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Kentucky by Heart: An often overlooked KY writer; EKU’s buzzer-beater; Wilmore’s generosity and more

By Steve Flairty
Kentucky by Heart

The pantheon of great Kentucky writers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries includes James Lane Allen, John Fox Jr., Harriette Arnow, Janice Holt Giles, Robert Penn Warren, Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason and dozens of others. One that is often overlooked is Elizabeth Madox Roberts, born in 1881 in Perryville, Kentucky, and grew up in nearby Springfield.

Elizabeth Madox Roberts

Her most noted book, The Time of Man, which I am reading, was published in 1926 and it, along with The Great Meadow, in 1930, were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Time has at its protagonist a young girl, Ellen Chesser, growing up in a poor family in rural Kentucky. Writing in a rhythmic beautiful prose, Roberts portrays elements of both human despair and hope in Time of Man. It requires close reading to pick up on the universal symbolism, and frankly, I use a commentary to help me better comprehend the complexity. I also plan to read The Great Meadow, a historical novel set in the Kentucky frontier in the years 1774 to 1781. She wrote much more, including a children’s book collection of poems in 1922 called Under the Tree.

For whatever reason, her works historically may be underappreciated according to some. But Robert Penn Warren, perhaps the greatest Kentucky writer and one who gained recognition as the U.S Poet Laureate in 1986-87, wrote a stirring introduction to the University Press’s edition of The Time of Man. He called Roberts “that rare thing, a true artist.”

Much more about Roberts is included in the book, A Literary History of Kentucky, by William S. Ward. It’s well worth reading.

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It sure was an exciting finish to the Eastern Kentucky-Georgia State men’s basketball game Friday night, November 18, in Atlanta. After trailing by as many as 20 in the first half, EKU found itself down by 5 with 9 seconds left in the game. A three-pointer by EKU’s Leland Walker and a quick foul saw the Colonels trail by two with 5.1 seconds, with Georgia State shooting a one-and-one free throw. The shot was missed, EKU’s Cooper Robb rebounded, dribbled to near mid-court and made a desperation buzzer-beater shot, giving the Colonels a thrilling 62-61 victory. Robb’s shot became Friday’s ESPN SportsCenter’s “play of the day.”

Robb played high school basketball at Scott County High School, in Georgetown, with current EKU teammate, Michael Moreno. Their coach at EKU, A.W. Hamilton, also played basketball at Scott County.

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Tommy Baker

So many Kentuckians see community needs and take the initiative to do something about those needs. In Wilmore, a town known for its abundant kindness, Tommy Baker was touched with an appreciation for the town’s community helpers. So, in 2011, he organized and funded a Thanksgiving breakfast for Wilmore’s police, fire department workers, road workers, and all other city employees. Always held on the day before Thanksgiving Day, last Wednesday marked the eleventh time the outreach happened, with only the Covid-19 year being canceled. Noteworthy is the fact that Tommy and his family, wife Dana and son Lindsay, live outside the city limits.

Never afraid to ask for volunteers to help, people respect Tommy’s generous spirit… and that’s what makes the event possible. Over the years, former Kentucky basketball players Jared Polson (a Wilmore native) and Cameron Mills have helped, along with former UK president Lee Todd. Last year, the state’s lieutenant governor, Jacqueline Coleman, also served. Community leaders have helped, along with a whole host of local citizens.

The example of people such as Tommy Baker is one of the many reasons that I write the Kentucky by Heart column.

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All the best to Louisville author Bill Noel, who is recovering from a heart attack he suffered in May. I’ve written about him here previously. A few weeks ago, Bill underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery and is undergoing cardio rehabilitation. To his many fans who read his prolific Folly Beach Mystery book series, he said on his Facebook author page: “You’ll never know how much it means to me to share my imagination with you and to hear, see, and feel your positive reactions.”

Feel free to send Bill get well wishes at his Facebook page.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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