Spotlight on Pikeville missed some notables

Kentucky College of Optomerty/University of Pikeville

Pikeville is all the rage now. Those not being Foxed may have seen us on nationwide public television in the report, “In rural Appalachia, can health care become the new coal?” It showed a view down Main Street where the stores used to be.

Main Street was formerly made of bricks about the size of a Sara Lee Artisan bread loaf, made in Portsmouth in 1910, and the most indestructible man-made objects I ever tried to bust up or saw. We took those up here awhile back because they were slippery and replaced them with blacktop.

They did not show Division Street. When I migrated to the mountains and lit in Pikeville almost a half century ago, Division Street consisted of bootleggers, card games, pool rooms and now and then what they would now call a sex worker.

In the years since, Division Street has declined and gone to hell, over-bred lawyers having taken over, and that shop that sells tutus for little chubby girls.

Just past Division, totally out of sight on the PBS segment would have been Pike Street. That’s where the Pinson Hotel stood until recently. The Pinson was the last hotel in America with a Happy Chandler suite. The legendary high-yeller beauty which we all claim with some authority to have been Sweet Georgia Brown lived there, in the back corner overlooking Second Street.

Second Street was where the Dawahares sold clothes, having graduated from pots and pans peddling years earlier. The family has evolved into Richard, an attorney who writes well and thinks well.

The theme of the segment was that what used to be the Methodist Hospital, until it shed the Methodists, is hiring former miners and they did have one to show, and everything will be all right here soon. They interviewed the city manager and they interviewed the CEO of the hospital. They did not interview a relatively unknown man of the mountains named Terry Dotson.

They should have. Dotson came out of the hills and hollers and was in his youth the student body president of Pikeville College. His youth was a long time ago but for many years he has been chairman of the board of the University of Pikeville. We call it “UPike” now because it sounds cooler than the old name. All we need now is a level place to have college.

Dotson’s personal drive, intelligence and deep connections into the money bunch have been, at least in my opinion, largely responsible for a medical school, a school of optometry (I call it the Optimist’s School), and a Chick Fil-A coming to our town. These are first-class professional schools; the eyeglasses school building is architecture worth looking at.

You can imagine the effect on a community of having a steady supply of bright young post graduates. A first-class hospital nearby makes Pikeville seem like Cambridge. Plus, Chick Fil-A.

Paul Patton got us money and attention. Every town needs a governor once; and when that was over he turned his considerable skills to a small college. Gov. Patton will be remembered for sure. Dotson, as we say, ought to be, too.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.