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George Ella Lyon is a poet, writer, teacher, musician, storyteller and social activist with Appalachian roots and a global reach. She has published 10 poetry collections, two adult novels, six novels for young people and 34 children’s picture books, plus stories, songs, plays, scripts and memoirs.

“Where I’m From,” her 1993 poem about personal identity, has become a classroom classic, art projects across Kentucky and the nation ( and a writing prompt used by teachers around the world.

“Writing, first of all, is for you,” she said when asked her advice to aspiring writers. “It’s really a tool for understanding yourself and helping yourself. Your voice matters. You have stories to tell that nobody else could tell. You look at the world in a way that no one has ever looked at it before.”

She was born George Ella Hoskins. Her father, Robert, was a drycleaner who read poems aloud and sang to her. Her mother, Gladys, loved to play imagination games with her.


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Loyal Jones is a prolific writer and scholar of Appalachian culture, the author or co-author of 13 books and dozens of articles. He founded a center for Appalachian studies at Berea College.

Jones was one of eight children born to a farming family in Western North Carolina. When he was 12, his family moved to Brasstown, where the John C. Campbell Folk School had been created in 1925. After high school, Jones served briefly in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II and then farmed and trained show horses for several years.

A woman associated with the folk school suggested he enroll in Berea College. Both institutions had good libraries, fueling Jones’ interest in reading, writing and learning more about his native region. He earned a B.A. in English from Berea and an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina.

Before returning to Berea College to teach, Jones taught in the U.S. Army and Jefferson County Public Schools. He was associate executive director and later executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains. Jones led Berea College’s Appalachian Center from 1970 until 1993. In 2008, college trustees voted to name the center for him.


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James Christopher Klotter, an award-winning author, professor and the State Historian of Kentucky since 1980, has spent his career researching and interpreting Kentucky’s history.

“With the possible exception of Thomas D. Clark, Jim probably knows more about the Commonwealth than anyone else in our history,” said William Ellis, a fellow Kentucky historian and author.

Klotter was born in Lexington to Marjorie Gibson and John C. Klotter. His parents divorced when he was young, and he grew up mostly in Owsley County. Klotter was educated at the University of Kentucky, where he earned a Ph.D. in history in 1975. He was a U.S. Army officer, 1970-71.

“As a young child, I had traveled to many Kentucky sites with my father and had always found them fascinating,” Klotter said.

(1906 - 1974)

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Ted Poston, born into a prominent Black family in Hopkinsville, was one of the first African American journalists to work on a white-owned metropolitan newspaper. During a 33-year career at The New York Post, he won two of journalism’s major awards.

Theodore Roosevelt Augustus Major Poston was the youngest of eight children born to educators Ephraim and Mollie Cox Poston. He graduated from Attucks High School in Hopkinsville in 1924 and what is now Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1928.

Poston began his career at age 15 writing for his family’s newspaper, the Hopkinsville Contender. He wrote for two major Black-owned newspapers, the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News. A union activist, Poston was fired from the News for helping the American Newspaper Guild organize its staff.

He joined the New York Post in 1936 and soon became a star reporter. A favorite of publisher Dorothy Schiff, Poston lobbied her to hire more Black and Puerto Rican journalists. Showing he could succeed in areas closed to other Black journalists, Poston got exclusive interviews in 1940 with Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana and Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie.

Photo by James Baker Hall

(1921 - 1993)

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Robert Hazel published five collecitons of poetry, three novels and several short stories. He also was a much-admired teacher and mentor to writers who became famous, including Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, James Baker Hall, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, Rita Mae Brown and Charles Simic.

Robert Elvin Hazel, the son of a physicist at Indiana University, served in the U.S. Marines during World War II. He attended several colleges as an undergraduate, switching his major from science to English his junior year. He earned a B.A. from George Washington University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Karl Shapiro.

As a writer, Hazel was best known for his poetry. He said he was influenced by Walt Whitman, Hart Crane and Charles Baudelaire. His first volume, Poems/1951-1961, had a glowing introduction from poet Allen Tate.

“He ought to be one of the best of the second half of the century,” Tate wrote. “I do not know any younger American poet who has access to an associative imagery as rich and unpredictable as Mr. Hazel’s.”

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