Authors & Journalists from Kentucky
From naturalist poet Wendell Berry to Appalachian novelist Harriette Simpson Arnow to Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Kentucky has produced some of the most incredible writers the world has ever known. See who else you recognize from the list below, and brush up on their Kentucky-inspired works before you visit.
Harriette Simpson Arnow (July 7, 1908-1986)
This Appalachian writer’s works include The Dollmaker, Hunter’s Horn and The Kentucky Trace. Arnow was born in Wayne County and is buried at her farm in Keno, Pulaski County.
Wendell E. Berry (August 5, 1934- )
Poet, novelist, environmentalist. Prolific author of novels, short stories, poems and essays. Born in Henry County.
William Wells Brown (November 6, 1816-1884)
America's first black novelist. He was also a prominent abolitionist lecturer, playwright and historian. Born into slavery near Lexington, died in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Harry Caudill (May 3, 1922-1990)
Author, historian, lawyer, legislator and environmentalist from Letcher County. Some of his works are Night Comes to the Cumberlands and The Mountain, the Miner and the Lord. Born in Whitesburg, died at his home in Mayking.
Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877-1945)
Psychic counselor and author. Born near Hopkinsville, died in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Thomas D. Clark* (July 14, 1903-2005)
Kentucky’s most notable historian, and Historian Laureate of Kentucky. Best known work is A History of Kentucky. Born in Mississippi, died in Lexington, buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Billy Curtis Clark (December 19, 1928-2009)
American author of 11 books, numerous poems and short stories, heavily influenced by his childhood growing up in poverty in Kentucky. Born in Catlettsburg in Eastern Kentucky during the Great Depression, died in Farmville, Virginia, buried in Catlettsburg.
Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Clooney (January 13, 1934- )
Journalist, politician, anchorman, game show host. Born in Maysville. Father of actor and film director George Clooney, and brother of vocalist Rosemary Clooney.
Irvin S. Cobb (June 23, 1876-1944)
Journalist, humorist and short story writer. Authored more than 60 books and 300 short stories. Born in Paducah, died in New York City.
Pulitzer Prize-nominated, best-selling author of over 70 western novels. Cotton was born in Grayson County and grew up in Louisville.
Joe Creason (June 10, 1918-1974)
A journalist, his popular column, “Joe Creason’s Kentucky” documented the lives of everyday Kentuckians. Born in Benton, died in Joe Creason Park in Louisville.
John Fox, Jr. (December 16, 1862-1919)
An American journalist, novelist and short story writer. Two of his best-known works are The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Born in Stony Point, died in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and was buried in the family plot in Paris, Kentucky.
Janice Holt Giles* (March 28, 1909-1979)
A Kentucky author who lived in Adair County. Born in Altus, Arkansas, died in Knifley. Her log home near Knifley is now open to the public as a museum.
A.B. Guthrie, Jr.* (January 13, 1901-1991)
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist for fiction in 1950 for The Way West. Worked 22 years as a news reporter and editor for the Old Lexington Leader in Kentucky. Born in Bedford, Indiana, died in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Duncan Hines (March 26, 1880-1959)
Restaurant-guide publisher best known today for the brand of food products that bears his name. Born in Bowling Green, buried in Fairview Cemetery in Bowling Green.
Annie Fellows Johnston (March 15, 1863-1931)
Born Annie Julia Fellowe. Best known for her 13-book series, The Little Colonel, she authored over 40 books. Born in Evansville, Indiana, died in Pewee Valley.
Barbara Kingsolver* (April 8, 1955-)
American writer of novels, poems, short stories and essays. Born in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up near Carlisle.
James Allen Lane (December 21, 1849-1925)
An American novelist and short story writer, his works include The Choir Invisible and A Kentucky Cardinal. Born near Lexington, buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Bobbie Ann Mason (May 1, 1940- )
A novelist, Mason writes about the working-class people of Western Kentucky. Mason’s first novel was In Country, later made into a feature film starring Bruce Willis. Born in Mayfield.
Ed McClanahan (October 5, 1932- )
An American novelist, essayist and professor. Born in Brooksville.
Thomas Merton* (January 1, 1915-1968)
Influential essayist on spiritual and social issues. He wrote more than 70 books. Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky. Born in Prades, France, died in Bangkok, Thailand.
James Thomas Cotton Noe (May 2, 1869-1953)
Lawyer and poet, James Thomas Cotton Noe was Kentucky's first Poet Laureate (1926). Born in Washington County, died in Beverly Hills, California, buried in the Lexington, Cemetery.
Marsha Norman (September 21, 1947- )
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, two of her famous screenplays are The Secret Garden and The Color Purple. Born in Louisville.
Theodore O'Hara (February 11, 1820-1867)
A poet and an officer for the United States Army in the Mexican-American War, and a Confederate colonel in the Civil War. Best known for his poem "Bivouac of the Dead." Born in Danville, died in Guerrytown, Alabama.
John Ed Pearce (1917-2006)
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been called Kentucky’s best newspaper writer. Born in Norton, died in Louisville.
Alice Hegan Rice (January 11, 1870-1942)
Wrote over two dozen books, the most famous of which is Mrs. Wiggins of the Cabbage Patch. Born in Shelbyville, died in Louisville.
Elizabeth Madox Roberts (October 30, 1881-1941)
Novelist and poet, primarily known for her novels and stories about Kentucky mountain people, including The Time of Man and The Great Meadow. Born in Perryville, died in Orlando, Florida, buried in Springfield.
Diane Sawyer (December 22, 1945- )
TV journalist/commentator for ABC and co-anchor of its morning news show. Named one of the 30 most powerful women in America. Born in Glasgow.
Effie Waller Smith (February 2, 1879-1960)
An African-American poet, her published output consists of three volumes of poetry including Rhymes from the Cumberland. Born in Chloe Creek in Pike County, buried in Neenah, Wisconsin.
James Still* (July 16, 1906-2001)
An Appalachian poet, novelist and folklorist. Known for his works River of Earth and The Wolfpen Poems. Born in Alabama, lived most of his life in a log house along the Dead Mare Branch of Little Carr Creek, in Knott County, died in Knott County.
Jesse Stuart (August 8, 1907-1984)
Author, educator, Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Born and raised in Greenup County, buried in Plum Grove Cemetery in Greenup County.
Allen Tate (November 19, 1899-1979)
American poet, essayist and social commentator, he was also a Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Born near Winchester, died in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937- 2005)
Journalist and author, noted for Gonzo journalism and his role in the New Journalism literary movement. His most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was turned into a feature film in 1998. Born in Louisville, died in Woody Creek, Colorado.
Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920-2013)
UPI White House Bureau Chief, she covered 10 presidents beginning with John F. Kennedy. American news service reporter, a Hearst Newspaper columnist. Born in Winchester.
Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905-1989)
American poet, novelist and literary critic. He received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King’s Men in 1947, and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1958 and 1979. Born in Guthrie, died in Stratton, Vermont.
*Denotes not born in Kentucky