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Fifty Years of Night

Fifty Years of Night

The story of Eastern Kentucky's continued struggles 50 years after a country lawyer focused the nation on its problems

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About the Book

In 1963, Harry Caudill of Whitesburg published Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, which shone a spotlight on the plundering of the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The book forever changed Appalachia. On the eve of the book's 50th anniversary, the Lexington Herald-Leader launched a yearlong look at the region's struggles since Night was published. Part 1 of 50 Years of Night, published in December 2012, examines the complicated life of Harry Caudill, a country lawyer who focused the world on the problems of Appalachia. Part 2 of our e-book, published in June and July 2013, examines how the coal industry has altered the land, people and economy of Eastern Kentucky in the past 50 years. Part 3, published in November and December 2013, explores the region's battles with poverty, drug abuse and a lack of education. An epilogue was published on April 27, 2014.

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Table of Contents

    • 1. He brought the world to Eastern Kentucky
    • 2. The perfect man to write an angry book
    • 3. A nation notices, and help arrives
    • 4. Night comes to the chromosomes
    • 5. A complex life, a mixed legacy
  • PART 2: COAL
    • 6. Coal jobs gone, perhaps for good
    • 7. Bombs and bullets in Clear Creek
    • 8. Out of the coalfield, into the courtroom
    • 9. Mine blast’s impact has lasted decades
    • 10. A crafts-and-cafés future falls short
    • 11. Many in Martin County ‘have just given up’
    • 12. A drug-addled city hits bottom, tries to get clean
    • 13. Schools’ progress stymied by cuts
    • Hope for the future, lessons of the past
    • Can Eastern Kentucky reinvent itself?
    • Amelia Kirby: Amazing home worth fighting for
    • Ron Eller: Imagine a different future
    • Dee Davis: Stir up a new wind to sweep away the mess
    • Jared Arnett: Long-term economic strategies must trump local politics
    • Johnathan Gay: Create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship
    • Jonathan Miller: Jobs now plus cost savings later make energy efficiency winning strategy
    • Steve Cawood: No better work force than Appalachian coal miners
    • Chris Barton: Develop skilled work force to reforest strip-mined hills
    • George Freeman: Solve problems that scare away investors
    • David Cooke: Growing fresh food will yield health, wealth
    • Mimi Pickering: Private sector falling short on providing Internet access
    • Al Smith: Restitution due for centuries of exploitation
    • William Banks: Clean up, educate, cooperate to reconcile dual ID
    • Jane Winkler Dyche: Vision, teamwork keys to progress
    • Carolyn Sundy: Education key to unlocking most important resource
    • Wanda Humphrey: Benham laboring under large debt, but many hands can lighten load
    • Ed Lynch: Powell Co. needs jobs and investment, not handouts
    • Coleman Larkin: No coal, no problem; good people eager to do good things
    • Jean Rosenberg: E. Ky.’s future begins with each new child
    • Amanda Fickey: Artists must carve out role in building local economies
    • Harry Caudill bibliography
    • Anne Caudill: Harry Caudill found eugenicist’s plan dubious
    • Anne Caudill: Series ably showing E. Ky. promise, peril

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About the Editor

About the Contributors

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Bill Estep


Bill Estep writes about Southern and Eastern Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader from its bureau in Somerset, Ky. A native of Pulaski County, Estep graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1983 with a journalism degree and worked at two smaller papers in Harlan County and Pulaski County before joining the Herald-Leader in 1985. He has covered some of Kentucky's biggest news stories over the past 27 years and today lives with his wife and daughter in Somerset.

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John Cheves


John Cheves is an investigative reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader, which he joined in 1997. Cheves previously worked in the newspaper's Washington bureau and its state capital bureau in Frankfort. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1993 and today lives with his wife and son in Lexington.

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Linda B. Blackford


Linda Blackford covers higher education for the Lexington Herald-Leader and is a member of the paper's accountability team, where she has investigated corruption in courthouse construction, quasi-governmental organizations and non-profits. She joined the Herald-Leader in 1997 as a reporter covering K-12 statewide education. She graduated from the University of Virginia and received a masters degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Lexington with her husband and three sons.

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