Huntingdon remembers alumna Kathryn Tucker Windham
Montgomery, Ala.—Members of the Huntingdon College community were saddened to learn of the death of alumna and nationally known storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham, Class of 1939. Windham died yesterday at her home at the age of 93.
Huntingdon President J. Cameron West, whose friendship with Windham began almost immediately upon his naming as president in 2003, said this of the famous alumna:
Few Huntingdon graduates are as well known or well-loved as Kathryn Tucker Windham. She returned the love, always talking about Huntingdon appreciatively in her stories and public remarks and immortalizing her alma mater in storytelling lore with the Red Lady.
Kathryn was always generous to Huntingdon, never failing to accept my frequent invitations to return to campus. She was as popular with her youngest fans as she was with those who had listened to her stories for decades. I will never forget the slide show of her photographs she narrated extemporaneously to a packed Smith Recital Hall just before Christmas, 2006, and the 12-year-old girl who waited in line afterward for almost two hours to have Kathryn sign one of her books.
Perhaps my fondest memories of Kathryn will be our visits at her home in Selma, where she served me her homemade ambrosia and gave me permission to pick up the bowl and drink the juice. She taught me to love Alabama barbecue with our lunches at Hancock's. She always sent me back to Montgomery with some kind of Huntingdon memorabilia, all of which now sit either in the President's Home or the President's Office for Huntingdon alumni and friends to see. Most of all, I will remember her "Christmas Gift" telephone greeting each Christmas morning when I called. She loved her old Southern traditions. I will miss her terribly and remember her gladly. The Huntingdon family is blessed that she is one of ours.
It was Windham who immortalized Huntingdon's Red Lady ghost story in her book, co-written with the late Huntingdon English professor, Margaret Gillis Figh, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. As a child who dreamed of being a reporter, she began by writing movie reviews for her uncle's weekly paper in Thomasville, Alabama. After graduating from Huntingdon with a degree in English, she became the first female police reporter working for a large newspaper in the state. A gifted storyteller, she was the founder of the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, and was invited to share her stories of the American South in tours all over the world and on National Public Radio. Her photographs won numerous awards, and she combined her love of cooking, storytelling, and photography in numerous books during her long career. Windham is also known for her one-woman play about the life of Julia Tutwiler, which she penned and performed throughout the state.
Upon her graduation in 1939, Windham received the Huntingdon Loyalty Award. That award sits upon the mantle in the Office of the President at Huntingdon, a gift to President West and the College from Windham. She has been recognized with the Huntingdon Alumni Achievement Award (1971), the Alumni Loyalty Award (1986), and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, April 1979. Huntingdon's Houghton Memorial Library dedicated "Kathryn's Study," a room in Windham's honor, in 2008 on the occasion of her 90th birthday, with Windham present for the celebration. Upon seeing the room, Windham quipped that the name should read, "Kathryn—study!" in recollection of her student days.
Huntingdon College, grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
For more information, contact the Huntingdon College Office of Communications at (334) 833-4515.