Interview with Tom Parrish, April 1, 1991

Project: Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Tom Parrish, a native of Richmond, Kentucky, describes how he first became involved in the Council of the Southern Mountains (CSM). Parrish graduated from the University of Chicago and worked in the publishing business in Chicago and New York before returning to Madison County, Kentucky. The Council of the Southern Mountains contacted Parrish about joining their organization. Parrish explains that he had been interested in doing community service work and decided to join CSM as a writer and public relations professional.

Parrish describes one of his first responsibilities, which was publishing Jack Weller's Yesterday's People. This book, according to Parrish, was used as a "field manual" by the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs) and VISTAS (Volunteers In Service To America). Parrish describes other informational pamphlets published by the Council in conjunction with Ike Vanderpool's education efforts. Parrish recalls the CSM at this time as a "federation" of committees, each with its own agenda and philosophy.

Parrish describes the early efforts of the AVs which included passing out food and vitamins and winterizing schools. Parrish states that most mountaineers were ambivalent toward these efforts. On the same note, Parrish explains that although community action efforts were admirable and did indeed awaken the people's consciousness, they were mostly ineffective. Parrish also discusses the Economic Opportunity Act, which he describes as a "mental" or "psychological" act which did more to motivate people to solve their problems than to transfer funds or build infrastructure. He also feels that the Appalachian Regional Commission was an economic measure.

Parrish discusses the split between the AVs and CSM, and believes that the cause of the split was based on personality differences and not a difference of ideas. Looking back, Parrish believes that some of the short-term goals of the Council were realized, but that the federal effort was grossly under-funded. He describes the lasting legacy of the War on Poverty as the consciousness that was raised in the 1960s and is still alive today.

Interview Accession

1991oh088_app305

Interviewee Name

Tom Parrish

Interviewer Name

Thomas Kiffmeyer

Interview Date

1991-04-01

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.

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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.

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Parrish, Tom Interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. 01 Apr. 1991. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Parrish, T. (1991, April 01). Interview by T. Kiffmeyer. Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Parrish, Tom, interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. April 01, 1991, Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7wst7dt97j