Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
The Harry M. Caudill Collection
Accession Number: 74
Harry M. Caudill Collection, 1956-1990
0.8 linear ft.
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series I - Newspaper Clippings
Series II - Correspondence
Series III - Biographical
Series IV - Works
Series V - Photographs

2 Manuscript Boxes

Access and Use

Preferred citation: The Harry M. Caudill Collection, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.

The collection is composed of 2 manuscript boxes, primarily containing newspaper clippings and magazine articles.

Related College Archives: History

Born in 1922, Harry M. Caudill grew up in the coal fields of Letcher County, Kentucky, with a zest for history and reading. After being seriously wounded in Italy during World War II, Caudill went to the University of Kentucky Law School. While at UK, he met Anne Frye, whom he married in 1946. Caudill later practiced law in Whitesburg, in Letcher County, and held some local political offices, in addition to a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

However, it was with Caudill's 1963 book, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, that the Eastern Kentucky lawyer's life took a slightly different turn. One of the first works to closely examine Eastern Kentucky, Night looked at the area's past and present, and predicted a grim future. Particularly, the author described the role of the coal companies, the effects of strip mining and the poor conditions in which Eastern Kentucky people were living, learning and working. In later years, Caudill's theory of a poor gene pool among Scotch-Irish and German descendants in the Kentucky mountains became very controversial. However, the book was and is a very influential work on Eastern Kentucky, affecting local and national government through individuals ranging from President Kennedy to Kentucky governors and Appalachian writers such as Denise Giardina.

After retiring from practicing law, Caudill wrote 6 more books, more than 80 articles, and many editorials in the local Whitesburg paper, The Mountain Eagle. He delivered frequent speeches on strip mining and other Eastern Kentucky issues. Experiencing increasing pain from the leg injury he suffered in WWII and facing the prolonged effects of Parkinson's Disease, Caudill shot himself on the afternoon of November 29, 1990.

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