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Byron Herbert Reece:

Georgia’s Appalachian Poet/Novelist

By Joyce Dixon

 
 
 
"Anyone can plow potatoes, you should stick with writing, " commented an admirer.
Reece replied, "Yes, but no one but me is willing to plow mine."
 

Byron Herbert Reece was a simple man of the land, and it was his love of the land that inspired his writings. Though his life was cut short by his own hands, his body of work lives on. In 2005, Reece is being remembered and honored by the State of Georgia as "Georgia's Appalachian Poet/Novelist."

Born in 1917 in the stark poverty of rural Appalachia, Reece published four volumes of poetry and two novels. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and served as poet-in-residence at several colleges. But he suffered from tuberculosis and depression, and in 1958 Reece committed suicide at age 40.

The Byron Herbert Reece Society has been instrumental in preserving his work and acquiring a center to promote Appalachian writers. The Reece farm in Union County had been held by the Chattahoochee-Oconee Forest Interpretive Association for many years. In 2004, the association donated the land to Union County, which then transferred management to the Reece Society on a 50-year renewable lease.

The Reece Society plans to turn the 9.4-acre Reece farm, on U.S. 129 just north of Vogel State Park, into an educational facility and tourist attraction.

The house Reece built for his parents in the 1950s will be renovated to look like the family’s original home, then the structure will be moved to the knoll that overlooks the area. The home will serve as the visitor center.

Reece’s poems will be etched in stone for a plaza at the historic site. The theme of the plaza is the four seasons, since Reece as a land steward wrote about the seasonal changes.

The plan also includes a recital theater for intimate poetry readings, a 200-seat amphitheater for larger performances, a pavilion for picnics and meetings and nature trails along Wolf Creek.

Existing buildings on the property will be renovated -- including a cabin that will become the caretaker's residence and two barns. The most historic structure is a small studio where Reece penned most of his works.

Near the visitor center, plans call for a bronze sculpture of Reece at his plow, surrounded by rows of planted corn.

 

The study where Reece composed most of his work.

Though the capital campaign is just beginning, the project has enthusiastic support from Reece's fans. The society's advisory council includes such notables as former U.S. Sen. and Georgia Gov. Zell Miller and acclaimed Southern writers Pat Conroy and Terry Kay.


Contributions may be made payable to the Byron Herbert Reece Farm Development Project and mailed to:

Byron Herbert Reece Society
P.O. Box 811
Young Harris, GA  30582

Byron Herbert Reece Society

HR 295 - Bill naming Byron Herbert Reece as Georgia's Appalachian Poet/Novelist
(Sponsored by Senator Chip Pearson & Representative Charles Jenkins)

Byron Herbert Reece (Georgia Encyclopedia bio)

Byron Herbert Reece Digital Library

 

© 2005, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved