt University. He pursued, but did not complete, a master of arts degree in English.
Stuart married Naomi Deane Norris in 1939 and they settled on his ancestral land in W Hollow. They had one daughter, Jessica Jane, who also became an accomplished novelist and poet. Stuart served as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the Navy during World War II. He served as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, 1954-1955.
Stuart traveled widely. He used his Guggenheim Fellowship to visit Scotland. He served as visiting professor of English and education at the American University, Cairo, Egypt, during 1960 and 1961. In 1962 and 1963, he served as an American specialist abroad for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Department. He also served in the Middle and Far East as a lecturer for the U.S. Information Agency. In the fall of 1962, he and his wife left Greenup County for a five-month tour that included more than 400 speaking engagements through Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, East Pakistan, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.
Stuart was seriously ill and bedfast for four years before his death after a series of heart attacks and a stroke. He is buried in the Plum Grove cemetery near W Hollow.
Beyond Dark Hills.E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1938; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1996.
The Thread that Runs So True.New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1950; Dramatic Publishing, 1958.
The Year of My Rebirth. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1991.
To Teach, To Love. New York: World Pub. Co., 1970; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1987.
My World. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1975.
Dandelions on the Acropolis. Danbury, CT: Archer Editions Press, 1978.
The Kingdom Within: A Spiritual Autobiography.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
God’s Oddling: The Story of Mick Stuart, My Father.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.
Lost Sandstones and Lonely Skies. Danbury, CT: Archer Editions Press, 1979.
If I Were Seventeen Again: And Other Essays. Danbury, CT: Archer Editions Press, 1980.
Tennessee Hill Folk. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1972.
Up the Hollow from Lynchburg (with Joe Clark). New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.
Trees of Heaven. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1940; Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1980.
Taps for Private Tussie.E.P. Dutton, 1943; World Pub. Co., 1969.
Mongrel Mettle: The Autobiography of a Dog. New York: E.P. Dutton. 1944.
Foretaste of Glory.New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1946; Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.
Hie to the Hunters. New York: McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House, 1950; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1996.
The Good Spirit of Laurel Ridge.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953.
Daughter of the Legend. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965; The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1994.
Mr. Gallion’s School.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.
The Land Beyond the River.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.
Come to My Tomorrowland. Nashville, TN: Aurora Publishers, Inc., 1971.
Cradle of the Copperheads. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Harvest of Youth. Howe, OK: Scroll Press, 1930; The Council of Southern Mountains, 1964; The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1998.
Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow.New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1934.
Album of Destiny. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1944.
Kentucky is My Land.Ashland, KY: Economy Printers, 1952. The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1987.
Hold April.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962.
Autumn Lovesong: a celebration of love’s fulfilment. Kansas City: Hallmark Editions, 1971.
The World of Jesse Stuart: Selected Poems. Ed. J.R. LeMaster. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.
The Only Place We Live. Ed. Mark E. Lefebvre. Madison, WI: Wisconsin House, 1976.
The Seasons of Jesse Stuart: An Autobiography in Poetry. Ed. Wanda Hicks. Lynnville, TN: Archer Editions Press, 1976.
Land of Honey Colored Wind (Poetry & Short Stories). Ed. Jerry A. Herndon. Ashland, KY: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1981.
Songs of a Mountain Plowman.Ed. Jim Wayne Miller. Ashland, KY: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1986.
Short Story Collections:
Head o’ W-Hollow.New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1936; Books for Libraries Press, 1971.
Tim: A Story. Cincinnati, OH: Little Man Magazine, 1939. Harvest Press, 1968.
Men of the Mountains. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1941; Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1979.
Tales from the Plum Grove Hills. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1946; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1997.
Plowshare in Heaven. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.
Save Every Lamb. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.
My Land Has a Voice. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
Seven by Jesse. Terre Haute, IN: Indiana Council of Teachers of English, 1970.
A Jesse Stuart Harvest.New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1965; Mockingbird Books, 1976.
Stories by Jesse Stuart. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
Come Gentle Spring. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1969; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2008.
Come Back to the Farm.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2001.
Dawn of the Remembered Spring. New York: McGraw Hill, 1972.
32 Votes Before Breakfast. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.
Land of Honey Colored Wind (Poetry & Short Stories). Ed. Jerry Herndon. Ashland, KY: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1981.
The Best Loved Stories of Jesse Stuart. Ed. Harold E. Richardson. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982.
Clearing in the Sky & Other Stories. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.
New Harvest: Forgotten Stories of Kentucky’s Jesse Stuart. Ashland, KY: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2003.
For Young Readers:
The Thread That Runs So True. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950; Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977.
The Beatinest Boy. Whittlesey House, 1953; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1989.
A Penny’s Worth of Character. New York: McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House, 1954; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1993.
Red Mule.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1993.
The Rightful Owner. New York: McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House, 1960.
Andy Finds a Way.New York: McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House, 1961.
A Ride with Huey, the Engineer. St. Helena, CA: James Beard, 1960; McGraw-Hill, 1966; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1988.
Old Ben.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970; Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1992.