Interview with Samuel Elliott Halpern, March 30, 2015

Project: Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Samuel Elliot Halpern was born in Georgetown, Kentucky in 1939 to a Jewish tobacco sharecropping family. Sam’s early life was characterized by experiences of fishing and hunting on his family’s farms and working long, grueling days in the fields. While the life of a sharecropper was not usually viewed as being comfortable, Sam describes his experience as having no knowledge of the fact that his family was poor and believing that they were middle-class and no different from their Christian counterparts. Sam then goes on to describe his parents’ immigration from Lithuania to New York and his family’s lack of involvement in the Jewish community in Kentucky. Sam also describes his educational path which begins with his enrollment at the University of Kentucky in 1953, then medical school at the University of Louisville from 1957 to 1961, and finally his career as a professor at the University of California at San Diego from 1970 to 2009. Upon retiring from teaching, Sam revisited a writing project he began in the late 1960’s and decided to finish the story which became A Far Piece to Canaan, a novel that is a fictional representation of his life and experiences as a white, Jewish sharecropper in Kentucky. Finally, Sam reflects on his son’s viral Twitter feed, “Sh*t My Dad Says”, which is comprised of words of wisdom shared by Sam to his son over the years. The Twitter feed was so popular that it eventually landed Sam’s son a book deal and a sitcom which starred William Shatner, a fellow Kentuckian. The interview concludes with Sam sharing his views on humanity and the number of siblings he has.

Interview Accession

2015oh168_jk001

Interviewee Name

Samuel Elliott Halpern

Interviewer Name

Janice W. Fernheimer

Interview Date

2015-03-30

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Halpern, Samuel Elliott Interview by Janice W. Fernheimer. 30 Mar. 2015. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Halpern, S.E. (2015, March 30). Interview by J. W. Fernheimer. Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Halpern, Samuel Elliott, interview by Janice W. Fernheimer. March 30, 2015, Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt77d7959s78