Inducted 2017
Born: June 23, 1876
Paducah, Kentucky
Died: March 11, 1944
New York, New York

Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was among Kentucky’s most versatile writers and personalities in the first half of the 20thcentury. He was a journalist, essayist, syndicated columnist, novelist, poet, script writer, actor, storyteller, humorist, lecturer, and Academy Awards ceremony host.

Cobb was the author of nearly 70 books, including novels, short story collections, essays, memoirs, and collections of newspaper and magazine articles. His first book, Talks with the Fat Chauffer, was published in 1909 and his last, Piano Jim and the Impotent Pumpkin Vine, was released posthumously in 1950. Although many of his works have a serious bent, most were infused with rural Kentucky wit and hyperbolic humor. He was a prolific writer for newspapers, beginning with the Paducah Daily News at age 17 and eventually for the New York Worldand Sun, and leading magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.

Cobb was ardently anti-prohibition and a prominent member of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, founded in 1919 by Capt. W.H. Slayton, a retired naval officer. The association and its two most prominent members were credited with helping end Prohibition in 1934. Cobb’s crusade prompted one of his most famous novels, Red Likker (1929). The novel is set after the Civil War and focuses on an old Kentucky family headed by Colonel Atilla Bird, who operates Bird & Son distillery until the advent of Prohibition in 1920. Cobb once lamented that before Prohibition, “Men of all stations of life drank freely and with no sense of shame in their drinking… Bar-rail instep, which is a fallen arch reversed, was a common complaint among us.”

In addition to his fame as a writer, humorist and radio personality, Cobb became involved in the movie industry when three of his stories were adapted for the screen in 1921: “All American Storytellers,” “Peck’s Bad Boy,” and “Pardon My French.”

He continued writing for films well into the 1930s. The Woman Accused, starring Cary Grant and Nancy Carroll, was released in 1933. Cobb received more critical acclaim when he was paired with director John Ford, who made two major films based on his work. The first, Judge Priest(1934), starred Will Rogers in the title role, with Cobb himself in a small part, and was filmed by Fox Studios. The second, The Sun Shines Bright, was released by Republic Studios in 1953, nine years after Cobb’s death. This was the most elaborate of Ford’s Cobb films and was based on three stories: “The Sun Shines Bright,” “The Mob from Massac,” and “The Lord Provides.” The film cast Charles Winninger as Judge Billy Priest. One other film appeared in the interim, director James Whale’s Showboat(1936) starred Irene Dunn, Alan Jones, and Charles Winninger.

Cobb appeared as an actor in 10 movies between 1932 and 1938. His major roles were in Pepper, Everybody’s Old Man(1936) and Hawaii Calls(1938). He was selected to host the sixth Academy Awards ceremony in 1935.

Critic H.L. Mencken compared Cobb to Mark Twain. Cobb also garnered respect from such well-known writers as Joel Chandler Harris. But his literary reputation faded rapidly after the 1940s. His vision of the rural South no longer seemed relevant amid the rise of the civil rights movement and calls to end segregation. Cobb’s style, like many of the local color-era writers, grew increasingly dated and out-of-step with contemporary writing. Cobb is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah.


Selected bibliography

Talks with the Fat Chauffeur(1909)

Cobb’s Anatomy(1912)

Back Home: Being the Narrative of Judge Priest and His People(1912)

The Escape of Mr. Trimm: His Plight and Other Plights(1913)

Cobb’s Bill of Fare(1913)

Roughing It Deluxe(1914)

Europe Revised(1914)

Irvin Cobb at his Best(1915)

Back Home(1912)

Speaking of Operations(1915)

Old Judge Priest(1916)

Fibble, D.D.(1916)

Local Color(1916)

Speaking of Prussians(1917)

Those Times and These (1917)

The Thunders of Silence (1918)

The Glory of the Coming: What Mine Eyes Have Seen of Americans in Action in This Year of Grace and Allied Endeavor (1919)

Eating in Two or Three Languages(1919)

The Life of the Party(1919)

From Place to Place(1920)

Oh, Well, You Know How Women Are!published in one volume with Isn’t That Just Like a Man! by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1920)

The Abandoned Farmers(1920)

A Plea for Old Cap Collier(1921)

One Third Off(1921)

Sundry Accounts(1922)

Myself to Date (1923)

A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: His Favorite Stories as Told by Irvin S. Cobb(1923)

Snake Doctor and Other Stories(1923)

Goin’ on Fourteen: Being Cross-sections Out of a Year in the Life of an Average Boy (1924)

Cobb’s America Guyed Books (1924). There were editions covering the states of Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina and New York.

Alias Ben Alibi(1925)

Many Laughs for Many Days: Another Year’s Supply of His Favorite Stories as Told by Irvin S. Cobb(1925)

“Here Comes the Bride” – and So Forth(1925)

Prose and Cons(1926)

Some United States: A Series of Stops in Various Part of This Nation with One Excursion Across the Line(1926)

All Aboard: A Saga of the Romantic River(1927)

Ladies and Gentlemen(1927)

Chivalry Peak(1927)

Red Likker(1929)

This Man’s World(1929)

Both Sides of the Street(1930)

To Be Taken Before Sailing(1930)

The Belled Buzzard(1930)

Incredible Truth(1931)

Down Yonder with Judge Priest and Irvin S. Cobb(1932)

Murder Day by Day(1933)

One Way to Stop a Panic(1933)

Faith, Hope, and Charity(1934)

Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book (1936)

Judge Priest Turns Detective (1936)

Azam: The Story of An Arabian Colt and His Friends(1937)

Four Useful Pups (1940)

Favorite Humorous Stories of Irvin S. Cobb(1940)

Exit Laughing (1941)

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah(1941)

Roll Call(1942)

Cobb’s Cavalcade(1944)

Piano Jim and the Impotent Pumpkin Vine(1950)

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