North Carolina Newspapers

    Clyde Edgerton: The Man with a Banjo
Award Winning Author Visits Meredith Campus
Molly Ashline, Staff Writer
For any of those'at Meredith
who may have been curious
as to what goes on behind the
doors of West Belk when they
are shuttered closed, one an
swer may be a Friends of the
Library gathering is taking
place. Such an event seems to
begin in cheerful exchanges of
old friends and the quiet bustle
of workers to get everything in
order. Some in attendance of
this event included President
Jo Allen, many Meredith alum
nae and faculty, and a few pa
trons of Meredith scholarships.
One woman, Betty Davis (an
alumna from the Class if ’56),
came all the way frorn San
Francisco to attend.
After everyone was satiated
from the dinner and the plates
were cleared away, speakers
came on to discuss the Friends
and the library itself. New
members of the Friends of
the Library were introduced,
and then Susan McClintock
discussed improvements to
the library, which now has a
“fresher, friendly, up-to-date
design” according to her. Such
improvements include a more
“inviting” ground floor and
a quiet room on the second
floor. McClintock also named
the recipients of the 2011 Li
brary Faculty Award: Dr. Ellen
Goode and Dr. Martha Burpitt.
During these proceedings,
there remained a quiet hum
throughout the room antici
pating the moment when the
man of the hour would take the
proverbial stage. He received a
brief but heart-felt and amus
ing introduction and then
photo via John Kincheloe
Clyde Edgerton walked into
full view.
He appeared the epitome of
a charming, Southern gentle
man. Dressed in a tan suit
with a pink tie and wearing
unassuming glasses, he made
you feel as if you were in the
presence of an old friend be
fore even opening his mouth.
When he did speak, his calm
accent and distinct humor put
everyone in attendance at ease.
His first words were, “I’m over
here so.I can pick up my ban
This banjo picking Durham
native has published ten books.
his most recent
called The Night
Train (after the
James Brown song
since Edgerton is
largely influenced
by music), yet he
still managed to tell
a story about bury
ing his pet chicken,
Redbird. His excel
lent skills of coun
try “down-home”
storytelling and his
ability to mix hu
mor with serious
ness are probably
the biggest attribu-
tors to his success.
(Edgerton has won
five‘notable books
of the year’ awards
from the New York
Times as well as
several other no
table honors.)
When asked about
how humor aids his
novels, Edgerton
responded, “I hope the humor
encourages the reader to keep
reading.” Indeed, since Edg
erton discusses uncomfortable
topics like segregation in the
Civil Rights era, his humor is
almost necessary to avoid los
ing his readers to the intensity
of his topics. On discussing
segregation, Edgerton said
he sees “the same problems
abound” even today. Because
of his ability to write about
these issues that are still rele
vant but somewhat taboo, Edg
erton has become a successful
author and his books will gain
a longevity that others of today
will not be able to accomplish.
Edgerton also has a history
with Meredith College of which
many students today are prob
ably unaware. While teach
ing at Campbell University,
Edgerton was in the process
of writing his novel Raney.
Campbell and Edgerton had an
altercation regarding the new
novel; however, the faculty at
Meredith signed a unanimous
proclamation in support of
Edgerton. Regarding how he
viewed Meredith, Edgerton
remarked, “I know the reputa
tion [of Meredith]...they came
to my rescue.” In showing his
gratitude and appreciation
for Meredith College, Edger
ton has donated his works to
the Carlyle Campbell Library.
Media Speciaist John Kinche-
.loe said, “Edgerfon has offered
the college many materials.”
Additionally, he explains,“In
2002 Dr. Hilbert Campbell
gave Meredith College an
extensive collection of materi
als related to Clyde Edgerton.
These include reviews, articles,
and many editions of his nov
els.” Kincheloe noted that all
of these materials would be
housed in the Meredith Ar
chives. He added, “We are re
ally excited about this amazing
Clyde Edgerton certainly
drew an audience at the
Friends of the Library dinner
and is someone who is counted
as a prided highlight of North
Carolina. Hopefully he will re
turn to Meredith soon...maybe
after his next book is released.
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