Harlan County Round-up: Solomon and Jerusalem

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A round-up of all things Harlan County…

First, Judge Kent Hendrickson called to confirm that yes indeed the Harlan Enterprise was once owned by the New York Times — sometime in the early 80s was when that Yankee newspaper purchased Harlan’s hometown newspaper. Had a modern press facility of some sort too.

Interestingly, Hendrickson, now a prominent judge, once worked as an illustrator, if memory serves me correct from our conversation, for the Philadelphia Inquirer. That’s an interesting detail about his life. Though the world needs illustrators, they need good judges like Hendrickson more. People still write stories about Supreme Court Justices and wise judges of old like King Solomon.

In other news, Zeke Williams talked to me about tribes of Israel and Appalachia. At the end of a long day, it was nice learning something new and hearing someone talk with a familiar accent. Born and raised in Harlan County, Williams has traveled all over the world — served in the Army I think.

One nugget from our conversation that I’ll keep — Williams said the reason tombstones face east, particularly in Appalachia, is so that they can face Jerusalem. He said many Christians tend to bury their dead facing east because they believe in the second coming of Christ and scripture teaches that He will come from the east. In this manner, they place their dead in a position so they can meet Christ face-to-face during his second coming. Seems reasonable.

Quick bit of news — Harlan County High School’s Basketball Sweetheart crowning ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the school’s gymnasium. There is no scheduled basketball game. Admission is free. In recent weeks, the event has been rescheduled from time to time because weather, etc. Newspaper will publish which  senior is crowned as Basketball Sweetheart.

Tuesday, Harlan County Board of Education took action to reduce the cost for students attending the Harlan County High School prom from $50 to $25 per student. Nice! The board provided supplemental funding in the amount of $7,500 to assist with labor costs and other expenditures necessary for the event.

Students who had already purchased tickets at the $50 cost should visit the school office to receive a refund of $25.

In other matters, John and Yvonne Powell called to ask about a candidate filing story — they wanted to know who is running for office in Harlan County. Candidate story appeared online, but it was not published in last week’s print edition. Sorry. However, it is published on page 1 of this week’s print edition. Anyway, Mr/Mrs. Powell are longtime subscribers to the Harlan Enterprise, so I just went ahead and emailed them the story. Thanks for subscribing to the hometown newspaper all these years.

On a related note, folks near and far, if you send me your email address, I’ll sign you up for our FREE online newsletter that I’ve begun sending out three times a week.

Lastly, February is Black History month.  Doug Clem, formerly of Harlan now of Texas, said as a child, he never thought about schools for Black children.

Way back when, Rosenwald schools were built near and far to educate African-American children.  The project was the product of the partnership of Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish-American clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company and the African-American leader, educator, and philanthropist Booker T. Washington, who was president of the Tuskegee Institute.

The need arose from the chronic underfunding of public education for African-American children in the South, as Black people had been discriminated against at the turn of the century and excluded from the political system in that region. Children were required to attend segregated schools.

“When Dad drove to Brookside Coal Mine, I could get just a glimpse of Rosenwald High School,” he said. “Right next to the road was the incinerator where the city of Harlan burnt their trash, a huge smoke stack right in the row of homes. Dad would sell green beans at a grocery there. I’d drive up to Lynch and I see the high school for Black children; the Benham black school has been torn down. John Dodd told me some great stories about that school.”

Clem explained in more detail about how hard life was in Kentucky back in those days.

“No, life was hard, but if everyone around you was in the same boat, you just didn’t how hard,” he said. “When I was five-years-old I was in the new hospital; the doctor said he could tell me what I ate. He said I ate biscuits and gravy for breakfast, soup beans and cornbread for dinner and for supper with water to drink. I turned to my mom and asked, how did he know that… We got rice one time at the commodity food line, Mom didn’t know what to do with it.”

Anyone with news tips or gossip or who wants to talk can reach out to me via Facebook, email at miles.layton@winchestersun.com or cell at 252-302-1288. Be forewarned if you call my cell — every time the phone rings I’m near certain that it is some idiot calling to ask me about the extended warranty on my vehicle.