Monday, June 13, 2011

An Alabama legend

Yesterday, Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham passed away. She was 93.

She's a legend in my home state. I picked up her first book, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, at my elementary school library when I was 7 or 8 and immediately fell in love. It's a collection of real ghost stories, spun only as a true storyteller can spin them. I bought my own copy when I grew up, and was lucky enough to get it autographed by Mrs. Windham a few years ago when she visited our local library.

She got her start writing movie reviews for her hometown newspaper when she was 12. She became a journalist and photographer after graduating college, and found her calling as a storyteller later in life. She was best friends with Harper Lee.

She'll be buried in a pine coffin she kept in a shed in her back yard - she used to go lie in it occasionally to make sure it still fit.

Kathryn Tucker Windham was an original, a historian who preserved the tales and and oral histories of this area that otherwise probably would have been lost.

You can read more about her in this fabulous obit from

Here's a terrific quote she gave in an interview with The Birmingham News last October:

My early stories were all ghost stories because I knew a lot of them and had collected a lot of them. But I began to realize that what we needed to be telling are stories about our own families, about people we know and love and care about. That's how you keep the memories alive. You don't forget the people you love when you tell stories about them and tell new generations these stories about them.

If you get the chance, go check out 13 Alabama Ghosts (or any of its spinoffs - 13 Tennessee Ghosts, 13 Georgia Ghosts) for some delicious, shivery, Southern gothic reading.


J said...

I've been so sad about this news since I first heard it last night. I was such a huge fan of Kathryn Tucker Windham, her books, and her stories. She will be sorely missed. Your post was a lovely tribute!


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