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For 35 years, Bryon Crawford has been telling the story of Kentucky.
His columns have been read three times a week for 29 years by people all across the state in Kentucky’s largest newspaper, The Courier-Journal. And last week, Crawford, who lives in Shelbyville, wrote his last column. He said writing the column has been a great joy. “This job has given me so many memories,” Crawford said. “It’s been a wild ride.”
During his career as the “Kentucky Columnist,” Crawford has written more than 4,000 stories about the peoples, places, and personalities that make Kentucky unique.
Crawford, 64, was raised on a farm in Lincoln County, Ky. He is known for his humor and ability to spin a yarn.
He got his start in journalism at a 500-watt radio station in Stanford, Ky. At that time his job description included sweeping floors, empting the trash and occasionally getting to read the news of the radio. Crawford was hired as an on air personality with WHAS radio in Louisville. WHAS later promoted Crawford to host a human interest TV series called "Side Roads." In 1979, Barry Bingham, who owned WHAS and the C-J, gave Crawford an opportunity to “try” his hand a print journalism. Crawford’s said his stories have taken him to exotic places in Kentucky, such as Turkey Foot, Thousand Sticks, Nobob, Frakes, and Yamacraw. These were the places that he chronicled the people, history, and folklore of the commonwealth. Crawford said there simply isn’t enough time to tell all of the stories Bennie Ivory, executive editor/vice president of news of the C-J, said Crawford has an inherit gift for telling a story. “He gave our readers a taste of Kentucky,” he said. “He kept the pulse of small little hamlets across the state.” Crawford was one of 51 employees at the C-J who were recently cut from the paper because of the economic slowdown. Crawford opted for severance package and early retirement. “I was lucky because I have so many years in, and retirement is an option for me,” he said. “Some of these younger guys aren’t so lucky.” Crawford, who has authored two books, said he might work on a writing project in the future, said, for now, he is going to enjoy some time off. “For 35 years I have lived with deadlines,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking some time and going fishing on my property in Anderson County.” During his time with the paper, Crawford said some of his favorite interviews were with John Wayne, Muhammad Ali, and a 111-year-old woman named Irene Noble from Hazard, who he “saw sitting on her front porch smoking a corn pipe and knew she had a story to tell.” And though Crawford has traveled across the state to find his stories, writing about the people, history and folklore of the state, he said living here in Shelby County has helped ensure that local color has been well represented in his columns. Crawford has chronicled such local personalities as Duke the Canada guard goose, Fletcher White, who attended every local funeral, regardless if he knew the family or not, Beth Bates, who was the first female to score in a Kentucky high school football game, and Claude Brown, who boxed former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis. Sam Medley, who was the subject of two of Crawford’s articles because of his hobby of creating art out of bails of hay, said Crawford is one of a kind. “He’s a great writer,” Medley said. “He can take a conversation and turn it into a very revealing story.” Medley said Crawford has been the voice of Kentucky. “He’s just an ordinary human being with extraordinary abilities,” he said.