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Kentucky Underground Railroad historian Jerry Gore dies

Jerry Gore, center, joked with fellow exhibitor Monica Smith at the African Marketplace held in the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center in Lexington in November 1997. At left is Carolyn D. Bell, executive director of the center.
Jerry Gore, center, joked with fellow exhibitor Monica Smith at the African Marketplace held in the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center in Lexington in November 1997. At left is Carolyn D. Bell, executive director of the center. Staff file photo

Jerry Gore, 70, a retired administrator at Morehead State University and a historian who dedicated himself to teaching others about slavery and the Underground Railroad, died Wednesday.

Gore, of Maysville, worked to uncover the history of the Underground Railroad in the area and helped found the town’s National Underground Railroad Museum.

He co-founded Freedom Time, a company that organizes Underground Railroad site tours and events.

And he consulted on a number of projects regarding the history of the Underground Railroad.

Gore, a descendant of escaped slaves, credited his mother, Hattie Dunlap, with giving him a passion for preserving his heritage.

When he was 7 years old, he said she took him across the Ohio River to a house that had once belonged to the Rev. John Rankin, an abolitionist who has been credited with helping hundreds of slaves escape. She told him stories of the Underground Railroad and the slaves who followed it to freedom.

“One of the things my mother realized was we live in an unfair world, and she knew the effect racism and segregation could have on children,” Gore said in a 1995 Herald-Leader article. “But she also knew she could keep us motivated with positive images of the beauty of our history.”

Gore grew up in Maysville, attending the segregated John G. Fee School through eighth grade. He graduated from Maysville High and worked his way through Morehead State, earning a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.

Gore spent 27 years in administration at Morehead State, the university said in an online obituary. He retired from a position as director of minority student affairs in 1998 to lead the National Underground Railroad Museum, the Herald-Leader reported at the time.

Gore was featured on the History Channel’s “Save Our History: The Underground Railroad,” according to the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.

He worked to bring attention to Col. Charles Young, a Mason County native who was the U.S. military’s first black colonel, and he performed skits for schoolchildren, asking them to imagine the fear they would have experienced on a slave ship.

In 2012, the National Education Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History presented him with the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award in recognition of his efforts to share the story of the Underground Railroad.

“God just really blessed him with storytelling,” said Gore’s close longtime friend Peggy Overly, who worked with him on the museum and is president of Freedom Time. “Whatever age group it was, he could relate to them. … He would always say, ‘I don’t bring shame or blame. I’m here to teach the history of my people.’”

Services will be at 1 p.m. Monday in the Fields Auditorium at Maysville Community & Technical College, 1755 U.S. 68, Maysville. Knox & Brothers Funeral Home in Maysville is in charge of arrangements.

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