Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the John Fetterman Papers

Accession Number: 26
John Fetterman Papers, 1945-1975
Bulk Dates 1957-1975
10 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Overview & Series Description
Series 1 - Personal / Biographical
Series 2 - Pulitizer Prize Material
Series 3 - Published Writings Material
Series 4 - Article Research Subject Files
Series 5 - Stinking Creek
Series 6 - Photographs

Overview of the Collection

These are correspondence, research materials, writings, and photographs of

Courier Journal-Louisville Times reporter and editor, John Fetterman (1920-1975). Fetterman, a Danville, Kentucky native, served three and half years in the U.S. Navy and then attended Murray State University under the G.I. bill, graduating in 1948. He worked for the Murray Ledger and Times and the Nashville Tennessean. He also tried his hand at high school teaching and did post-graduate work at the University of Kentucky before coming to the Louisville papers in 1957 as a staff writer and photographer. During his Louisville years, he also did free lance writing for such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Time, Life, and National Geographic.

Fetterman was a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects that ranged from the whimsical to the tragic. He is probably best remembered for his stories about the impact on eastern Kentucky of strip mining, the War on Poverty, and Vietnam. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his article, “PFC Gibson Comes Home,” which dealt with the death of a young Knott County, Kentucky soldier in Vietnam and its impact on his family and community. He earlier had contributed to a Courier-Journal series on strip mining, which won a Pulitzer in 1967. Additional writings on Appalachian related topics include “The People of Cumberland Gap” for National Geographic (11-71) and his book, Stinking Creek (1967) that portrayed life in the Stinking Creek area of Knox County, Kentucky. The core of his writing success has been described as a penchant for simplifying the complex and capturing moods. Speaking of his approach to reporting, he once said, “All I try to do is find out how ordinary people are touched by things going on around them and then tell the truth about it.”

RESTRICTED items include several photographs made by Kentucky hospitals and police departments, a series of 17 medical x-ray films, and excerpts from medical and police records that include the names and locales of child abuse victims and their alleged attackers.

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal holds the copyright to photographs used by Fetterman to illustrate articles produced for the newspaper. Researchers must consult with the Courier-Journal before photographs can be duplicated for publication or other use.

Related College Archives:

Series Description
30 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Personal / Biographical Box 1

This series consists of records, news clippings, personal and business correspondence relating to Fetterman’s Navy service, Murray State University student days, and High school teaching in Illinois.

Series II Pulitizer Prize Material Box 2

This series consists of congratulatory correspondence, press clippings, and printed awards programs associated with Fetterman’s 1969 Pulitizer Prize.

Series III Published Writings Boxes 3-5

This series consists of Fetterman’s published newspaper and magazine articles.

Series IV Article Research Subject Files Boxes 6-13

This series consists of written and typed notes and other material that Fetterman compiled in the course of story research. There is an especially extensive file on child abuse that includes an unpublished book manuscript. Other particularly extensive files include those for his National Geographic articles, “On the Road with an Old-Time Circus” and “The People of Cumberland Gap.”

Series V Stinking Creek Boxes 14-16

This series consists of notes, correspondence, and working manuscript related to the writing and publication in 1967 of his book, Stinking Creek. Fetterman spent many weekends and days off getting to know the families he wrote about and kept up contacts with them years later.

Series VI Photographs Boxes 17-30

This series consists of hundreds of photographic images produced as documentation for Fetterman’s articles. Photographic formats represented include numerous 35-mm color transparencies, 35-mm and 120 size contact prints and 8x10 enlargements. There are also numerous 120 and 35-mm negatives without prints. Arrangement is alphabetical by subject.

The identity of the photographer is not always clear. Fetterman’s name appears on a large number of the images. Others are identified as being made by Courier-Journal and Louisville Times staff photographers Bill Strode and C.Thomas Hardin. Still others are identified only as Courier-Journal and Louisville Times photographs. Jonathan Blair is listed as photographer for “On the Road with an Old-Time Circus,” but neither his name nor Fetterman’s appear on any of that article’s 35-mm slides. Bruce Dale was the photographer for “The People of Cumberland Gap.” All of that article’s slides bear Fetterman’s name. In the published article some of the photos are credited to Dale and others to Fetterman.

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal holds the copyright to photographs used by Fetterman to illustrate articles produced for the newspaper. Researchers must consult with the Courier-Journal before photographs can be duplicated for publication or other use.

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