AbstractThis collection contains records of the influential rural eastern Kentucky newspaper The Mountain Eagle and the papers of its publishers/editors Tom and Pat Gish. The collection includes personal papers, organizational records, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, video recordings, audio recordings, and architectural drawings.
Historical NoteThe Mountain Eagle newspaper is a weekly publication founded in 1907 by Nehemiah Webb in the rural mountain community of Letcher County, Kentucky. In 1956, journalists Tom and Pat Gish purchased the newspaper and changed the masthead motto from “A Friendly Non-Partisan Weekly Newspaper Published Every Thursday” to "It Screams!" During their tenure as editors/publishers, the Gishes transformed the Eagle from a conventional small town weekly into one of the most important rural newspapers in the United States. The Gishes were actively concerned with issues of poverty, housing, education, water quality, drug abuse, government accountability, and other issues affecting their community. In 2005 the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues established The Tom and Pat Gish Award for “courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism.” This collection of organizational records and personal papers represents a period during which The Mountain Eagle was owned and operated by the Gish family.
The Mountain Eagle has won numerous awards for its coverage of strip mining and its environmental effects, education, and political corruption. While the newspaper’s influence grew beyond eastern Kentucky, it retained the characteristics of a small town newspaper by publishing letters, poems, recipes, artwork and stories submitted by local residents and reporting on the comings and goings of the community.
Thomas Edward Gish (1926-2008) was born in Seco, a mining town in eastern Kentucky. He studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and after graduation worked for the United Press in Frankfort, KY. In 1956 he and his wife Pat purchased The Mountain Eagle and moved back to Tom’s home county of Letcher. Tom Gish’s reporting and advocacy attracted reporters and photographers who covered and wrote editorials about unregulated strip mining, underperforming schools, the shortcomings of the poverty war and other federal programs, corruption in local government, unsafe mines and black lung. Among the Gishes’ earliest causes was opposition to closed sessions of school board meetings. Education became a foremost concern of Tom Gish, who joined the Kentucky Board of Education and fought to improve schools.
Patricia Ann Burnett Gish (1927-2014) was born in Paris, Kentucky. She attended the University of Kentucky where she edited the student newspaper The Kernel. After graduation, Pat worked at the Lexington Leader until she and her husband Tom purchased The Mountain Eagle. As co-editor of the Eagle, she filled many roles including reporter, typist, copy editor, layout designer and business manager. Shortly after its establishment in 1966, Gish was hired as a counselor with the Office of Economic Opportunity’s Leslie, Knott, Letcher, and Perry Community Action Program (LKLP). She and LKLP’s then-executive director Ed Stafford worked with U.S. Rep. Carl D. Perkins to launch the Eastern Kentucky Housing Development Corporation (EKHDC), whose mission was to repair existing homes and build affordable new homes for elderly and low-income residents in LKLP counties. After Stafford’s departure Gish became the EKHDC director and helped the agency to form an independent board of directors. EKHDC built more than 300 new homes and repaired more than 3,500 existing homes until its funding was cut in the early 1980s
Arrangement NoteThe contents are arranged roughly in original order, according to the creator and original box labels, and pending further arrangement by the Archive (see Finding Aid PDF for extended description). The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:
I. The Mountain Eagle records
1. Eastern Kentucky, miscellaneous records, 1953-2002
2. Administrative Records, 1959-2000
3. Photographs, 1970-2002
4. Travel records, 1991-1993
5. Books and Periodicals, 1954-1972
II. Pat Gish papers
1. Eastern Kentucky Housing Development Corporation, 1953-1980
2. Miscellaneous papers, 1967-1999
III. Tom Gish papers
1. Miscellaneous papers, 1963-2000
2. Kentucky Department of Education, 1968-1999
3. Books and Video Tapes, 1985-1995
Physical DescriptionThe Mountain Eagle organizational records include: correspondence, press releases, news articles (often by local citizens and sometimes hand-written), letters to the editor, legal materials, meeting minutes, research materials, color and b/w news photographs and negatives, audio recordings, delivery route records, and bills.
The Gish papers include: official and personal correspondence, grassroots newsletters, notebooks, fliers, news clippings, journals, art objects, notebooks, VHS tapes, reports, studies, data sets, and other forms of research, posters, drafts of speeches and presentations, maps, and architectural drawings. Pat Gish’s papers include the earliest years of planning and implementing the Eastern Kentucky Housing Development Corporation and apparently all her documents for the duration of her involvement as its Director. Tom Gish’s papers cover his terms as a Board member of the Kentucky Department of Education.
Topics, Library of Congress AuthorityAppalachian Region--Economic conditions
Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs
Low-income housing--United States