A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Mike Howard went from ‘black sheep’ to beloved ‘Mountain Santa,’ the legend

Because Christmas is all about traditions, we are offering this traditional Kentucky by Heart column on Mike Howard, the Mountain Santa who, sadly, has passed away. But like the Christmas spirit in all of this, his spirit lives on in his legacy of generosity to others. Merry Christmas — and happy memories.) By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation...

Kentucky by Heart: Deaths leave a void and legacy: Mountain Santa, Bob Wagoner each made mark

I was saddened by the recent passing of Mike Howard, aka “Mountain Santa.” He lived at Wallins Creek, in Harlan County, and since the mid-seventies, the wiry-built, talkative man became an icon to thousands in his community by playing Santa Claus, collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to the poor, largely transporting the gifts using pickup trucks. He did that with the support of a legion of...

Kentucky by Heart: Mike Howard goes from ‘black sheep’ to beloved ‘Mountain Santa’

This story is taken from Steve Flairty’s 2013 book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #3. It was originally published in by KyForward on Dec. 24, 2014 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation he carried while growing up as one of 11 kids in an Eastern Kentucky town. Mountain Santa (Mike Howard) delivering presents with a volunteer (Southeast...

Kentucky by Heart: Mike Howard goes from ‘black sheep’ to beloved ‘Mountain Santa’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist This story is taken from Steve Flairty’s 2013 book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #3. It was originally published in by KyForward on Dec. 24, 2014 Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation he carried while growing up as one of 11 kids in an Eastern Kentucky town. “Guess I was the black sheep of the family,” Mike said and then recalled...

Kentucky by Heart: Harlan County has plenty to celebrate in the way of good people and talent

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about...

Everyday Heroes: Mountain Santa known
for ‘outrageous acts of kindness’ around town

This story is taken from Steve Flairty’s 2013 book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #3.   By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist   Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation he carried while growing up as one of 11 kids in an Eastern Kentucky town.   “Guess I was the black sheep of the family,” Mike said and then recalled a particularly harrowing experience....