Local Obituaries

Appalachian author Billy C. Clark dead at 80

Appalachian author Billy C. Clark was buried Thursday in his hometown of Catlettsburg, a fitting resting place for a man who became known "as the chronicler of the Big Sandy region" through his 16 books and numerous short stories and poems.

Mr. Clark, 90, died at his home in Farmville, Va., on Sunday. Formerly of Catlettsburg and Somerset, Mr. Clark is probably best known for A Long Row to Hoe, which Time magazine selected as one of its best books of 1960.

The novel is the story of a poor family living where the Big Sandy and Ohio rivers come together.

In the book, Mr. Clark writes: "In 19 years of growing up in the valley, hunger was my most vivid memory and an education my greatest desire."

His works came with numerous accolades, both literary and by the public, over the years.

In his Literary History of Kentucky, William S. Ward summarized Mr. Clark's accomplishments this way:

"Clark's sometimes extravagant yarns hold his stories together, but nothing perhaps equals the author's portrayal of local life and lore and his responsiveness to the surrounding natural beauty. The sounds of rustic music, the roughhewn and unsophisticated mountain and river characters, and the humor and pathos in human and life situations — these make Clark the chronicler of the Big Sandy region."

Mr. Clark became writer-in-residence at Longwood University in Farmville in 1986.

His hometown named a bridge that crosses the Big Sandy River, which figured so prominently in his works, in his honor in 1992. It also included his portrait on a mural project on the city's floodwall.

Mr. Clark is survived by his wife, Ruth Ann Bocook Clark, and a son, Billy C. Clark Jr. He is also survived by a brother and three grandchildren.

Memorials are suggested to the Jesse Stuart Foundation.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader