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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Appalachian historian and social critic, Harry Monroe Caudill was born May 3, 1922, in Letcher County, Kentucky, the son of Cro Carr and Martha Victoria (Blair) Caudill, both of Scotch-Irish descent. After graduating from Whitesburg High School in 1941, Caudill joined the U.S. Army and was wounded in action during World War II. He graduated from the University of Kentucky Law School in 1948. Returning to Whitesburg, Caudill in 1954 was elected to the first of three terms in the state House of Representatives, a largely frustrating experience that led to the article " How an Election Was Bought and Sold" in the October 1960 issue of Harper's Magazine. The byline read "A Kentucky Legislator," and the article launched Caudill's career as a writer.
With his first book, Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1963), Caudill in effect made history by writing it. The book -- "The story of how this rich and beautiful land was changed into an ugly, poverty-ridden place of desolation," wrote author Harriette Arnow -- turned the nation's eyes toward Kentucky's hills. It described a sort of corporate feudalism in which coal operators bullied a neglected people through the use of the broad form deed to protect the mineral ownership of entrepreneurs. Caudill's book was generally credited with sparking the creation in 1964 of the Appalachian Regional Commission , a federal agency to assist Kentucky and twelve other states in the Appalachian Mountains. Some criticized the work's lack of footnotes or disagreed with its theory that Appalachia was populated by the "wretched outcasts" of British prisons, but Caudill himself emerged as a symbol of eastern Kentucky. For the next three or four years, Appalachia became a cause celebre, bringing hundreds of volunteers, along with writers and government agencies, into the mountains.
Caudill became a beacon for the area's conservationists. He represented a roadblock for coal operators such as William Sturgill of Lexington, who maintained that Caudill did not support the economy or provide job opportunity, but rather made personal gain from advertising worldwide the misfortunes of his friends and neighbors. Nationally, Caudill became known as an eloquent and courageous spokesman for an exploited region and its people. He helped organize grass-roots opposition to strip mining and the broad form deed and fought them in the courts, in magazine and newspaper articles, in letters and speeches and appearances before legislative committees. He gained in the process a national reputation, many enemies, and some influential friends. Historian Thomas D. Clark has spoken of Caudill's voice as one of the most important in Kentucky's history.
After Night Comes to the Cumberlands, Caudill wrote nine books, fifty magazine articles, and eighty newspaper articles and he made hundreds of speeches. In My Land is Dying (1971), he pleaded for a change in economic priorities to prevent the rest of the country from being strip-mined; The Watches of the Night (1976) updated his first book to include the 1974 coal boom; Theirs Be the Power (1983) is the story of coal barons and capitalists, including prominent Kentuckians, who industrialized eastern Kentucky and transformed its mineral wealth into personal fortunes.
A lawyer for twenty-eight years, Caudill retired and became a professor of history at the University of Kentucky between 1977 and 1985. During that time he wrote The Mountains, the Miner and the Lord (1980), lively stories he collected while practicing law.
Caudill married Anne Frye of Cynthiana, Kentucky, in 1946. They had three children, James, Diana, and Harry. Caudill died on November 29, 1990, and was buried in the Battle Grove Cemetery in Cynthiana.
LEE MUELLER, Entry Author
LEE MUELLER, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Caudill, Harry M. Night Comes to the Cumberlands, a Biography of a Depressed Area. 1st Ed.]. ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963. Print.HC107.K4 C3, Young Library - 4th Floor
Caudill, Harry M. Slender Is the Thread : Tales from a Country Law Office. Lexington, Ky.: U of Kentucky, 1987. Print.K184 .C38 1987, Young Library - 4th Floor
Caudill, Harry M. The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord, and Other Tales from a Country Law Office. Lexington, KY: U of Kentucky, 1980. Print.F457.L48 C38, Young Library - 4th Floor