George Ellison and Janet McCue earn the 2019 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award

Press release from the WNC Historical Association: 

The Western North Carolina Historical Association has announced the 64th winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, an annual recognition of distinction for qualifying works of fiction, nonfiction, drama or poetry, is “Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography,” by George Ellison and Janet McCue.

A prize of $2,500 and trophy will be presented to the authors at an awards ceremony Saturday, Nov. 16, from 4-6 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 31 Woodfin Street, Asheville, directly across the street from the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site, the “Old Kentucky Home” boarding house made famous by Wolfe’s debut novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.”

Admission is $15 for general public and $10 for WNC Historical Association members, and the ceremony will be followed by a reception. Readings will be presented and book signings available.

“The competition between this year’s finalists was fierce,” said Brandon Johnson, chair of the award committee and instructor at Mars Hill University. “The committee was especially struck by the depth of research and the objective and nuanced perspective that Ellison and McCue show in their work. This book will long serve as a comprehensive picture for a casual reader and a wealth of sources and information for researchers.”

The other 2019 finalists, chosen from 21 nominations, are:

Robert Beatty, “Willa of the Wood”
David Joy, “The Line That Held Us”
Meredith McCarroll, “Unwhite: Appalachia, Race and Film”
Terry Roberts, “The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival”

This year’s winner is the culmination of decades of research, the compelling story of a librarian-turned-woodsman who became an advocate for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The first award in 1955 was given to Wilma Dykeman for her landmark “The French Broad.” Others who have received the award include such notables as Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash and Wayne Caldwell.

The 2019 award committee, in addition to Johnson, are Ellen Carr of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; Pamela Duncan, associate professor of English at Western Carolina University; Gwin Jones, past chair WNC Historical Association; Leslee N. Johnson, English Department, UNC-Asheville; Gordon McKinney, former president of the Appalachian Studies Association; Tom Muir, historic site manager of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial; and Jim Stokely, president of the Wilma Dykeman Legacy.

The WNC Historical Association is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote and preserve regional history, recognize significant contributors and broaden cultural awareness.  For more information, call WNCHA at 828-253-9231 or visit

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