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MN&WR: The Assets We Have

MN&WR: The Assets We Have

  • Mary Gail Adams tells the story of her mother and the Hound Dog Hookers, a group of wool rug makers in Blackey, Kentucky established in the 1960s as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty effort.
  • The Administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, Jay Williams, speaks on the correlation between the economic difficulties of eastern Kentucky and that experienced in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio with the collapse of the steel industry.
  • Along with the Humans of Central Appalachia project, WMMT pays tribute to Whitesburg, Kentucky’s beloved artist, restaurateur, volunteer, and grandmother – Judith Vermillion.
1.  A rug that the state of Kentucky commissioned from the Hound Dog Hookers for Lady Bird Johnson.  The picture is of the presentation and has Rep. Carl Perkins, Lady Bird Johnson, and then governor Ned Breathitt. 2. Judith Vermillion by Malcolm J. Wilson with HOCA
1. A rug that the state of Kentucky commissioned from the Hound Dog Hookers for Lady Bird Johnson. The picture is of the presentation and has Rep. Carl Perkins, Lady Bird Johnson, and then governor Ned Breathitt.
2. Judith Vermillion by Malcolm J. Wilson with HOCA

In this episode of Mountain News & World Report we are looking at our assets as a community, as people, and those assets which we can obtain from outside sources.  In a region considering economic options, taking note of the resources we have whether they are cultural, financial, or natural will let us know where we stand and what will allow us to move forward.  What can’t be taken away?  What can be added?  What can be seen differently?

The economy of coalfields Appalachia has always been boom and bust. The cycle is almost as much a part of us as the coal we’ve mined, the songs we’ve sang, and the paths we’ve walked.  However, we’ve always had the asset of hardworking people.  In the 1960s as a part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty effort, a New Yorker came to Letcher County, Kentucky to teach women how to hook rugs in hopes of giving them a means of financial independence and stability.  The daughter of one of those women Mary Gail Adams shares with us the story of the Hound Dog Hookers for our first story in this edition.

The fall of the economy in coalfields Appalachia can often feel like an isolated event so unique to us that no one outside of here could possibly understand completely our dilemma.  Yet, places all over the United States are experiencing the same type of thing.  The main industry in a place pulls out, moves overseas, or fades away to changing times without anything to replace it, like it was a given it would always be there.  The Assistant Secretary for Economic Development and Administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Jay Williams knows exactly how we feel.  In his hometown of Youngstown Ohio, the collapse of the U.S. steel industry changed their economy forever.  Williams told the story of Youngstown and how they began diversifying their economy at the recent Big Ideas Fest in Hazard, Kentucky.

Judith Vermillion of Whitesburg, Kentucky passed away this month.  Thinking of community assets, she definitely was one.  Through her constant efforts to please the community as a restaurateur, a volunteer, an artist, and an involved mother and grandmother, Judith was known and loved by a great many. Malcolm Wilson of the Humans of Central Appalachia Project talked with Judith at the Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival in June 2015, where Judith was selling her art.  On her passing, Malcolm shared her story again through the project saying (quote), She embodied that which is so important to the culture of our region and has left some pretty big shoes to fill. With regret and heavy hearts, we re-share Judith’s story as a testimony to a life well-lived.”

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 Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Tags:
appalachian history,
arts & culture,
business,
coal industry,
economic transition,
economy,
education in the mountains,
making connections,
war on poverty,

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