John Parris, 1976

Cornshuck dolls from Allenstand part of the John Parris Collection

Cornshuck dolls from Allenstand part of the John Parris Collection

Parris Receives Heritage Award/John Parris Receives Award During Mountain Heritage Day Festivities
Asheville Citizen/ The Reporter
Oct. 17th 1976 / Oct. 20th 1976

Western Carolina University Saturday night confers its first Mountain Heritage Award on John Parris, the man who did come home again.

The presentation, made in Whitmire Stadium as dusk shadowed the nearby peaks, climaxed a day long, old fashioned get together at WCU its annual Mountain Heritage Day.  With his wife, Dorothy Luxton Parris, at his side, Parris received from Western Carolina Chancellor H. F. Robinson the award plaque, fashioned from a weathered board.   A simple inscription etched in copper by WCU art professor Ted Matus read “Western Carolina University, Mountain Heritage Award, 1976 John Parris.”

It was the first award of its type ever given by the University and Parris was selected to be the first recipient by a special university committee, chaired by Dr. James E. Dooley, Vice Chancellor for development and special services.  In a citation also awarded to the famed newspaperman and author, the university said:  “The people of the mountains owe an unpayable debt to John Parris, the Master Chronicler of their lives and their land. More than any other person, he has kept alive the wondrous ways, the vanishing arts, the disappearing days, and the lingering legends that are the heritage of the hills.”

Borrowing from the titles of Parris’ four best-selling books, the citation continued:  “In ‘Roaming the Mountains’, John Parris justly may claim that these are ‘my mountains, my people.’ As one truly ‘mountain bred,’ he has found in ‘these storied mountains’ old times, magic moments, the seasons’ glories, and ferreted out hidden lore, and through his peerless writing, preserved them for now, and for all time.

“Western Carolina University, in grateful acknowledgement of his monumental work, presents its First Mountain Heritage Award to John Parris, brilliant newspaperman, distinguished author, and mountain son.  In the discovery and recording of the humor and the history, the music and the mysteries of his native highlands, he has proved himself a man to match the mountains.”  It was in the swirl and excitement of all those tributes to yesteryear and the flavor of which might have been lifted straight from one of his columns or books, that John Parris was honored.

The criteria for the award, Dr. Robinson said, provide that it be made “for outstanding contributions to the preservation or interpretation of the history and culture of Southern Appalachia, or for outstanding contributions to research on, or interpretation of, contemporary or future problems which threaten the quality of life of the people of the region.”  The work of Parris, Dr. Robinson said, makes it “abundantly clear that he satisfies these criteria in every respect… for John Parris has done more than re-tell stories already familiar… he has sought out hidden stories, lost treasures, and fast fading memories and brought them to robust and vigorous life. His is painstaking research, his is pioneering work capped by writing style that has illuminated our heritage as it has not been light before.”

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