Month: January 2015



Paducah's City Hall and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Paducah’s City Hall and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

The POTUS and the FLOTUS have been visiting New Delhi, India this week, which reminded us of a little Paducah trivia. Do you know the connection between New Dehli and Paducah? The answer is a pair of buildings designed by famed architect, Edward Durrell Stone. Already known for such buildings as Radio City Music Hall (1932) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1937), Stone was hired as chief designer/architect for the new U.S. Embassy in New Dehli, India in 1954. Flash forward nine years to 1963, and Stone (as part of a federally funded urban renewal project) was hired to design Paducah’s City Hall. Lo and behold, once construction began, folks started to notice a similarity between our City Hall and that embassy in New Delhi. Some even called them “Sister Buildings,” and if you compare the photos below, the resemblances are evident. Stone’s star kept rising after our City Hall went up. Among his dozens of other buildings were the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Busch Stadium (demolished in 2005), and the Kirwan-Blanding complex on U.K’s campus. By all accounts, the U.S. Embassy building in New Delhi is doing just fine, and we’re sure the Obamas had a nice tour of the facility this past week. Now as for our City Hall….

For more about Paducah architecture, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this article, make sure to “like” our Facebook page as well.

–Matt Jaeger

FATES AND DREAMS: Today in National History and Tomorrow in Local History


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Article originally published on January 15. 

We cover two days with this article as we remember the anniversaries of two African-American leaders: one band leader and one civil rights leader, one from Atlanta and one from right here in Paducah.

Today, January 15, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, Dr. King’s legal name at birth was Michael King. Following a trip to Germany in 1934, however, King’s father decided to change both his and his son’s name to Mart

in Luther after the German reformer. No one lived up to the challenge set forth by a new name better than Dr. King: Baptist minister, leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Selma marches, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, proponent of nonviolent protests, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered some of the most famous, continuously inspiring words, “I Have a Dream.” His legacy lives, his message as crucial today as it was 50 years ago. A search through the McCracken County Public Library catalog reveals more than 80 titles that pertain to Dr. King, in nonfiction books, children’s books, video, and audio.

Fate Marable sitting at piano. Louis Armstrong to his left.

Fate Marable sitting at piano. Louis Armstrong to his left.

Tomorrow, January 16, we remember the death of Fate Marable, a Paducah native, an early jazz pioneer, and a champion of the talents of African-American musicians. Fate was born in Paducah in 1890. Though a piano teacher, his mother at first forbid Fate to touch the instrument. Thankfully, he didn’t mind her. He started to play on steamboats up and down the Ohio and Mississippi, and by 1907, at the young age of 17, both his name and word of his talent had reached every major port city between Paducah and New Orleans. Marable became a fixture in the burgeoning New Orleans jazz scene and, with his experience playing the boats, helped spread the sound to other parts of the country. He became the bandleader for the boats on the Streckfus Line, and in 1917 organized the very first all African-American orchestra (initially comprised of all Paducah musicians). Fate was known as a strict bandleader, and through his disciplined and demanding tutelage passed many musicians who would go on to jazz fame. His protégés include Red Allen, Baby Dodds, Johnny Dodds, Pops Foster, Jimmy Blanton, and none other than Louis Armstrong. In the picture below, Fate sits front and center at the piano and Louis Armstrong sits to his left. Despite has vast influence, Fate only made one record in his career. He died on January 16, 1947 and is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery.

To more about Paducah’s jazzy past, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.


–Matt Jaeger



This article was originally posted on January 8th.

A birthday is defined as 1) the day of a person’s birth and 2) a day of origin. When you’re talking about people, the day is pretty easy to determine. When you’re talking about a town’s origin, however, perhaps the answer is a tad grayer.

There are three important dates in Paducah’s history, all of which involve Acts passed by the Kentucky General Assembly, which could vie for Paducah’s date of birth: the establishment of the town, the incorporation of the town, and the incorporation of the city.

In 1827, William Clark platted out the town and gave Paducah its name. Three years later, the Commonwealth of Kentucky recognized this plan, and on January 11, 1830, the state’s General Assembly passed an Act to establish Paducah as a town, stating “that the town of Paducah, in the county of McCracken, be, and the same is hereby established upon the plan which has been formed and laid down…” With establishment, the General Assembly named five early residents as trustees of the town, who in their prescribed duties, were allowed to pass bylaws which they thought “advisable for the government of said town” and to levy taxes.

Eight years later, having duly established itself, Paducah’s status was once again brought before the General Assembly. On February 13, 1838, the Assembly approved Paducah’s incorporation, stating that “the town of Paducah, as now established by law, within the boundaries defined in the plat of said town, is hereby declared to be the town of Paducah.” In a nutshell, with incorporation, the town of Paducah became a recognized legal entity which could enter into legal contracts. It could sue and be sued. The power of the Trustees was greatly expanded with this Act, and the election of further officers was put forth, including a Clerk, Assessor, Treasurer, Marshal, and Market Master.

Settled into its township, we flash forward 18 years in Paducah’s history, when on March 10, 1856 the General Assembly approved an “Act to incorporate the city of Paducah.” Paducah was no longer an established town or an incorporated town, but a city! The approved Act in 1856 included 32 pages that outlined the corporate structure of the city, which included the establishment and election of mayors, judges, city attorneys, wharfmasters, and a city council. The Act also states that it was now okay for the city to pave the sidewalks and roads.

Traditionally, the city of Paducah has recognized the 1856 date as its birthday. In 1956, we threw ourselves a mighty fine centennial celebration. And this date does make total sense: we are a city now and on March 10, 1856, we were officially declared to be one.

Then again, we couldn’t have become an incorporated city without first becoming an incorporated town, so perhaps the Act on February 13, 1838, the Act which established the town of Paducah as a legal entity, represents its true birth date.

But, then again, you can only be born once for the first time, and on January 11, 1830, the Commonwealth of Kentucky recognized Paducah’s name and its plan for growth. Paducah could be established. Paducah could call itself a town. So maybe, just maybe, January 11, is our day of origin. Maybe three days from now is our city’s birthday.

If you agree, raise a glass on January 11 and wish our established town a Happy 185th Birthday. Or you perhaps you’d rather wait until February 13 and wish our incorporated town a Happy 177th. Or maybe you’ll postpone the celebration to March 10, so you can wish our incorporated city, a Happy 159th!

Let us know what you think!

For more confusing origin stories, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this post, make sure to “like” our Facebook page as well.

–Matt Jaeger

IN MEMORIAM – Celebrating the Lives and Work of Writers Who Died in 2014

We lost some bright lights in the literary world this past year: novelists, poets, non-fiction writers, children’s authors, and screenwriters. Below is a chronological list of a few who wrote their last “The End” in 2014. By no means is the following list complete; there are many, many more brilliant writers who died this past year. The following list, however, represent authors whose work can be checked out the McCracken County Public Library.

Robert J. Conley (December 29, 1940 – February 16, 2014)
Conley was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a prolific writer with over 60 titles to his credit, spanning fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Conley’s work primarily focused on the Old West, and he was particularly noted for his depictions of historical Cherokee figures. In 2007 he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Native Writers’ Circle of Americas, and before his death in February, Conley was named the 2014 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature.


Harold Ramis (November 21, 1944 – February 26, 2014) 
While perhaps most recognized for some of his directorial and on screen work (particularly as Egon from Ghostbusters), Ramis was the screenwriter for over fifteen films, including some of the absolute funniest movies of all time: Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day. Four of those movies (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Animal House, Caddyshack) are on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest Movies of All Time. Many film buffs and critics point to Groundhog Day as the crowning achievement of his career.
Sherwin Nuland (December 8, 1930 – March 3, 2014)
Nuland was a surgeon and professor of bioethics and medicine at Yale University. He was also the author of over a dozen books of non-fiction, including The Art of Aging, The Soul of Medicine and The Wisdom of the Body. His book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter (1994), was a New York Times best seller, as well as a nominee for a Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the National Book Award.
Joe McGinniss (December 9, 1942 – March 10, 2014)
McGinnis was a journalist and author of a dozen novels who made a splash when his first book, The Selling of the President, landed on the New York Times bestseller list. He was 26 at the time, making him the youngest writer with that distinction. The book remained on the NYT Bestseller list for 31 weeks. In the 80’s McGinniss published a trio of true-crime books (Fatal Vision, Blind Faith, and Cruel Doubt) which are still considered to be pinnacles of the genre. His latest book, published in 2011, was an unauthorized biography of Sara Palin entitled The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.
Peter Matthiessen (May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014)
Three times Peter Matthiessen was the winner of the National Book Award, most recently in 2008 for his book Shadow Country. Besides fiction like Shadow Country and At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Matthiessen also wrote award-winning non-fiction (like the Snow Leopard), engaged in wilderness and environmental writing, and co-founded the literary journal, The Paris Review. He was also a CIA agent! In 2010 he received the William Dean Howells Medal (awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters) for Shadow Country.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (March 6, 1927 – April 17, 2014)
While also a journalist, short story writer, and screen writer, Colombian writer Garcia Marquez garnered worldwide recognition for his novels (Love in the Time of Cholera, Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold). His novel, A Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), is considered a masterwork and firmly established him as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Garcia Marquez is often associated with the literary genre magical realism, in which the fantastical world intrudes on the real one; his mastery of the genre is particularly evident in short stores like “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.” In 1982, Garcia Marquez was award the Nobel Prize in Literature for “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts. Remarking upon Garcia Marquez’s death this past April, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos called him “the greatest Colombian who has ever lived.”
Mary Stewart [September 16, 1916 – May 9, 2014]
By the time of her death at the age of 97, more than five million copies of Mary Stewart’s books had been sold. Cited in her obituary in the Guardian newspaper, Stewart is credited with launching a “whole new strand of popular writing: romantic suspense.” She is best known for her Merlin trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment) which told the story of the famed wizard’s upbringing and early years.
Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
Maya Angelou’s talents were so varied that she was a well-respected dancer, singer, and actress on Broadway before she became a serious writer. But she solidly made her mark on the world and became a household name with her books, starting with her first memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which earned her international acknowledgement and praise. Angelou went on to publish seven memoirs and several books of poetry and essays, as well as scripts for plays, television, and film. Angelou delivered her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, the first inaugural recitation since Robert Frost read his poem “The Gift Outright” at Kennedy’s inauguration. Angelou’s awards and honors are far too numerous to mention in this short article, but they do include over fifty honorary degrees, the National Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Eric Hill (September 7, 1927 – June 6, 2014)
Eric Hill was an English author and illustrator world renowned for his character Spot the Dog. In 1976, Hill created the character for his son, and in 1980 he published the first of his Spot books, Where’s Spot? The book was an immediate success and prompted the writing of several dozen more “Spot” titles. The playful puppy also became a popular British and American television show. To date, it’s estimated that Hill’s books have sold more than 60 million copies.


Daniel Keyes (August 9, 1927 – June 15, 2014)
Keyes started his writing career as an editor for pulp magazines and comic books, at one point working with Stan Lee of Marvel Comic fame. It was during that time that Keyes began developing a story called “Brainstorm” which was the inspiration for his Hugo Award winning short story “Flowers for Algernon,” which then became the Nebula Award winning novel of the same name. In 1968, the book was adapted for the screen, becoming the film Charly. Though Keyes would write several novels in his career, none are as beloved as his first.


Paul Mazursky (April 25, 1930-June 30, 2014)
Mazursky started his show business career as an actor, but soon found greater success behind the camera as a writer and director, primarily in comedies. His writing career began with The Danny Kaye television show, but soon moved on to feature films. He wrote or co-wrote such classics as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Harry and Tonto, An Unmarried Woman, Moscow on the Hudson, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Mazursky was nominated for five Academy Awards, which included three for Best Original Screenplay, two for Best Adapted Screenplay, and one for Best Picture.


Walter Dean Myers (August 12, 1937 – July 1, 2014)
Myers wrote over 100 books, including picture books and non fiction, but he is best known for his writing for young adults, especially Fallen Angels, The Glory Field, and Monster. His contributions to the world of teen literature has made him a two time Newberry Award Nominee, as well as the first ever Michael L. Printz Award winner for his novel Monster. In 2010, Myers was the US nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award. For the two years before his death (2012-2013) Myers served as the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in efforts raise awareness about literacy and education.


Nadine Gordimer (November 20, 1923 – July 13, 2014)
While South African writer Nadine Gordimer has garnered the most attention with her novels (like The Conservationist, The Burger’s Daughter, and The Pickup) she got her first bit of notoriety with the publication of a short story in the New Yorker in 1951. She continued to write both, and in her long and prolific career, Gordimer published fifteen novels and twenty collections of stories. As a South African author, her she was often outspoken on issues of morality and race, particularly apartheid, which made her not only a respected author, but also a critical activist for civil rights. In 1991, Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, recognized as a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity.”


Galway Kinnell (February 1, 1927 – October 28, 2014)
Kinnell was a poet who in his lifetime published over fifteen collections. He cites early poetic influences of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe, and Emily Dickinson. Kinnell used the vehicle of poetry to address social issues, often civil rights, stating that “nobody would write poetry if the world seemed perfect.” He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and was the poet Laureate of Vermont.


R.A. Montgomery (March 9, 1936 – November 9, 2014)
Raymond Almiran Montgomery started as a publisher, cofounding a small house called Vermont Crossroads Press. In 1995 an author named Edward Packard approached Montgomery with the first book in a new children’s series called Choose Your Own Adventure. Vermont Crossroads Press would ultimately publish more than 230 titles in this series that have now sold more than 250 million copies. Montgomery would write more than 50 of these titles himself.


P.D. James (August 3, 1920 – November 27, 2014)
British author PD James’s very name is synonymous with the detective novel. The desire to write had been instilled in her at a young age, though tragic familial and marital situations kept her from it until 1962. With her publication of Cover her Face, James’s first novel, the world was introduced to her most famous character, Adam Dalgliesh, police commander and poet. She would go on to write thirteen more Dagliesh mysteries, as well as many other books. While she was formally inducted as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, she was more commonly known as the Queen of crime fiction.

Mark Strand (April 11, 1934 – November 29, 2014)
Strand received a measure of fame and respect that is rarely experienced by contemporary poets. In a writing career that spanned fifty years and more than fifteen collections, Strand was awarded the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur “Genius” Award, and a Gold Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. From 1990-1991, Strand served as the United States Poet Laureate.


Kent Haruf (February 24, 1943 – November 30, 2014)
With his novels, Haruf managed to walk the very difficult line between what is considered popular and literary fiction. His first novel, The Tie That Binds, received a Whiting Foundation Award. His novel Plainsong was both a U.S. bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent novel, Benediction, was a featured book at our library’s “From Off the Shelf Discussion.”


Norman Bridwell (February 15, 1928 – December 12, 2014)
Bridwell created one of the most beloved children’s book characters of all time…Clifford the Big Red Dog. With over 40 Clifford books, as well as a Clifford television series, stage musical, merchandise, and even a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, it’s hard to believe the iconic figure almost wasn’t discovered. Bridwell had been interviewing for a job as a children’s book illustrator and had been rejected by fifteen publishing house. While interviewing at Harper & Row, an editor suggested he try turning one of the drawings in his portfolio into a story. That was the humble beginning for Clifford who has now sold over 126 million copies in thirteen different languages