Museum of Appalachia to Honor Alex Haley at “Heroes of Southern  Appalachia” Award Ceremony; Lamar Alexander to Present 

NORRIS, Tenn.— On March 1st the Museum of Appalachia will celebrate the late Alex Haley at their “Heroes of Southern Appalachia” award ceremony, presented by KaTom Restaurant  Supply. Former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander will present the award to the family of the late author.

“We celebrate Alex Haley because he was God’s storyteller,” says Alexander. “At the peak of  his career when he was perhaps the world’s best-known writer, he sunk his roots into East  Tennessee and reminded us to ‘Find the Good and Praise It.’ He had a kind word for everyone.  He left us too soon because we loved him so much that we just used him up.”

Haley is best known for his 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Roots: The Saga of an American  Family. The book sold over 15 million copies in seven months and its television adaptation was watched by a record-breaking 130 million people. Haley’s work is credited with cultivating a widespread interest in genealogy and an appreciation for African American history.

Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice and Museum of Appalachia Board Chairman  Gary R. Wade says that Haley is a most worthy recipient of this year’s award. “Mr. Haley contributed so much to the understanding of both African American and Southern Appalachian culture and went to great lengths to highlight their intersection,” says Wade. “He found that these cultures are a lot more alike than they are different. It is in the spirit of his motto, ‘Find the Good  and Praise It,’ that we honor him with this award.”

At the time of his passing, Haley was writing a book about Southern Appalachia. The novel featured a character based on Steve Parkey, an African American blacksmith from Hancock  County whose shop is displayed on the grounds of the Museum of Appalachia.

Through this book, Haley sought to reshape the image of the mountain people that he had come to know. Six months before his death, Haley told Journal: Appalachia that he was “irritated” by  the depiction of Appalachia in popular culture. “The truth as I have come to know it is so very different. Here are a people with rich heritage, marvelous lifestyle, atmosphere.”

The celebrated author spent much of his later life in East Tennessee. In 1986, then-Governor  Lamar Alexander introduced Haley to John Rice Irwin, founder of the Museum of Appalachia.  After a visit to the Museum, Haley decided to live in Norris and bought a farm from Irwin—a farm now owned by the Children’s Defense Fund.

Past recipients of the “Heroes of Southern Appalachia” award include Dr. Joe Johnson, Jim Hart,  General Carl Stiner, and Senator Howard Baker. The Museum’s criteria for choosing recipients includes honoring a person(s) from the Southern Appalachian region who exemplifies the characteristics of perseverance, fortitude, self-reliance, and service.

Hosted by television and radio talk show host Hallerin Hilton Hill, the evening’s festivities will kick off at 7:00 p.m. in Heritage Hall at the Museum of Appalachia. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase at

Proceeds from the event benefit the Museum of Appalachia, a 501(c)3 organization, and are used in support of their mission to preserve Southern Appalachian history and culture.

Please visit or call 865-494-7680 for more information.