Mountain News & World Report: Remembering Joe Begley; Looking at Gas Drilling Companies’ ‘Landmen'; a ‘Start-up’ Business Competition in East Ky.

Joe & Gaynell Begley at the C.B. Caudill Store in Blackey, Ky. // photo by Gordon Baer

Joe & Gaynelle Begley at the C.B. Caudill Store in Blackey, Ky. // photo by Gordon Baer

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we begin with an audio remembrance of a titanic presence in 20th-century east Kentucky history: Joe Begley.  Joe, who passed away 15 years ago this month, was a tireless activist and community leader in and around the town of Blackey in Letcher County, Ky.  For over three decades, Joe and his wife Gaynell ran the C.B. Caudill Store in Blackey, which was part general store, and part community meeting space.  Together, they fought against what was then a new mining technique known as ‘strip-mining,’ most especially when it was done without landowners’ consent under a legal precedent known as the ‘Broad-Form Deed.’  They also worked in a variety of ways to help people in need in their community, and Joe was invited to the White House twice in recognition of his work and leadership in the mountains.  WMMT Community Correspondent Tarence Ray brings us this profile.

Also in this show: we hear about the latest “Start-Up Challenge” business plan competition that is open exclusively to new entrepreneurs in east Kentucky.  The competition is being sponsored by the University of Pikeville, and WMMT’s Mimi Pickering speaks with Justin Prater of the Kentucky Innovation Network to learn more.  The deadline for entries is April 24: click here for more information.

And finally, we hear a selection from the WMMT series Fractured Appalachia that profiles the land agents who work for natural gas companies and try to secure drilling rights from landowners.  This piece also features some advice for landowners in central Appalachia who might get approached.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Saturday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coming to Bluegrass Express Live on Apr. 2: Gary Brewer and The Tommy Webb Band!

BGX 3-16-15

WMMT is thrilled to announce that the latest in our ongoing Bluegrass Express Live! series will take place on Thursday, April 2nd, when we will welcome Gary Brewer and The Tommy Webb Band back to the Appalshop stage!  Gary (who will be joined by The Kentucky Ramblers) & Tommy are both tremendously talented performers & bandleaders, and we’re honored to have both of their acts here at WMMT for what promises to be an exciting double-bill of hard-driving bluegrass.  Both also have a long history here at the Appalshop; Gary Brewer, along with the late Philip Sexton, put out an album, The 5th Generation, on our very own June Appal Records, and Tommy Webb has performed many times now on WMMT.  We are delighted to have them both back for more!

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. with doors around 7.  Call WMMT at (606) 633-0108 to make your reservation today; tickets are $15 (and you pay at the door; calling in a reservation will reserve your spot).  If you can’t make it in person, you can always tune in the live show on WMMT, but don’t miss out on the chance to see these giants of the contemporary bluegrass scene in person, in our intimate, 150-seat theater–there ain’t a bad seat in the house!

Coal Report for March 20, 2015


Main St. in downtown Lynch, Ky. following a mudslide where water & debris burst from an old coal mine // photo submitted by a facebook user to the Tri-City News at

March has already been a tragic month in Appalachian coal mines.  3 people have been killed at local mines so far this month, including two people in two consecutive days at mines run by Alpha Natural Resources.  The first accident happened on March 8th, when a section of mine roof and rib collapsed underground at the Marshall County Mine in Marshall County, West Virginia.  One miner was killed in the fall and two more were injured.  The mine was recently purchased by Murray Energy, and was known as the McElroy mine until it was sold.  According to SNL Energy, this mine has a recent history of unsafe conditions.  It was given some 315 citations and orders for significant and substantial violations in a recent 12-month period.

There was also a fatal accident close to home.  Miner David Brummitte of Wise County, Va. was killed on Monday, March 15th at Alpha’s Deep Mine #41 in Dickenson County.  According to MSHA’s preliminary report, Brummitte was a section foreman at the mine, and was killed by a rock fall while performing an inspection.  He became the first miner killed in Continue reading Coal Report for March 20, 2015

Mountain Talk: The 2015 Growing Appalachia Conference


Valerie Horn of Grow Appalachia & the Appal-TREE project (L) and Sister Kathy Curtis of the Floyd Co. Farmers’ Market discuss the upcoming Growing Appalachia conference set for March 21 in Prestonsburg, Ky.

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we hear from a variety of guests involved in local agriculture here in the mountains about the 2015 Growing Appalachia conference, which is set for Saturday, March 21st in Prestonsburg, Ky.  The conference consists of a full day of workshops centered around small-scale mountain farming, energy efficiency, and renewables.  To learn more about it, in this program host Elizabeth Sanders welcomes a diverse group of local guests: Jessie Skaggs, who’s helping to organize the conference; Valerie Horn (of Grow Appalachia & the Appal-TREE project); Sister Kathy Curtis (of the Floyd Co. Farmers’ Market); Hilary Neff (also of Appal-TREE); Mark Walden (of Grow Appalachia); and Jonathan Hootman (part owner of Roundabout Music Company, a new co-operatively owned Whitesburg business).

The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the 21st, and will be held at the Jenny Wiley Convention Center in Prestonsburg.  It’s being sponsored by the Big Sandy chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  For more information or to sign up, click here.

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesay from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains: food; community issuesart; health; and more (click any of those links to hear streaming audio of past programs archived by topic).

Mountain Talk: New Ideas for Kentucky’s Economy


(l-r) Sara Pennington, Eric Dixon, & host Mimi Pickering in the WMMT studio

Here in the midst of Kentucky’s legislative session, on this episode of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we hear about a number of bills being heard in the General Assembly that could have an impact on Kentucky’s working families and the state’s economy as a whole.  Host Mimi Pickering is joined by guests from across the state, including Eric Dixon, Sara Pennington, & Tanya Turner (who all live in the Whitesburg area), as well as Shekinah Lavalle (of Louisville) and Jessica Hays Lucas (of Lexington).  Among other issues and bills, they discuss the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the idea of increasing the minimum wage.  Our guests also let listeners know how their voices could be heard on bills important to them.

To hear more episodes of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, check out our streaming archives.

Mountain News & World Report: Net Neutrality & Broadband in the Mountains; Evelyn Williams on Growing Up Black in Appalachia in the 1920s-30s

Evelyn Williams at her home in Redfox, Ky. in the mid-1990's. // photograph taken by Nyoka Hawkins, KLGP

Evelyn Williams at her home in Redfox, Ky. in the mid-1990’s. // photograph taken by Nyoka Hawkins, KLGP

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, in the wake of last week’s historic FCC vote on Net Neutrality, we begin by talking about the lack of access to high-speed internet infrastructure and service here in Central Appalachia. We hear a piece from the WMMT archives from 2012 on some of the many difficulties local people face in getting online, and then we hear an update on what impact the FCC vote could have on internet access both here in the mountains and in rural communities all over the country.

Also in this show, we celebrate some of the rich cultural diversity that is woven deeply throughout Appalachia’s history by hearing excerpts from the 1995 Appalshop documentary film Evelyn Williams, produced by Anne Lewis.  Evelyn Williams grew up in Perry County, Ky., and she led a remarkably diverse life–she was an activist in southeast Kentucky, a community organizer in Brooklyn, a coal miner’s wife, a housekeeper, a new college graduate in her mid-fifties, a mother of nine, and more.  In this piece, we hear Evelyn reflecting on some of her experiences growing up black in east Kentucky in the 1920’s & 1930’s.  (To purchase a DVD copy of the full half-hour film, click here to head to the Appalshop Store).

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Saturday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for February 27, 2015


a portion of the aftermath of the Buffalo Creek Flood, which happened 43 years ago this week in Logan County, W.Va.

Another American coal miner has been killed on the job, this time in Pennsylvania.  The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that miner Todd Trimble was killed at the Rosebud Mining Company’s Heilwood Mine in Indiana County.  According to MSHA, he was re-positioning roof mesh and was caught between the roof of the mine and the top of the drill canopy when a piece of the roof collapsed onto him.  He became the second coal miner in the US to die on the job this year.  Both fatalities have happened in Pennsylvania.

In other coal news, for the first time since the early 1900’s, there are no union coal miners left working in Kentucky.  WFPL Radio reports that the last union miners in the state lost their jobs on New Year’s Eve when Patriot Coal idled the Highland Mine in Western Kentucky.  In some ways, the decline of the UMWA parallels the decline of labor all over the country since the Reagan Administration—in 1983, 20% of all workers in the US belonged to a labor union, but in 2014, Continue reading Coal Report for February 27, 2015

Remembering Buffalo Creek, 43 years later

Drawing made by a child survivor of the Buffalo Creek Flood

Thursday, February 26th marks the 43rd anniversary of the catastrophic Buffalo Creek Flood, which killed 125 people and left some 4,000 more homeless when a coal waste dam burst in Logan County, West Virginia.  In this episode of Mountain Talk (push play above to hear it), which aired on last year’s anniversary, Appalshop filmmaker Mimi Pickering hosts a special program commemorating the disaster, featuring audio from the 1975 Appalshop film “The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man.”  We also hear from two special guests: Jack Spadaro, who was hired as part of the state’s investigative team following the flood and then worked as a inspector for OSM and MSHA, and Shaunna Scott, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies at UK, who has been researching the impact of the Martin County, KY sludge spill and emergency planning responses in the aftermath of the spill.

For more information on Buffalo Creek: