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Appalachian Journal Editor Receives W.D. Weatherford Award

williamson.jpgBOONE–Almost 30 years ago, Appalachian State University administrators asked Jerry Williamson to create a scholarly journal dedicated to the study of the Appalachian Region.

Ten thousand pages later, the “Appalachian Journal” has become the premier publication in Appalachian studies. As Williamson ushers his 103rd and final issue to press, he has been recognized with the oldest and one of the highest honors in the field of Appalachian studies, a special W.D. Weatherford Award.

Since 1970 The Appalachian Center and the Hutchins Library of Berea College have given only 10 of the special awards. Former Appalachian administrator and teacher Cratis Williams won a special award in 1979.

A special Weatherford Award honors a body of work that made an outstanding contribution to the understanding of Appalachian people.

“From its first appearance in the fall of 1972 until the coming of a new century and millennium, the “Appalachian Journal” has been at the forefront of the study of the Appalachian South,” said Gordon McKinney, director of The Appalachian Center at Berea College.

More than 300 scholarly articles, 250 poems and 500 book reviews and review essays, in addition to thousands of pages of printed material, cartoons and photographs passed through Williamson’s editing before appearing in “Appalachian Journal.” In addition to these staples, Williamson has included a significant number of interviews of cultural leaders in the region, record and video reviews, and special features.

“Jerry has never avoided controversy, and therefore has placed the journal in the center of critical issues in the region,” said Patricia D. Beaver, director of the university’s Center for Appalachian Studies and professor of anthropology. “Attending workshops, conferences, rallies and symposia, and reading every new book and dissertation on the region, Jerry has maintained his own intellectual position and that of the journal at the cutting edge of regional issues and scholarship.”

Williamson continued to publish outside of his work with the journal including two books, “Southern Mountaineers in Silent Films” and “Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies.”

In the course of his work as editor and scholar, however, Williamson continued to teach, and has come to be regarded as a master teacher.

“Jerry has fostered the best scholarship among his students, and then relied on his students to become critical readers, critical thinkers, collaborators and published scholars,” Beaver said.

Williamson’s colleagues describe him as an artful, clever, witty and articulate spokesman for the region who through his teaching, public presentations and appearances in documentary films and the media, has provided a constant voice for Appalachian studies.

“When the journal arrives at homes, on campuses and at businesses around the region, hundreds of students, faculty, professional people and interested members of the public put down what they are doing to see who and what have been skewered in this issue, to see what outrageous claim by a book reviewer or author needs to be refuted or what hallowed institution needs to be defended this time, and to be troubled by new ideas that challenge our previous understandings and force us to view the region in a new light,” McKinney said. “This is the legacy of Jerry Williamson and the “Appalachian Journal.” He has been our entertainer, conscience and teacher for 28 years.”

Sandra Ballard will be the new Appalachian Journal editor. She is an Appalachian graduate, a former journal intern and former student of Williamson. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee and most recently taught at Carson-Newman College.

After almost 30 years as a professor of English at Appalachian and as editor of the “Appalachian Journal” Williamson said he will remain active in the field after retirement.

“The journal has been the greatest thing in my life, an energizing influence that will be tough to walk away from,” Williamson said. “I’m very proud of the journal for leading the way into what has become known as Appalachian studies.”

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