Reub's journey

13 June 2011

I remember Kathryn Tucker Windham

Kathryn Tucker Windham; source of photo unknown
Kathryn Windham Tucker passed away peacefully in her home yesterday in Selma, Alabama, at the age of 93,  surrounded by friends and family. Author of two dozen books, cookbooks and ghost stories, mostly, she was a story teller of the highest rank. I remember listening to her spin tales in Auburn, Alabama, and in Montgomery. When people wonder how I could miss the Deep South, well, she pretty much embodies a special quality found only in that complicated place: a kind of charm seasoned with the deep awareness of a seething history. There is nobody like a Southerner to tell a story like it ought to be told.

Photo from the Tuscaloosa news
Kathryn began her career at 12 years old, writing movie reviews for her cousin's paper in Thomasville, AL, the same year she began taking photos with her Brownie camera. In 1940 she became a writer on the police beat for The Alabama Journal; she was the first woman in all of the South to hold that job. Years of writing and editing followed, until finally in the 1970's she began to appear as a story teller, founding the Alabama Tale-Tellin' Festival which occurs every year in Selma.

When we lived in Alabama I remember listening to her tell a story about Jeffrey, the ghost who inhabited her house. Her relationship with Jeffrey caused her to be interested in ghost stories, and eventually to write 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

In this video Kathryn, age 91, talks about her first awareness of Jeffrey, but in true Southern style she doesn't get to it until about 3 1/2 minutes into the conversation. She is standing in front of a bottle tree in her front yard. I love her dialect, and her honest way of communicating. She is completely disarming.

Plans are being made for a memorial service. But I think I know what will be inscribed on her tombstone, because she alluded to it in her book Twice Blessed,  when she said, “My grave marker won’t be one of those fancy examples of the stonemason’s art, nor will it have a flowery epitaph. I’d like to have some words from one of Jan Struther’s poems:

She was twice blessed: She was happy; She knew it.’

And finally, just for the heck of it, an Alabama recipe for Ambrosia, which Kathryn regularly served up:

Ambrosia Salad
  • 1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups flaked coconut
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries
  1. In a large bowl, combine mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, bananas, coconut, marshmallows, and pecan pieces. Fold in whipped topping. Garnish with maraschino cherries. Chill for 1 hour or overnight.
 Rest in peace Kathryn Tucker Windham; your life was well-lived.


  1. what a sweet, intriguing, engaging woman... i hope she will finally get to meet jeffrey now...

  2. What a wonderful tribute! May she fly high!

  3. What a lady, Thanks for introducing her to me.

  4. I think storytelling is a wonderful gift. I would love to learn how to be a storyteller. anyone can relate events but to weave them into a mesmerizing tale, that's a gift.

  5. Kathryn's service was held yesterday. She was taken away in the wooden casket she had made a few years back, riding in style in the back of a red pickup truck while all of her well-wishers played combs wrapped with waxed paper: "I'll Fly Away."

  6. Thanks for sharing her story and life with us, what a generous and kind gift you are giving her as a sweet tribute.

  7. What a nice tribute you've written. She reminds me of my Aunt Estelle who loved telling stories. Her voice, inflection, & mannerisms are very similar (my aunt lived in Savannah, GA).


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