Interview with James C. Klotter, October 22, 1997

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview with James Klotter being conducted by Linda Beattie for the Kentucky Writers Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter gives his background, and the names of his parents and grandparents. Born in one of the most rural areas of Kentucky, he also spent time in Lousiville, one of the most urban parts of the state.

Keywords: Divorce; Oral history; Owsley County (Ky.)

Subjects: Divorce; Louisville (Ky.); Oral history; Owsley County (Ky.)

GPS: Owsley County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.41, -83.69
00:05:40 - Education through high school

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you went to elementary school, I guess in Owsley County.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter discusses memories of growing up and going to school in Owsley County, Kentucky.

Keywords: Booneville (Ky.); Owsley County (Ky.)

Subjects: Booneville (Ky.); Childhood; Education; Owsley County (Ky.)

GPS: Booneville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.474722, -83.676667
00:10:43 - Reading as a youth

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Partial Transcript: I was going to say, it sounds like you were--you talked about your, your, enjoyment of that English teacher, and English classes in high school.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter remembers reading as a child. He liked reading books with a historical twist to them.

Keywords: Daniel Boone; Reading; Writing

Subjects: Boone, Daniel, 1734-1820; Childhood; Reading; Writing

00:17:30 - College

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Partial Transcript: Did you go directly to college from high school?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter recalls starting school young, and graduating from high school when he was 17 years old.

Keywords: University of Kentucky

Subjects: Education, Higher; Higher education; University of Kentucky

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:22:22 - Marriage

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Partial Transcript: And then when we, uh, we dated through college, and our junior year, we got married.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter married his high school girlfriend when they were in their junior year of college.

Keywords: Freda Klotter; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Klotter, Freda C., 1946-; Marriage; University of Kentucky

00:25:42 - Living at UK

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and, and so after you married you lived in--was there married student housing, or?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter and his wife married and moved in together in "married student housing." The University of Kentucky was a large school, and this was a different experience for Klotter from his earlier education.

Keywords: Booneville (Ky.); Freda Klotter; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Booneville (Ky.); Klotter, Freda C., 1946-; University of Kentucky

GPS: Booneville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.474722, -83.676667
00:27:47 - History major

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Partial Transcript: I assume you majored in history, and at what point did you make that decision?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter decided to take a variety of courses when he got to UK, and history turned out to be what he enjoyed the most. He studied Kentucky History via correspondence course.

Keywords: Correspondence courses; Thomas Clark

Subjects: Clark, Thomas Dionysius, 1903-2005; Correspondence schools and courses

00:34:55 - Children

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Partial Transcript: Our first child was born in, um, March of '69.

Segment Synopsis: The Klotters have three children. His oldest is married to a doctor, and she is seeking her PhD. His second child is married to a school teacher, and he tests water quality. His youngest graduated from college and works in Atlanta, Georgia.

Keywords: Clinical psychology; Water quality

Subjects: Clinical psychology; Water quality

00:38:03 - Graduate school

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Partial Transcript: Um, after you finished your masters, then, then what happened in terms of graduate school?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter began his graduate work at the University of Kentucky. He was a member of the ROTC, and took up active duty in the army during the Vietnam War. After completing his military service, he continued his doctoral work.

Keywords: Fort Gordon (Ga.); John C. Breckenridge; ROTC; Vietnam War

Subjects: Breckinridge, John C. (John Cabell), 1821-1875.; United States Army School/Training Center (Fort Gordon, Ga.); United States. Army. Reserve Officers' Training Corps; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

00:43:36 - First job

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Partial Transcript: But, the other thing that was happening that actually got me in Kentucky history is--was my first job.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter had a job as a researcher for the Kentucky Historical Society. This work involved him in Kentucky history.

Keywords: Hambleton Tapp; Holman Hamilton; Kentucky Historical Society

Subjects: Hamilton, Holman; Kentucky Historical Society; Tapp, Hambleton

00:46:03 - Employment

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Partial Transcript: So, will you discuss then, the--(laughs)--the evolution of your employment career?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter discusses his various positions through the years at the Kentucky Historical Society.

Keywords: Kentucky Historical Society

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Kentucky Historical Society

00:47:40 - Role of a historian

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Partial Transcript: As Kentucky State Historian, you are in the pivotal position in terms of influencing the course of how history is recorded, of what history is recorded, and of how is regarded and made accessible in Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter feels that the primary role of a historian is to spread the word that history is worth studying; that it is important and enjoyable.

Keywords: Kentucky State Historian; Lowell Harrison

Subjects: Harrison, Lowell H. (Lowell Hayes), 1922-2011; Kentucky Historical Society

00:52:45 - "History Mysteries"

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Partial Transcript: That--(laughs)--brings up other questions that I have for you.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter states that we must make sure that history is a story. "History Mysteries" was designed to be a book for adult new readers. An important aspect of "History Mysteries" is that it respects the fact that adult new readers are intelligent people who have simply not yet learned to read.

Keywords: New Books for New Readers Series.

Subjects: New books for new readers

00:57:21 - Teaching history

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Partial Transcript: How do you think history should be taught?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter says that history encompasses much more than military events and politics. History touches many aspects of our lives, and the historian must bring these aspects in to the classroom.

Keywords: Teaching history

Subjects: Education--History.

01:00:39 - The legitimacy of oral history

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you mentioned oral history.

Segment Synopsis: Beattie and Klotter discuss the value of oral history as a way of recording history, and how oral history materials are collected, interpreted, and used.

Keywords: Diaries; History

Subjects: History; Oral history; Oral tradition

01:03:17 - Published works

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Partial Transcript: Um, I know you've authored or co-authored six major books, including your most recent, "A New History of Kentucky," co-authored with Lowell Harrison.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter discusses several of his published works, including a collection of papers of Governor Simeon Willis. He explores the differences between writing for professional historians and writing for the general public.

Keywords: Kentucky governors; Lowell Harrison; Terry Birdwhistell

Subjects: Birdwhistell, Terry L.; Harrison, Lowell H. (Lowell Hayes), 1922-2011; Willis, Simeon S., 1879-1965

01:12:00 - Book reviews

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Partial Transcript: You referred earlier to book reviews and of course in addition to your books...

Segment Synopsis: Klotter says that it is important for historians to show that they believe history is important. The approach to writing offers benefits to the reader.

Keywords: Book reviews; Creative non-fiction

Subjects: Book reviews; Creative nonfiction

01:16:05 - Readers

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Partial Transcript: Is your wife your first reader?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter's wife read the "History Mysteries" book first, but usually she is not his first reader. He asks different people depending on the topic.

Keywords: John David Smith; Melba Hay

Subjects: Hay, Melba Porter, 1949-; Smith, John David, 1949-

01:17:55 - Writing habits

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you referred also to being able to write something, pick it up, put it down.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter has to be flexible in his writing, because he has to be able to find time where he can in order to write.

Keywords: Daily life; Writing habit

Subjects: Authors

01:25:41 - Kentucky writers

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Partial Transcript: Um, are there Kentucky fiction writers or poets who have influenced your work, or who particularly influenced you as a historian?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter reads widely from the works of Kentucky authors. He particularly admires Wendell Berry, among several others mentioned in this segment.

Keywords: Reading; Terry Birdwhistell; Wendell Berry

Subjects: Beattie, Linda; Berry, Wendell, 1934-; Birdwhistell, Terry L; Klotter, James C.

01:26:59 - Kentucky as a historical place to study

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Partial Transcript: Um, obviously your wri--your writing is very much affected by sense of place.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter discusses the continuing sense of place that exists in Kentucky for several reasons, including the tendency for people to remain in Kentucky from generation to generation, its slowness to industrialize, its history as the first American west, and as a middle ground between the north and the south.

Keywords: Kentucky history

Subjects: Kentucky--History

01:30:50 - Keeping people interested in history

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Partial Transcript: Several Civil War diaries have become the, the basis for short stories or poems or, or publications by fiction writers in the state recently.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter discusses the perceived value of history in Kentucky. He mentions two diaries from the American Civil War, that were written by people who lived in the same town in Kentucky, but were from opposing sides in the war. The public is interested in history but maintaining that interest is an ongoing challenge.

Keywords: Civil War

Subjects: Civil war; United States--Civil War, 1861-1865

01:36:47 - Changing society's perceptions of history

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Partial Transcript: Do you think perhaps the, the changing American family, in terms of there being so many more single parent households instead of dual parent households and, and people moving more and not being associated with grandparents or storytellers as much as they were in the past, uh, has, has had inroads on people's attitude towards history?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter says that while families have changed, there are other opportunities for people to be exposed to history as a story.

Keywords: American families; Single parent families; Storytellers

Subjects: Families; Single-parent families; Storytellers

01:40:34 - Connections

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and then simply finding out and knowing about some of these connections, so you can able to find out more about them.

Segment Synopsis: Hearing stories helps listeners make connections, and these stories can be passed on through generations.

Keywords: History; Stories

Subjects: Kentucky--History

01:42:21 - The nature of creativity

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Partial Transcript: Um, as, as we mentioned before, I believe non-fiction as well as fiction can be written creatively.

Segment Synopsis: Klotter finds the nature and causes of creativity to be difficult to define.

Keywords: Creativity

Subjects: Creative ability

01:47:39 - Possible book topics

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Partial Transcript: Is there a book that you haven't re--yet written that you would particularly like to write?

Segment Synopsis: Klotter has a list of book topics that he would like to see written, if not write them himself. One book would discuss the idea of southern honor.

Keywords: Mt. Sterling (Ky.)

Subjects: Kentucky--History

GPS: Mt. Sterling (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.056667, -83.944444