Kathryn Tucker Windham
Windham was the daughter of a Thomasville banker, and was raised there. She got her first writing job at the age of 12, reviewing movies for her cousin's small town newspaper, The Thomasville Times. She earned a B.A. degree from Huntingdon College in 1939. Soon after graduating she became a reporter for the Alabama Journal. Starting in 1944 she worked for The Birmingham News. In 1946 she married Amasa Benjamin Windham with whom she had 3 children before his death ten years later.
In 1956 Windham back went to work at the Selma Times-Journal where she won several Associated Press awards for her writing and photography. She developed a specialty in telling human interest stories with a Southern flair. She took her talents on the road and soon became the star of the annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In 1978 WIndham founded the annual Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival in Selma. She also founded a breakfast group and welcomed residents to her home each New Year's Day for black-eyed peas and cornbread.
She also became a regular radio personality, with weekly commentaries on Alabama Public Radio and frequent guest spots on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program.
She also wrote a 1991 biography of reformer Julia Tutwiler entitled They Call Me Julia. She adapted it into a one-woman play that she premiered for the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs in Tuscaloosa.
The Thomasville campus of Alabama Southern Community College is home to the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum, a series of exhibits chronicling her life and work. Her personal papers and manuscripts from 1939-1995 were donated to the Special Collections department of the Auburn University Libraries.
A collection of Windham's photographs is on display at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. On August 18, 2003, she was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, having been nominated by fellow Alabamian, novelist Harper Lee. The 2004 documentary film, Kathryn: The Story of a Teller, directed by Norton Dill, chronicles Windham's life and varied careers.
Windham died in June 2011, having been ill for some time. She was survived by her daughter, Dilcy, and son, Ben, as well as two grandsons. Windham was buried in pine coffin by friends, who serenaded her with "I'll Fly Away" on comb and wax-paper kazoos.
Windham wrote a series of books of "true" ghost stories, starting with 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1964). Other titles were Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts (1971), Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1973), Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey (1974), Thirteen Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey (1976), and Jeffrey's Latest Thirteen: More Alabama Ghosts (1982).
In 2004, she wrote Jeffrey's Favorite 13 Ghost Stories: From Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, which was a collection of featured stories from the previous books.
Jeffrey is the friendly ghost that took up residence in the Windham house in 1966. According to a letter printed in the foreword to 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, Windham became interested in ghost stories after a ghost named Jeffrey began to haunt her family. At first, the family heard footsteps in rooms that would later be found empty. Jeffrey especially spooked the family cat, Hornblower.
Jeffrey was also known to move objects. On one occasion, he moved a heavy chest of drawers three or four inches along a wall, blocking the only door to the room. The door was only opened after pushing hard against the door to move the chest. Another time, Jeffrey almost toppled a cake which was placed on the Windhams' dining room table during a frantic search for some missing car keys. During the search, Jeffrey pushed the cake to the edge of the table, so that it was teetering, when the keys were finally found and the cake was collected.
There is a picture of "Jeffrey," taken inside the Windham home. On the night the picture was made, some young people visiting the Windham home decided to play with a Ouija board, trying to contact Jeffrey. When they later developed pictures taken that night, Jeffrey appeared in one of the shots. Jeffrey appears in the picture as a dark, shadowy blot in a vaguely human-like shape, "standing" next to a girl in the picture.
Soon after this picture was taken, Windham contacted Figh, who was a noted collector of ghost stories, to ask about Jeffrey. Out of that meeting, the idea for 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey was born.
- Treasured Alabama Recipes, The Strode Publishers (June 1967), ISBN 978-0873970099
- Rivers of Alabama (co-author), The Strode Publishers (June 1968)
- Exploring Alabama, The Strode Publishers (June 1970), ISBN 978-0873970105
- 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (co-author), The Strode Publishers (1971). (Reprinted by University Alabama Press (August 30, 1987), ISBN 978-0817303761
- Treasured Tennessee Recipes, The Strode Publishers (1972)
- 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey, The Strode Publishers (1972). (Reprinted by University Alabama Press (August 30, 1987), ISBN 978-0817303778
- Treasured Georgia Recipes, The Strode Publishers (June 1974), ISBN 978-0873970457
- 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey, The Strode Publishers (1974). (Reprinted by University of Alabama Press (August 1987), ISBN 978-0817303792.)
- Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts, The Strode Publishers (1974). (Reprinted by University Alabama Press (November 30, 1987), ISBN 978-0817303815.)
- Alabama, One Big Front Porch, The Strode Publishers (1975), SBN 87397-089-6. (Reprinted by NewSouth Books (August 2007), ISBN 978-1588382191.)
- 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey, The Strode Publishers (November 1976), ISBN 978-0873971089
- The Ghost in the Sloss Furnaces, First National Bank of Birmingham (Original limited edition, 1978). (Reprinted by the Birmingham Historical Society (December 1987), ISBN 978-0317651003.)
- Jeffrey's Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts, The Strode Publishers (June 1982), ISBN 978-0873972321. (Reprinted by University of Alabama Press (August 1987), ISBN 978-0817303808.)
- Odd-Egg Editor, University Press of Mississippi (July 1990), ISBN 978-0878054381
- A Sampling of Selma Stories, Selma Printing Service (1991)
- The Autobiography of a Bell, United Methodist Children's Home (1991)
- My Name Is Julia, Birmingham Public Library Press (1991), ISBN 978-0942301182
- Southern Cooking to Remember, University Press of Mississippi (October 1, 1994), ISBN 978-0878057467
- Encounters, River City Pub (January 1999), ISBN 978-1881320999
- Bridal Wreath Bush, Black Belt Press (September 1999), ISBN 978-1880216927
- A Serigamy of Stories, University Press of Mississippi (October 1999), ISBN 978-1578062560
- It's Christmas!, River City Press (September 2002), ISBN 978-1579660314
- Ernest's Gift, JuneBug Books (June 2004), ISBN 978-1588381491
- Jeffrey's Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, New South Books (October 2004), ISBN 978-1588381705
- Twice Blessed, River City Publishing (June 7, 2007), ISBN 978-1579660802
- Robb, Frances Osborne (May 16, 2011) "Kathryn Tucker Windham". Encyclopedia of Alabama - accessed June 2, 2011
- Kathryn Tucker Windham (April 14, 2008) Wikipedia - accessed April 17, 2008
- Benn, Alvin (June 12, 2011) "Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham dies." Montgomery Advertiser
- Davis, Paul (June 19, 2011) "An Alabama treasure gets final adieu as she wanted." The Birmingham News