A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Historian breaks new ground with book on Ky.’s role in passage of 19th Amendment

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It was a long and circuitous path toward the final passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the act giving America’s women the right to vote. It would take years of grinding work amidst plenty of fits and starts, and the complexities of the issue of fighting for women’s suffrage were enormous. The leaders of the movement were far from united, and the...

Kentucky by Heart: Cataloging Kentucky book collection offers nostalgic walk down memory lane

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I‘m currently cataloging my sizeable Kentucky book collection, which stretches around me on the shelves in my study, where I do most of my writing. There are some non-Kentucky books, too, but many less, and I’m estimating that the number of books I own written by Kentucky authors or about the state will show at least a thousand. Though the process gets laborious...

Kentucky by Heart: The sacrifices of Vietnam’s ‘Sons of Bardstown’ have had lasting impact on community

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It’s probably safe to say that most communities of Kentucky were affected in some way by the tragedy of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, an era generally considered stretching from 1962-1975. The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial website reports that 1,108 Kentuckians were among the approximately 58,000 Americans who died in the conflict. There were...

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: Roger Guffey’s Tales from the Porch offers authentic glimpse into simpler times

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Roger Guffey is steeped in the traditions and customs of his childhood growing up in Appalachia, in Wayne County, not far from the Tennessee border. A long-time math teacher now living in Lexington, Roger also enjoys writing, especially about the people who helped form who he is today. In recent years, he has authored People Up the Holler and When I Was My Father’s...

Kentucky by Heart: A look at the books Kentuckians are reading as the cold winter months approach

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist For both pleasure and resource purposes, I’m often found with a book in my hands (haven’t become an e-reader yet), and I also know for a fact that many fellow Kentuckians are. I’m figuring that with Covid and the approaching winter chasing us indoors, the scale of reading is increasing. So, as I’ve done so in this column before, I took the pulse of what...

Kentucky by Heart: ‘Old Photos’ Facebook pages offer nostalgic look back at people and places

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist A while back, I came across a cool Facebook group page called Old Photos of Northern Kentucky. I immediately got hooked and now visit the site frequently, often posting, my columns there. I see it as an especially “cool” and enjoyable site because the nostalgic images, captions, and individual postings are remembrances of growing up in the area in the ‘50s,...

Kentucky by Heart: Kentuckian Josephine Kirby Henry played integral role in securing women’s rights

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist It’s been a hundred years since the Nineteenth Amendment passed, giving women across America the right to vote. One of the highly influential advocates for women’s suffrage in that era was an amazing Kentuckian. She particularly intrigues me personally because of the geographical connection we have. Josephine Kirby Henry, like me, has northern Kentucky roots...

Kentucky by Heart: Revisiting some well-written Kentucky books of the ‘can’t put it down’ variety

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Over the course of a year, I review dozens of books by local authors from all around Kentucky. A good many are of mediocre quality, at best, but I also run across some very fine ones that are well-written and of the “can’t put it down” variety. Most recently, I came across The People Up the Holler, by Roger Guffey. It’s a book of short stories inspired...

Kentucky by Heart: Return to family gravesite with relatives offers moment of solace during pandemic

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist It had been more than seven months since my wife and I took an extended car trip. We’ve been cautious about the virus since the pandemic, we had followed precautionary rules to avoid infection, and we stayed close to our home in Versailles. During that time, we had some contact with her daughters, though quite limited. Other than phone calls, there had been no...

Kentucky by Heart: Exploring well-known, and not-so-well-known, state symbols of the Commonwealth

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I taught mostly fourth-graders during my 28-year full-time teaching career, and I always loved the subject of Kentucky history, geography, and the state’s culture. I particularly enjoyed covering the state symbols, which have official designations from the Kentucky General Assembly. The teaching of such made it easier for me as my students usually responded with...

Kentucky by Heart: More possible historic events for a Kentucky-centric ‘You Are There’ TV servies

Author’s Note: This is the second of two-parts exploring what might be included if there were a ‘You Are There Kentucky’ TV series. As mentioned in part one, the included subjects are my own choices, arbitrary and I touch on only a few basic details of the events. Hopefully, they’ll spur your interest for further study. By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist The appointment of Louisa native Fred...

Kentucky by Heart: A look at events that could be included in Kentucky’s own ‘You Are There’ TV series

Author’s Note: This is the first of two-parts exploring what might be included if there were a ‘You Are There Kentucky’ TV series. By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist As a child, my natural interest in history was encouraged by watching old reruns of the You Are There television series. The show originally appeared on both CBS Radio and Television, with the radio version from 1947...

Kentucky by Heart: Much can be learned about the disunity of today through the study of Lincoln’s words

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I have great respect for the impact of language, and so I often mull over my choice of words as both a writer and speaker — and often omit words I’m not completely comfortable will be read with correct understanding. Consequently, the time I expend on this weekly column is often extensive, and here’s hoping that doing so is a good thing. Kentucky-born...

Kentucky by Heart: In a divisive world, optimism for Kentucky’s future remains, because of its people

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I recently was interviewed for a podcast by Bill Goodman, CEO of the Kentucky Humanities Council, about my book series, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes. I considered it an honor to be asked to share, both as an opportunity to contribute to KHC, an organization that seeks to highlight the best in our citizens’ values, and also for the interest Bill demonstrated in...

Kentucky by Heart: Historic Keene might not be fancy, but it’s home… and always will be

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist For nice rides in the country, I often take Highway 169 in the central Kentucky part of the Bluegrass area from my home in Woodford County to Jessamine County. The grassy and rolling terrain of the area is one of my favorite scenic tours. Small farms with grazing Thoroughbred horses and cattle, an abundance of pretty homes, and historical stone walls along the...

Kentucky by Heart: Lincoln County native Red Foley was first Kentuckian in Country Music Hall of Fame

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist My parents were country music fans, and while growing up, I admit that I endured their choice of radio station programming. I’ve mellowed a lot in my adult years, though, and in a recent Ken Burns country music special series, I actually enjoyed hearing the twangy sounds I abhorred back in the 1960s. Red Foley (By Crossroads TV Productions, Inc., Springfield,...

Kentucky by Heart: Although mostly virtual this year, the opening of school brings back many memories

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist The opening of schools, though mostly virtually these days, always recalls personal memories for me, both as a student and as a teacher. But my first day in school as a first-grader in Mrs. Dorothy’s class at Grants Lick Elementary, in southern Campbell County, in the fall of 1959, is the most impactful. I can clearly picture the experience even now. It seems...

Kentucky by Heart: Author Kim Huston’s Bardstown offers intimate look at community’s allure

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When it comes to choosing an invigorating location for Kentucky day trips (or half-day trip), my wife, Suzanne, and I often choose Bardstown and the Nelson County area. It’s an easy drive of less than an hour from our home in Versailles, and the lure to go back, again and again, is strong. We are drawn, first, to the unique scenery of the Knobs region as we approach...

Kentucky by Heart: Multi-talented Skeeter Davis — a true story about a Kentucky girl making good

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Stripping tobacco as a young boy back in the 1960s was never something that excited me, but I had to get used to the fact that we, as a family, would be doing just that every fall in an especially built room inside the outside car garage. I also didn’t get excited about my parents’ choice of music on the radio —- country, and it was the twangy type. But frequently...