I don’t expect this thread to garner much response, but there may be a few here who are familiar with Ms. Windham.
Kathryn Tucker Windham, THE giant of modern Alabama folk life, is dead. She was 93.
I’ve seen her at several festivals in recent years, and I’ve known for a long time that she couldn’t possibly be with us for much longer, but still, it’s a shock. She and her work were ubiquitous in the state of Alabama, and have been for my entire life, and that of the generations both before and after mine.
Her most famous works were the “13 Ghosts” series that began with “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey”, and included volumes for most of the Southern states. They were wonderful, and they were in every school library across the state. Jeffrey, by the way, was the ghost that haunted Ms. Windham’s house.
She was a major proponent for the preservation of Alabama folk knowledge, and she specialized in oral storytelling. She was a warm and captivating speaker; it was always worthwhile to stop and listen to her stories. She started out, however, as a tough-as-nails crime reporter in the 1940’s. A FEMALE crime reporter. In Alabama. In the 1940’s. Wrap your head around that.
It’s difficult to know what to write about her. She was such an integral part of the childhood of so many thousands of Alabamians that it feels vaguely like I’ve lost a family member.
RIP, Ms. Windham. I hope you and Jeffrey have a long and happy afterlife together (with apologies to Sampiro, who alerted me to her death.)
…aaaaand a single bump for the day crowd.
I saw this last night (also from Sampiro on FB) and it took me a few to remember who the name meant. It seems like I remember hearing her speak one time as a youngster, sometime in the 80s it would have been. I used to love her 13 Ghosts books. When I wad growing up in a small town in mississippi it amazed me that anyone had ever heard of us before. That was what struck me more than the ghost stories!
She sounds like she was a special person, and I do agree someone like her will be missed. Makes me wonder if 50 years in the future the art of storytelling and preservation of folk knowledge will continue.
Kathryn Tucker Windham addressed the Academy of Honor in 2004. She was introduced by Harper Lee (what a wonderful experience!!) This group of mostly white, mostly male ceo types expected the sweet old lady to tell ghost stories! She laid them out cold, beginning with how terribly ashamed of her state she was. She went on to describe the terrible state of poverty and ignorance, the hostility and lack of understanding. She emphasized her disappointment with the leadership of the state, most of whom were sitting in the room. There was more than a little flack over her remarks. I’m trying to find a copy of them. Surely this is time to revisit her wisdom. We’ve never needed it more.
When Harper Lee is there to introduce you, you’ve done pretty well.
I loved her ghost stories. When i was living in Tuscaloosa as late as 5 years ago I used to sometimes drive a few blocks out of my way to go home by theDrish mansion (hell, I drove by it a few weeks ago after the tornadoes to show a friend [who couldn’t care less, but…]) and I’ve made day trips to see The Face in the Window or Gaineswood (a bizarre and beautiful mansion). When I lived in Milledgeville, Georgia I saw several places and graves mentioned in her books as well. She did a great service to the southeast by collecting these stories that would else have been forgotten or just known to a few with the details lost.
She also did a one woman show of Julia Tutwiler, an Alabama spinster from a well to do prominent family who bucked the system and became the least likely passionate advocate for prison reform. The prison I passed by everyday on the way to school was/is named Julia Tutwiler in her honor.
I remember her too–I loved those books. Sampiro we must have practically been neighbors! I went to school in Columbus in the 70s, then moved back for a few years in the 90s. I haven’t thought about the “Face in the Window” in years. RIP, Miss Kathryn.
Aw, man. That’s sad. She was a great story teller. As a kid, that 13 Alabama Ghosts book scared me. I heard her once on ***Whaddya Know? ***and she told a great story of getting a ghost photo.
RIP, or at least haunt the hell out of somebody if you can’t, dear lady.