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Appalachia Historian Ron Eller Donates Papers to UK Libraries


by Whitney Hale

(Nov. 6, 2013) — The University of Kentucky Special Collections will celebrate the career of Appalachia scholar and historian Ron D. Eller. The donation ceremony of the Ron Eller Papers will include a talk by historian Chad Montrie on Nov. 8.

The public is invited to a formal donation of Eller's papers at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, located in 104 Margaret I. King Building. The program will include Montrie's talk, "Appalachia is the Center of the Universe," and will be followed by a reception. Both the donation ceremony and reception are free and open to the public.

Montrie grew up in Louisville and earned his Ph.D. in 2001 from Ohio State University, focusing on U.S. labor and environmental history. He is currently a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he teaches courses on American social history, environmental history, the 1960s, the Vietnam War, the history of documentary film, and documentary filmmaking. During the past decade, Montrie has published three books, including "To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia" and "A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States."

Originally from southern West Virginia, Eller has spent more than 40 years writing and teaching about the Appala­chian region. A descendent of eight generations of families from Appalachia, he served for 15 years as the director of the UK Appalachian Center where he coordi­nated research and service programs on a wide range of Appalachian policy issues including education, health care, economic develop­ment, civic leadership and the environment. 

Currently Distinguished Professor of History at UK, Eller is in demand as a speaker on Appalachian issues at colleges, conferences and community forums throughout the nation, and he serves as a frequent consultant to civic organizations and the national media. 

A former Rockefeller Foundation Scholar, Eller holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is widely known as a scholar of Appalachian history and the study of rural economic development and social change. He has published more than 60 articles and reports but is most well-known for his award-winning book "Miners, Mill­hands and Mountaineers: The Industrialization of the Appalachian South," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.

Eller has served as chairman of the Governor’s Kentucky Appalachian Task Force, the first chairman of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and as a member of the Sustainable Communities Task Force of President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. Among other awards, he is the recipient of the Jim Wayne Miller Award for Distinguished Service to Appalachia, two East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Special Awards (1999 and 2009), and the UK William E. Lyons Award for Outstanding Public Service. 

In the field of rural education reform Eller has worked on projects with the Ford Foundation, the American Council on Education, and the American Association of Community Colleges and has served as the John D. Whisman Visiting Scholar for the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington. His most recent book is "Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945," published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2008, was the winner of the 2008 Willis D. Weatherford Award for the best publication about Appalachia by the Appalachian Studies Association and the 2009 V.O. Key Award winner for the best book on Southern Politics by the Southern Political Science Association. The book examines the impact of government programs and economic development on Appalachia since World War II.

UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.