Memories of UA educator live in new book

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Memories of University of Arkansas educator live in new book

Posted on Sunday, July 12, 2009


They sat in boxes, an army of them, waiting for a phone call. The heiress to the hundreds of yellow legal pads and other forms of tablature does not recall the exact day in December 2005.

She can confirm, though, that it was before Christmas and a couple weeks after marrying former University of Arkansas football coach and athletic director Frank Broyles.

Gen Broyles took the call from Michael Burns, a former UA undergraduate and graduate student who taught English at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., at the time. Like several students before and after him, Burns' education in Fayetteville included several classes with Jim Whitehead, a revered English professor who helped found the university's creative writing program in 1965 and went on to teach for 34 years. When Whitehead died in 2003 from an aortic dissection at the age of 67, Gen, his widow, was left with a treasure trove of unpublished poems and prose.

"I was thrilled that [Burns] called me and asked if he could do this because I was sitting here thinking, 'I have all these things that belong to Jim and I don't know what to do with them,'" Broyles said.

Burns wanted to come down to Fayetteville to excavate around Whitehead's old study and the basement closets where most of the stash was kept. Burns' original plan - what he referred to as "a less ambitious project" - was to create a book that contained the work of his former teacher combined with graduates and friends of the UA creative writing program in time for the 40th anniversary of the program in 2008.

"I knew I had plenty of material to work from that was his," Burns said.

The result of that initial trip turned out to be much bigger than either Burns or Broyles could have hoped for: "For, From, About James T. Whitehead: Poems, Stories, Photographs, and Recollections." The book was released in May by Missouri State University's Moon City Press through the University of Arkansas Press as part of a consortium agreement hashed out a year ago. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the creative writing program at Arkansas.

A different concept

The book is divided into three parts: recollections, poems and writings of Whitehead and poems and other literary pieces in honor of the 6-foot-5 man who most knew as "Big Jim." The book's 24 contributors include Bill Harrison, who co-founded the creative writing program with Whitehead; Miller Williams, a fellow award-winning poet who has published 32 books of varying genres; and even former President Jimmy Carter, who was taught poetry as a long-distance student by Whitehead and Williams in the early '80s.

Jim Baumlin, an English professor at Missouri State University and the founder and editor of Moon City Press, called the book "a hybrid."

"That became the concept we were both going for as we realized we had more time and more material," Burns added. "We had the potential for a book that was a little different than the other things that were out there."

The time came partly as a result of some health issues that Burns faced, which delayed the process. The material turned out to be an overwhelming amount, far too much for Burns to sift through by himself. Graduate students from a research class Baumlin taught at Missouri State were soon enlisted to sort and organize all of the writings once the more than 9 cubic feet of materials were brought up to the Springfield school. Eventually the students formed a 100-page finding aid as well as an electronic word search database.

"It made them scholars," Baumlin said.

Burns expected to find a healthy amount of neverseen-before poetry, but he did not expect all of the legal pads containing chapters of two books, "Coldstream" and "Bergeron," that he toiled with as sequels to his popular 1971 novel "Joiner." Both endeavors, which include tons of edits and rewrites written out in longhand, never were quite finished.

"I learned that all those years we hoped he was working on a sequel to 'Joiner,' he was," Burns said of "Coldstream." "He was giving [his] blood and tears to that book."

The new book includes a passage from "Coldstream" as well as the opening to "Getting an Altamira," a commissioned project in which Whitehead flew to Brazil to do a piece for Oui magazine in 1973 about a budding public works project that was being conducted in the Amazon. The essay was never published.

'A wonderful compliment'

One of the poems of Whitehead's in the book is "For Miller Williams."

"Of course it means a great deal to me," Williams said of the poem. "Jim was like both a son and brother to me."

Two of Williams' poems, "The Alphabet as Part of What We Are" and "An Unrhymed Sonnet," are included in the book. Williams first met Whitehead in 1957 when he worked as a biology teacher at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. Whitehead, who was enrolled in some summer school classes while still a 21-year-old student at Vanderbilt University from Jackson, also met his 19-yearold future wife from Yazoo City, Miss., there the same year while she was taking classes to knock out some required courses to graduate from the Mississippi State College for Women in three years.

"When he showed me his poetry, I was truly impressed by the way he could handle the language without trying to be highfalutin about it," recalled Williams. "He wrote comfortable poems that anybody could read or understand without looking up the words in the dictionary, and that's not always true today."

So far, the book has been seen mainly by family and friends, many of whom should be on hand Sept. 9 at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville to read poems and other writings by Whitehead during "A Celebration of Jim Whitehead: Readings from his Works." All of the feedback has been positive, including that from those who knew the man the best.

"I was very pleased," Williams said. "I don't think Jim has been remembered as well as he ought to, and I think the book helps."

"They think it's very good and a wonderful compliment to Jim," said Gen Broyles, who provided a number of photos for the book. "I just had no idea that anything like this could or would ever happen, so it was completely unexpected. It's like getting a present you had no idea you were going to have."

July 14, 2009 in Admirers, Articles, Books, Events, Friends, Memories of Jim, Students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation: Arkansas Festival of Writers

Link: The Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation: Arkansas Festival of Writers.

The 2008 Arkansas Festival of Writers will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Programs in Creative Writing and Translation with readings by Susan Perabo, Leon Stokesbury, and other alumni. The festival will be held April 9 & 10 on the UA campus in Fayetteville. Information on travel and lodging is available at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. A full schedule of events is below.

Wednesday, April 9
* 5:30 pm, Giffels Auditorium - Reading by Susan Perabo and Leon Stokesbury
* 7 pm, Garden Room on Dickson Street - Formal dinner and reception

Thursday, April 10
* 5 pm, Giffels Auditorium - Screening of "Fighting Mad," featuring Peter Fonda, James Whitehead, Bill Harrison, and Miller Williams
* 7 pm, Giffels Auditorium - 40th Anniversary Celebration and Reading
* 9 pm - Reception, hosted by Bill and Merlee Harrison

Guests

perabo Susan Perabo is the writer in residence and associate professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She is the author of a collection of stories, "Who I Was Supposed to Be" (Simon&Schuster, 1999), which was named a Book of the Year by The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and The St. Louis Post Dispatch, and a novel, "The Broken Places" (Simon&Schuster, 2001). Recently her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and Creative Non-Fiction. Two of her new stories were shortlisted in this year's "Best American Short Stories." She is currently finishing a second collection of short fiction.

authorLeon Stokesbury received his MA and MFA from the University of Arkansas in 1972, and his PhD from Florida State University in 1984. He has taught creative writing at several colleges and universities, including serving as visiting poet-in-residence at North Texas University, Hollins College, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. For the past 20 years he has taught in the graduate creative writing program at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Stokesbury's first book, Often in Different Landscapes, was selected as a co-winner of the first annual Associated Writing Programs Poetry Competition in 1975. His collection Autumn Rhythm: New and Selected Poems, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1996, was awarded The Poets' Prize as the best book of poems published by an American for that year. His poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Partisan Review, the New Yorker, the Georgia Review, the Southern Review, the New England Review, and numerous other journals. Stokesbury was selected as the first recipient of The Porter Fund Award for Literary Excellence, has been awarded the Robert Frost Fellowship at the Breadloaf Writers Conference, and is a recipient of an NEA fellowship in poetry.


                  

March 11, 2008 in Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Please Sign the Guestbook

MomsRosebushesSM.jpg

Click the Comments link below to sign the Guestbook for the site and add your thoughts and memories of Jim. You can also use this space to post condolences notes to his family.

Some postings may be taken from the Guestbook and made regular entries to the site.

June 21, 2005 in Guestbook | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (1)

Another Dedication

My new book FILM HISTORY, which will be published in August 2005 is dedicated to my wife Jamie and to Jim Whitehead "who taught me I would have to work to sing."

Godspeed.

Al Maginnis

June 20, 2005 in Admirers, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dedication to Jim

Jim and Bill were my first Arkansas friends. I can never think of Fayetteville without either of them, now just the one. I've dedicated my new collection of poems, "Gypsy With Baby," to Jim. They're the best I've done, and I hope he'd have liked them. Love and thanks always to Jim.

Heather Ross Miller

April 26, 2005 in Admirers, Books, Friends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for participants: AWP conference memorial for Jim

Posted on behalf of Michael Downs

I'd like to let visitors to this site know a bit more about the panel planned for the upcoming AWP conference that's noted here on this site. Last summer, after Jim died and after his memorial service, Susan Perabo and I talked about the need to make sure AWP acknowledged Jim's death at its upcoming conference. Jim was one of the founders of AWP, and we thought the organization needed to remember him. AWP's conference organizers agreed, and though we had missed the deadline for panel proposals by more than a month, they welcomed the addition of this panel honoring Jim.

To help draw people to the panel, I sent out the following paragraphs as an e-mail to as many writers as I could. If you'd like, please forward them to anyone you know who may attend AWP and be interested in attending the panel.

Jim Whitehead was a poet and novelist and former offensive lineman at Vanderbilt. He also was one of the founders of the creative writing program at Arkansas and of AWP. He taught fiction (to Barry Hannah and Ellen Gilchrist) and poetry (to Leon Stokesbury, R.S. Gwynn, C.D. Wright and others). He loved the sonnet, and Yeats, and Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin. He was a giant, with voracious intellectual tastes that ranged from Biblical scholarship to Amazonian culture and SEC football. He once went on tour with Tom T. Hall.

His novel, JOINER, was a New York Times notable book of the year, and his volumes of poetry were published by the University of Missouri Press and the University of Illinois Press.

Which is all a kind of bloodless way of saying that I loved him, as did so many of his students. His death was sudden and hurt us deeply. This panel is an effort to pay him tribute.

The panel is titled "A Local Man Exits: A tribute to James Whitehead." If you go to the AWP site (http://www.awpwriter.org/conference/) and see "A Local Man Exists," well, that's an unfortunate typo they've yet to fix.

I hope I see some of you there (and if any of you guys are looking for a room at the Palmer House, I've got one with two beds and two bathrooms I'm willing to share -- $60 a night).

Best,

Michael Downs

P.S. Here's one of Jim's poems that's a particular favorite of mine.

A LOCAL MAN ESTIMATES WHAT HE DID FOR HIS BROTHER WHO BECAME A POET AND WHAT HIS BROTHER DID FOR HIM

I shot the chicken in the tree above
Where Herbert stood howling after I'd shot.
Bitterly he cried so loud of feather Love
Itself became involved. Lord, lord, the fit
He threw was terrible. He said his head -
His sacred head - was daubed for poetry -
He said my cruelty would make him mad -
He said it was a ritual catastrophe.

Herbert was splattered with old chicken blood
And pink feathers from eyes to knees. He said
Later, twelve years later, that he was sad
He'd frightened me. Within a month he died.
On his deathbed he reached out for my hand
And he said we come from where we get the wound.

February 5, 2004 in Events | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A Local Man Exits: An appreciation of James Whitehead

2004 Annual Conference and Bookfair

AWP 2004 Conference Schedule

March 24 - 27, 2004
Chicago, Illinois

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2004
2:30-4:00PM
Parlor A

A Local Man Exits: An appreciation of James Whitehead

An appreciation of James Whitehead. Michael Downs, Beth Ann Fennelly, R.S. Gwynn, Leon Stokesbury, William Harrison, Margaret McMullan, Steve Yarbrough. He was a lineman at Vanderbilt, and a poet whose sonnets sometimes growl with a Mississippi voice. His novel "Joiner" won acclaim as a New York Times Noteworthy Book of the Year. He was a co-founder of the Graduate Programs in Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas, and he served as president of AWP and as one of its founding lights. James Whitehead died last summer at age 67. Students, colleagues, and friends will gather to read and discuss his work, and talk about his legacy.

February 3, 2004 in Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

State of Arkansas House Memorial Resolution

1 84th General Assembly
2 Second Extraordinary Session, 2003 HMR 1001
3
4 By: Representative Edwards
5
6
7 HOUSE MEMORIAL RESOLUTION
8 MOURNING THE DEATH OF JAMES T. WHITEHEAD AND
9 HONORING HIM AS A CHAMPION OF EDUCATION.
10
11 Subtitle
12 MOURNING THE DEATH OF JAMES T. WHITEHEAD
13 AND HONORING HIM AS A CHAMPION OF
14 EDUCATION.
15
16

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February 2, 2004 in Memories of Jim | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Essay on Jim Whitehead aired on "Ozarks at Large"

Aired Aug. 22 and Aug. 24, 2003, on KUAF "Ozarks at Large"

By Katherine Shurlds

Used with author's permission.

Larger than life. It's a phrase often used to describe Jim Whitehead. Jim wouldn't like that description, if for no other reason than it's trite.

Sure, he was a big guy. Big Jim. Six foot five, beefy and boisterous. His booming voice unmistakable in a crowd.

It wasn't until his memorial service, though, that I realized he really is larger than life. The energy contained in that man couldn't be extinguished merely because his aorta had a weak spot that gave way.

It was clear in that bittersweet setting, there in Giffels Hall, that Big Jim's largeness, his energy, was fueled by love. Yeah, love -- that emotion so susceptible to triteness, still, that's what fed Big Jim's furnace.

So many of the people he loved and who loved him spoke of Jim's largeness, and largess. They spoke of how he sometimes showed his love in a traditional way -- calling sick friends daily, keeping up with former students' careers. And they told the funny stories of Jim's other way of showing love -- the challenging, gruff, intimidating kind, the kind that forced you to stand up for yourself.

People even on the periphery of that love, myself included, knew of his energy. I first met Jim because, as I was leaving Ole Miss, having finished my master's degree course work, Willie Morris gave me an assignment to interview Jim.

Morris was beginning a new magazine at Oxford and he wanted it to focus on Mississippi. And Jim loved Mississippi.

Meeting Jim in his office at Kimpel Hall in the fall of 1981, I was of course immediately impressed by his size. And the intimidation that people often feel when in Jim's presence fell on me immediately, when Jim asked: "Have you read my novel?"

My whimpering attempt to appease him with "I read the first couple of chapters" prompted a well-deserved lecture on how one doesn't interview a writer having not read what the writer has written.

I thought he was going to throw me out of his office. Instead, he went on with the interview and invited me to his home and to his study -- the famous study where he has engaged so many good friends and students.

We talked about teaching, poetry, the struggle to write a second novel, the pride he had in the writing program at Fayetteville, and of course, we talked about Mississippi.

In an oration that seemed to come from one breath, he said, "I miss the piney woods in south Mississippi, the coast, the Delta a little bit. I love the landscape, the storytelling. I miss being around a certain kind of talk. I care about the history, the politics. I worry about who's governor and who's not governor, about who is doing what to whom. I read the papers, letters from home. I worry about it not working out with the black people of Mississippi. I worry about the collapse of a first-rate public education, about white flight from the schools."

But he loved Fayetteville too. "I live in the South," he said. "I live in a good place in the South. It's not as if I live in Dubuque."

As anyone who knows Jim knows, he and I didn't just talk about things I could put in my article. We talked about racism, literature, world politics -- or I should say, I was quizzed about racism, literature and world politics.

It was a few years after the interview and publication of the story that I began to realize something about Jim that one of his Mississippi friends said at the memorial. He said, "When Jim met a person, he would keep that person."

Jim kept me, not in the same way as he kept his family and close friends and former students, but in a way that whenever I approached him for some project I was working on, he would be enthusiastic and supportive.

The last project we worked on together was a book of Bob Douglas' memorials. Jim had spoken at the memorial service and was allowing me to reproduce his words for the book.

True to style, Jim was the only one to demand to see a galley proof. "Hell, yeah," he said, "I'm not going to let you print something of mine if I don't see it first."

Once he read the proof -- and changed some of his own words he didn't like upon second reading -- we talked. We talked about Bob and about growing older and about death. It was as if we had a habit of talking every day, the intimacy of that conversation. Only someone with so large a soul could embrace an occasional friend with such warmth. Only someone larger than life.

January 21, 2004 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

1987 article on the U-Arkansas Creative Writing Program

Northwest Arkansas Times article from 1987

Jimclipping.jpg

Click continue to see the larger (and more readable) version of the image.


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January 20, 2004 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Professor's accomplishments noted in posthumous honors

BY DREW TERRY

Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Whitehead family has strong ties to Old Main at the University of Arkansas.

The late professor James Whitehead?s first office was in the campus ? signature building. Its meeting hall, Giffels Auditorium, embraced both a Whitehead marriage and a memorial service for the late professor.

Old Main brought the family together once again Saturday as they joined state Reps. Marilyn Edwards, D-Fayetteville, and Sarah Agee, R-Prairie Grove, for the reading of a resolution honoring Whitehead for his accomplishments. "He instructed in so many ways," Edwards said. "He was a writer, a poet. He was everything a university [professor] should be."

Whitehead died unexpectedly Aug. 15, 2003, at the age of 67.

He taught creative writing at the university from 1965 to 1999, and after his retirement, he retained an office and assisted the school with grant proposals.

Whitehead founded the creative writing program at the UA along with Miller Williams and William Harrison.

His publications included four books of poetry, "Domains, "" Local Men," "Actual Size" and "Near at Hand," and a novel, "Joiner," which was on The New York Times' Noteworthy Books of the Year list in 1971. His literary awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a Robert Frost Fellowship in poetry. "It's wonderful," Phil Whitehead said of his father's legacy being honored Saturday. "We all realized how hard a worker he was, and he helped build one of the best creative writing departments."

The proclamation noted Whitehead's "keen intellect, a firm sense of justice on many issues, and a fully formed ferocity on a broad range of thought."

It also included a statement expressing the 84 th General Assembly's sympathy to the family and friends and offered thanks for his dedication to family, community and church.

Following the proclamation presentation, the family recalled memories of their patriarch.

Gen Whitehead, the professor's widow, spoke about the outpouring of appreciation shown for her husband at the funeral service.

Former students and colleagues traveled from several states to Fayetteville for the funeral services, she said. "He loved teaching here, and we have always loved Fayetteville," she said.

January 20, 2004 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Construction of Kimpel Hall at the University of Arkansas

Jim3_1
Jim Whitehead, Bill Harrison, and Miller Williams.

November 23, 2003 in Photos | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

New York Times Obituary for Jim Whitehead

Jimbest

photo by Chris Boese, Copyright 2003-2005

James Whitehead, 67, Author of 'Joiner,' Novel of Deep South, Dies

August 19,2003

By ROY REED

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark., Aug. 18 —James T. Whitehead, whose only published novel, "Joiner," a coming-of-age novel about segregationist Mississippi, received critical acclaim, died here on Friday. He was 67 and lived in Fayetteville.

The cause was a ruptured aortic aneurysm, his family said.

In 1971 Mr. Whitehead, a poet and teacher, published the story of Sonny Joiner, an oversize former football player and a man of excesses, intellectual and otherwise, passionate about history, theological discourse, painting, politics, quarreling, literature and sports. So was his creator.

The novelist R. V. Cassill, reviewing the book for The New York Times, wrote: "What Whitehead has achieved is to sound the full range of the Deep South's exultation and lament. Once again, we are told that Mississippi is our Ireland, in literature and politics. His tirade makes an awesome, fearful and glorious impact on the mind and ear."

Mr. Whitehead was born on March 15, 1936, in St. Louis. He grew up in Jackson, Miss. He stood 6 feet 5 inches by the time he went to Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship. There he met William Harrison, the budding writer who became his lifelong friend and associate. Mr. Harrison remembered that as a student Mr. Whitehead had a keen intellect, a firm sense of justice on the race issue that was roiling the South at the time and a fully formed ferocity on a broad range of thought from the painting of Vermeer to the theology of St. Augustine.

Mr. Whitehead's hope of a professional football career was dashed by an injury in college. He left Vanderbilt with a bachelor's in philosophy and a master's in English. He graduated from the creative writing program at the University of Iowa, then joined Mr. Harrison to found a similar program at the University of Arkansas. They were shortly joined by their friend Miller Williams, the poet. The master of fine arts program that they established became one of the nation's most acclaimed. Its students have included Barry Hannah, Ellen Gilchrist and others who have made their mark in fiction, poetry, translation, and film.

Mr. Whitehead also published four books of poetry, "Domains," "Local Men," "Actual Size" and "Near at Hand." He was known as a skilled sonneteer. He favored a conversational style that drew on his affection for the country Southerner. A sonnet he titled "A Local Man Doesn't Like the Music" begins:

Those tunes don't recollect one memory
I ever had. Not one could call my name.
And when the music isn't company
It's time to go and time to change your mind.

He is survived by his wife, the former Guendaline Graeber (he died on their 44th wedding anniversary); seven children, including triplets; a brother, Jared, of Marietta, Ga.; and 10 grandchildren.

October 3, 2003 in Obituaries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger

Jimofficeyoung

Gifted writer, instructor Whitehead dies at 67

By Jerry Mitchell
jmitchell@clarionledger.com

Jim Whitehead never forgot where he came from.

The graduate of the old Central High in Jackson helped found the nationally acclaimed Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and spent 35 years teaching writing there, but underneath it all, "he was a deep-dyed Mississippian," said author Barry Hannah of Oxford.

The 67-year-old writer and poet died Friday at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville of a ruptured aortic aneurism, an unexpected event that stunned those who knew him.

"I'm just crushed," said Hannah, the author of Airships, who plans to attend funeral services Wednesday. "I doubt I'd be anything without Jim Whitehead giving me confidence in the 1960s. He's been a pal, an absolute sterling friend. He was a wonderful gentleman and a part of truth and beauty."

Midway through the civil rights era, Hannah arrived in Fayetteville, sickened by the hate and cowardice of the Klan that had torn his state apart.

"I was ashamed," he said. "I didn't want to come back." In Whitehead, Hannah said, he found a loving mentor who "made me proud of my state all over again."

After graduating from Central High, Whitehead attended Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship, eventually earning a master's in English before going to the University of Iowa and receiving a master of fine arts from Iowa's nationally renown creative writing program.

His literary awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a Robert Frost Fellowship in poetry. He wrote four books of poetry, Domains, Local Men, Actual Size and Near at Hand, and a novel, Joiner, which was on the New York Times' Noteworthy Books of the Year list for 1971. He gave the Presidential Poem for President Jimmy Carter on his return to Plains, Ga., in 1981, and later edited his book of poems.

Whitehead's daughter, Kathleen Paulson, said her father had been upset Friday because funding had been cut for the writers program he so treasured. She said he was on the way to buy flowers for his 44th wedding anniversary, when he started having abdominal pain.

Paulson rushed him to the hospital. Tests showed he had a leaking aneurism.
Doctors rushed him to surgery, but it was too late. The aneurism ruptured.

"He gave so much to his students," she said. "He was tough on them, but they loved him."

His students and friends knew him as "Big Jim," a broad, sturdy man who was
nothing less than intense. Whitehead and his wife, Gen, together raised seven
children, including triplets.

"He would intimidate you, if you didn't know him any better," said Ole Miss alum
Sidney Thompson, who studied under Whitehead in the early 1990s and is
featured in Stories From the Blue Moon Cafe 2. "Once you got to know him, he
was a warm, good-hearted man."

Thompson remembered Whitehead's kindness from the first day, when Whitehead
asked him, "Do you have a place to stay? If you don't, you can stay with me."

The very first voice that Indianola native Steve Yarbrough heard after he arrived at the University of Arkansas campus in 1981 belonged to his
teacher.

"As soon as I got a phone, it rang, and it was Whitehead," recalled Yarbrough, the author of Oxygen Man, who now teaches writing himself. "If you
were from Mississippi, that meant you were his. He called and said, 'Are you coming over or not?' He was one of the big reasons I decided to go there."

Students recalled how Whitehead would in one animated conversation expound
upon the poetry of W.B. Yeats to his hopes for 2004 Democratic contenders. He was completing a screenplay on the life of the first-century
Roman solder Tiberius Julius Abderus Panter.

Whitehead spent hours in the evening with his classes and hours with individual
students, returning manuscripts full of editing, Yarbrough said. "The amount of ink tripled the weight of it."

If a student had written poorly, Whitehead would pound his head against the wall, recalled Steve Yates, assistant marketing manager at University Press of
Mississippi. But he balanced sternness with compassion, said Yates, a 1998
graduate of the master of fine arts program at Arkansas. "When he was happy with
you, you felt so golden, and you felt so good at what you'd achieved."

Visitation is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Moore's Funeral Home, 206 W. Center St. in
Fayetteville. Services are 2 p.m. Wednesday in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main on
the University of Arkansas campus. Memorials may be made to the "Writers in the
Schools" program or to the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas.

October 2, 2003 in Obituaries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

James T. Whitehead

I forget the source of this one. May have been NW Arkansas Times. cb

August 17, 2003

James T. Whitehead

Fayetteville, Ark.

James Tillotson Whitehead, 67, died Friday, August 15, 2003, at Washington Regional Medical Center, of a ruptured aortic aneurism. A visitation will be held at Moore's Chapel in Fayetteville, Ark. on Tuesday, from 6-8 p.m. with family present. A memorial service will be held at Giffels Auditorium in Old Main at the University of Arkansas campus on Wednesday, at 2 p.m. A reception will follow.

He was born on March 15, 1936 in St. Louis, Mo., to Dick Bruun Whitehead and Ruth Ann Tillotson. He married Guendaline Graeber on August 15, 1959 and together they raised seven children, including a set of triplets.

Jim grew up in Mississippi, graduating from Jackson's Central High. He attended Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship where he received a BA in Philosophy and an MA in English. He then earned a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. Together with Miller Williams and William Harrison, Jim founded the nationally acclaimed Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas where he taught for 35 years.

Jim's literary awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction and a Robert Frost Fellowship in Poetry. His publications include four books of poetry, Domains, Local Men, Actual Size, and Near at Hand; and a novel, Joiner, which was on the New York Time's Noteworthy Books of the Year list for 1971. He gave the Presentation Poem for President Jimmy Carter on his return to Plains, Georgia, in 1981, and later edited President Carter's book of poems. Never less than intense, Big Jim, as he was known to his friends, would in one animated conversation expound upon the poetry of W.B. Yeats, the paintings of Vermeer, the dead lying in Flanders Fields, the theology of St. Augustine, the prospects for the Razorback's upcoming season, and his hopes of the 2004 Democratic contenders. At the time of his death, Jim was completing a screenplay on the life of the First Century Roman soldier Tiberius Julius Abderus Pantera.

Of all his many accomplishments, he was most proud of his family. Survivors include: his wife of 44 years, Gen; seven children and their spouses, Bruun Whitehead and Kim Willis of Annandale, Va., Dr. Kathleen W. Paulson and George P. Paulson of Fayetteville, Ark., Eric T. and Jennifer Whitehead of Overland Park, Kan., Joan and John Threet of Fayetteville, Ark., Ted and Kelley Whitehead of Fayetteville, Ark., Ruth and Kevin Trainor of Fayetteville, Ark., and Philip and Kamron Whitehead of Fayetteville, Ark.; ten grandchildren, Eleni C. and George Bourland Paulson, ages 14 and 19, of Fayetteville, Ark., Jack and Anna Threet, ages 7 and 4, of Fayetteville, Ark., Rayner and Henley Whitehead, ages 3 and 3 months of Fayetteville, Ark., Collin Whitehead, age 3, of Fayetteville, Ark., Nina Whitehead, age 3 of Annandale, Garrett Whitehead, age 2 of Overland Park, and Emma Trainor, age 2 of Fayetteville, Ark.; a brother, Jared Whitehead, of Marietta, Ga., and an aunt, Jean Davis of Wauwatosa, Wis.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to either "Writers in the Schools" or the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas, c/o Molly Giles, English Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

October 2, 2003 in Obituaries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kansas City Star Obituary

This is a longer and more fully developed story, so I just wanted to archive it here also. It does repeat some of the things from the others below. cb

Kansas City Star: AP Wire | 08/18/2003 | James Whitehead, Arkansas professor and writer, dies at 67

Posted on Mon, Aug. 18, 2003

James Whitehead, Arkansas professor and writer, dies at 67
Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - James Tillotson Whitehead, a writer and professor who helped build University of Arkansas' creative writing program, has died.

He was 67.

Whitehead, a former St. Louis native who published a number of volumes of poetry and one novel, died Friday after suffering a rupture of an aortic aneurysm.

Jim3_1

In 1965, Whitehead joined Miller Williams and Bill Harrison in establishing the creative writing program at the Fayetteville campus. He spent 35 years in the program as a teacher, administrator and writer, until his retirement in 1999.

Under his influence, the program grew to develop a reputation as one of the most competitive and productive workshops for young writers. Whitehead's former students today are novelists, poets and teachers of writing at universities across the country.

Williams recalled that Whitehead had a way of making students understand him, and that Whitehead had a wonderful sense of humor.

"The mood in a room could never stay very heavy for long with Jim there. He always found something amusing and ironic about most any human situation that made it easier to deal with," he said.

Whitehead was born on March 15, 1936, in St. Louis to Dick Bruun Whitehead and Ruth Ann Tillotson. He grew up in Mississippi and used a football scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University, from which he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy and a master's in English.

He later earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa.

Visitation with family will be held at Moore's Chapel at 206 W. Center Street in Fayetteville from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

A memorial service will be held at Giffels Auditorium in Old Main on the University of Arkansas campus at 2 p.m. Wednesday. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to either "Writers in the Schools" or the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas, c/o Molly Giles, English Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

October 2, 2003 in Obituaries, Photos | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Springdale Morning News Obituary for Jim Whitehead

Jimbwjacket

photo by Chris Boese, Copyright 1990-2005

This is the longest obituary I've seen so far. cb

The Morning News :: News

James Whitehead, UA Professor and Writer, Dies at 67 Sun, Aug 17, 2003



By Johnathon Williams

FAYETTEVILLE -- James Tillotson Whitehead, a professor of English who helped build the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas into one of the finest in the nation, has died. He was 67.

He was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center on Friday, where he died. Doctors determined he had suffered a rupture of an aortic aneurysm. A visitation and memorial service are planned for this week.

A barrel-chested horse of a man, Whitehead was a tall slender professor when he came to Fayetteville in 1965 to join with Miller Williams and Bill Harrison in establishing a creative writing program at the university. He spent 35 years in the program as a teacher, administrator and writer, until his retirement in 1999.

During that time, he saw the program grow to national prominence and develop a reputation as one of the most competitive and productive workshops for young writers. His students today are novelists, poets and teachers of writing at universities across the country.

Friends and colleagues contacted Saturday afternoon remembered Whitehead as a large, shambling man with voracious intelligence and pugnacious humor.

"Big Jim," as he was called by friends, was an intense, animated talker who could weave poetry, theology and the Razorbacks into a single conversation, according to family members.

Miller Williams, a friend of Whitehead and another founder of the creative writing program, said Whitehead was clear and persuasive in the classroom. It wasn't enough that his students understood what he was saying, Williams said. They also had to understand where he was going.

Most of all, Williams said, he remembers Whitehead's sense of humor.

"The mood in a room could never stay very heavy for long with Jim there. He always found something amusing and ironic about most any human situation that made it easier to deal with," he said.

"If I had died first he would have found something amusing to say about it, and that delights me."

Collis Geren, dean of the Graduate School at the university, said Whitehead built the creative writing program into what is probably the highest-ranked graduate program at the university. Its students finish their studies on time and find work as writers, he said.

Although he retired from teaching in 1999, he continued to assist Writers in the Schools, a program that lends graduate students from the writing program to serve as teachers in public schools throughout Arkansas.

Whitehead won several awards and honors for both his teaching and his writing.

In 1976, the UA Alumni Association presented him a Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for teaching. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his fiction and a Robert Frost Fellowship for his poetry.

His published collections of poetry include "Domains," "Local Men" and "Actual Size." He published a single novel during his career, "Joiner," which was named a Noteworthy Book of the Year by the New York Times in 1971.

Whitehead gave the Presentation Poem for President Jimmy Carter on Carter's return to Plains, Ga., in 1981, and he later edited President Carter's book of poems.

At the time of his death, Whitehead was completing a screenplay.

He was born on March 15, 1936, in St. Louis to Dick Bruun Whitehead and Ruth Ann Tillotson. He grew up in Mississippi and used a football scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University, from which he graduated with a bachelor's in philosphy and a master's in English.

He later earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, he told a panel discussion in 1984, he took to copying long-hand the short stories of Eudora Welty "because I thought they were the best things I could find. I don't think I imitate her, and I know I'm not getting close to being anything like as good, but I studied them that way."

His Southerness as a writer made it easy to write about the South, but it took awhile for him to find his local voice: "I lived in Fayetteville 10 years before I realized I could write about it. I was walking home one day and I said, 'By God, I know this town,'" he said.

Whitehead is survived by his wife, Gen; seven children and their spouses: Bruun Whitehead and Kim Willis of Annandale, Va.; Dr. Kathleen W. Paulson and George P. Paulson, of Fayetteville; Eric T. and Jennifer Whitehead of Overland Park, Kan.; and Joan and John Threet, Ted and Kelley Whitehead, Ruth and Kevin Trainor, and Philip and Kamron Whitehead, all of Fayetteville; 10 grandchildren; a brother, Jared Whitehead of Marietta, Ga.; and an aunt, Jean Davis of Wauwatosa, Wis.

Visitation with family will be held at Moore's Chapel at 206 W. Center Street in Fayetteville from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

A memorial service will be held at Giffels Auditorium in Old Main on the University of Arkansas campus at 2 p.m. Wednesday. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to either "Writers in the Schools" or the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas, c/o Molly Giles, English Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

From the poem "One for the Road," by James Whitehead.

Night full and the click of the lighter after love
is almost kind, and careless, too, like the laugh
I leave with the sullen bills. And that's the way
it is, if not the way it ought to be,
down this Memphis road . . .

October 2, 2003 in Obituaries, Photos | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Associated Press Obituary

James Whitehead

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - James Tillotson Whitehead, an award-winning poet who was known for his ability to write about the daily lives of ordinary people, died Friday of a ruptured aorta. He was 67.

Whitehead wrote poetry ranging in tone from despair to an account of an injury to his own funny bone, entitled "Humerus."

He also helped found the creative writing program at the University of Arkansas and taught at the university for 35 years until his retirement four years ago.

Whitehead published four books of poetry, "Domains," "Local Men," "Actual Size" and "Near at Hand," as well as a novel, "Joiner."

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his fiction and a Robert Frost Fellowship for his poetry. His novel was named a Noteworthy Book of the Year by the New York Times in 1971.

October 2, 2003 in Obituaries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Why I built this site

Some may have found other sites where I've posted copies of some of the newspaper articles archived here. I am a keeper of blogs, or weblogs.

I've seen these types of sites used as more permanent memorial web pages. Many people can contribute to such sites: family, friends, students, and in this case, literary admirers. I built another such site this past summer for an uncle I lost who was about the same age as Jim. I wasn't sure how it would work with my family and the grieving process, but I know it helped me. The response from my family was just what I'd hoped it would be, and what I hope for this site. I know it is online and Jim hated computers, but many of us are scattered so far away and couldn't come to the memorial service...

How this site came about:

Jim's oldest daughter, Kat Paulson, found one of my blogs and contacted me, and through the course of our conversation, she asked me to build this memorial site. I would never have presumed to do such a thing without the blessing of the family, and I send them all much love.

What to do with this site:

Add to it. Here are some ways you can join in the memorial.

Easiest Way: Sign the guestbook by clicking on the comments link. Include a link to virtual flower pictures on the web or something, a poem, a quote, whatever, that makes you think of Jim.

Second Easiest Way: Add comments anywhere you see a comments link. Add thoughts to someone else's memory or posted poem, etc. Be sure to include an email address, as I set the site not to allow anonymous comments. Don't worry, this software is also set to protect you from spam harvesters.

Third Easiest Way: Use a comments link to drop me a line requesting a contributor login ID. It is extremely simple, because you just click the "Contributor Login" button under the calendar and login. Posting a full entry to the site is as easy as filling out a web form to order a book at Amazon.com, except no one will ask you for your credit card! [grin]

If you have some pictures you would like to share, you can also upload those using "Contributor Login," or I can put them up for you if you send them as a .jpg attachment by email.

Artwork, poetry, remembrances, and metaphysical thoughts are welcome!
(always subject to the sensibilities of Jim's family members, who can ask me to take anything down that makes them uncomfortable)

I've got pictures I'm going to add soon as well. I dug in my negative files and found the full shoot of the day I took that picture that is on the back cover of "Near at Hand" and the U of Ark Press reprint of "Joiner."

Chris

September 22, 2003 in About this site, Admirers, Family, Friends, Students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My best memories of Jim

Jimbwstewing_1

photo by Chris Boese, Copyright 2003-2005

This shot reminds me most of the glare Jim used to give me when I'd say something absurd that drove him up the wall. I didn't do it the day of this shoot, but Jim remembered giving me the look often enough, he had to do one goofing off when I was taking his portrait. He'd like to want to strangle me when I said mouthy things about Wallace Stevens or suggested that Emily Dickinson's "look of agony" came from Victorian "little death." Half the time I just did it to set him off.

He was a great poet, teacher, and friend. Every student I've ever taught has gotten some of Jim bleeding through. His house was the first place I went in 1987 after finishing my very first teaching job, creative writing, in the woods for 2 weeks with gifted and talented kids. He encouraged me and gave me confidence. He also helped me get my first tenure-track teaching position at Valdosta State in Georgia.

He's one of the main reasons I was ever a poet, and the one who made me memorize nearly the entire Norton Anthology of Poetry, while daring us to create our own canons. He let me work off an incomplete for an entire summer, writing a paper on Emily Dickinson that stretched to 60, then 70 pages while I also tried to memorize as many of those 1,789 poems as I could.

Nobody encounters Jim Whitehead and comes away the same. After I left Fayetteville, I still could drop by any time and we'd go into this intense, vulcan mind meld thing, I don't know what else you would call it. After about an hour of it, you'd go around the rest of the day a bit dazed. The last time I spoke with him was in 1998 or 1999, when I was getting settled in at Clemson.

Damn, I'm going to miss him.

Chris

September 22, 2003 in Memories of Jim | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)