Keep the University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky just celebrated its 75th birthday, but it is celebrating it's birthday on a list of 70 state agencies whose budgets are being slashed by Governor Bevin.

Some agencies may hobble along without the state funding, but it would seem even those that have alternative revenue streams (like book sales) would likely close if the governor's proposal is made law.

Tom Eblen's column draws attention to what this closure would mean - to the Press and to the Commonwealth - if the Press' $672,000 budget allocation were gone.

The 50 books or so published each year by the University Press are a diverse collection that tell America's history and Kentucky's history. They explore the oft-untold culture of Appalachia in an honest way.

A little full-disclosure from me: I occasionally review books published by the University Press and post those reviews on this website; I obtain courtesy copies of the books reviewed from the University Press but otherwise receive no compensation. Here's a link to all the University Press books I've reviewed.

Because telling Kentucky's story is fun. And that is something at which the University Press of Kentucky excels. I'm looking forward to Randolph Paul Runyon's The Mentelles: Mary Todd Lincoln, Henry Clay, and the Immigrant Family Who Educated Antebellum Kentucky which is due out in May 2018. In it, the author "studies the understated pair" of Augustus Waldemar and Charlotte Victoire Mentelle who arrived in Lexington in 1798 where they began Mentelle's School for Young Ladies, "an intellectually rigorous school that attracted students from around the region and greatly influence its most well-known pupil, Mary Todd Lincoln."

Tom Kimmerer's Venerable Trees presents a complex, scientific matter in simple, readable prose that educates and informs the arborist, the history buff, the preservationist, and those who love Kentucky's natural beauty. It was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2015.

The beautiful 596-tome that is the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia is a "foundational guide  to the black experience in the Commonwealth."

And in A is for Appalachia!, children take an alphabetical exploration through the traditions and culture of Appalachia. I first read it to my children in 2014 and as recently as this month.

The poetry of George Ella Lyon, who regularly publishes with the University Press, makes walls talk as she did in Many-Storied House

Even a textbook on Appalachian linguistics, Talking Appalachian, remains forever in my mind because of Anne Shelby's complaint that the computer's spellcheck feature turns 'homeplace' into someplace.

And these are just some of the stories, books, and genres that the University Press of Kentucky brings to life each year. And now it's at risk, so I've placed it on the Kaintuckeean's #DemolitionWatch.

Kentucky must continue to invest in education and in its culture and in the University Press of Kentucky.

Estate Planning Awareness Week

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Hart-Bradford House. Library of Congress.
In the opening chapter of Lost Lexington, I wrote that Thomas Hart left to his wife a life estate "in the house and lot which I at present occupy." At first blush, one might believe that a life estate was given to his wife in the Hart-Bradford House that housed such significant history. But both Hart's last will and testament and its probate were after Thomas Hart had transferred, by deed, the residence at the southwest corner of Second and Mill streets to his son. Thomas Hart left his wife a life estate in a different residence than the infamous home that was the site of Henry Clay's nuptials, the home of Laura Clay, and since the 1950s the site of a parking lot.

Examining the historic places of Kentucky inevitably brings one to deed books and recorded wills that reveal much about the history of place. Sometimes, a last will and testament will reveal something about the testator (the person making the will) as well.

Henry Clay
Take for example, Henry Clay. Clay was a slaveowner having owned as many as 60 slaves during his lifetime. His will provided for his slaves manumission (or gradual emancipation) upon their achieving a certain age. The intent would be to ensure that each slave would be provided with basic shelter, food, etc. until they were 25 (females) or 28 (males). Further, Clay favored the removal of blacks from North America and their return to Africa. To accomplish this aim for his former slaves, Clay provided that "the three years next preceding their arrival at the age of freedom, they shall be entitled to their hire to wages or those years ... to delay the expense of transporting them to the one of the African Colonies."

These provision, fortunately, have no place in a last will and testament today. But these lessons from the past are reminders for the present and for the future: estate planning is important no matter our circumstances.

Even though estate planning is for everyone, the majority of Kentuckians (and Americans, generally) do not have their estate plans in order. This can create confusion after death with the disposal of property and the guardianship of minor children, and it can lead to unnecessary costs as well. Neither is something you want to leave behind for your grieving loved ones.

Congress recognized the importance of Estate Planning and proclaimed the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. In 2017, that's October 16-22.

Two statues, a military heritage commission, and the telling of history

Kentucky Revised Code. Legislative Research Commission.
The Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, until recently, was a little-known state agency. Over the past week, the Commission has received quite a bit of news, both locally and nationally, as Lexington considers what to do with two statutes presently standing in the public square.

Yesterday's unanimous vote by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council was to "support the relocation" of the two statutes, a decision that will ultimately be made by the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.

The Statues

The two statues at issue are of John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan. Both men were slaveowners who took up arms against the United States during the Civil War. Both men came from prominent, white Lexington families who were instrumental in Lexington's 19th century growth and prominence (that familial success being achieved largely through the involuntary toil of slaves owned by the respective families).

An Unusual Landmark: Lexington's Miller House

The Miller House - 832 Lochmere Place, Lexington, Ky. Zillow
In 1988, Robert and Penny Miller commissioned José Oubrerie to design and build for them a home on a twenty-acre tract for them in what was then a rural part of Fayette County, Kentucky. An essay by John McMorrough contained in the book, Et in Suburbia Ego: José Oubrerie's Miller House, describes some of the Miller's ambitions with the project.

Oubrerie "liked Aldo van Eyck 's idea of 'a city is like a house, a house is like a city' and so he designed a structure where each resident might have their "own little house" "inside the citadel." While public or common areas dominate the ground level, each person would have their own exit from their "little house" allowing each occupant to have full independence from the other residents. With grown children, the Miller's sought that each member of the family could have their own space.

As the home rose from the ground, the fluid design continued to change. According to Oubrerie, this was a source of consternation among contractors but was one of the lessons the architect had learned from his mentor, LeCorbusier: "as long as something is not built, there is still time." In the design of the Miller House, the approach worked because the parts of the house were disassociated from one another. As new elements were introduced into the project, the site changed creating what Oubrerie called a "creative construction process."

The result is José Oubrerie's masterpiece.

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