William Stetson Kennedy (October 5, 1916-August 27, 2011) – An Appreciation by Anna Lomax Wood

As a child of seven, I remember Beluthahachee as an impenetrable tangle of trees and swamp with a packed earth clearing for the retired bus where Stetson Kennedy and his family were living when my mother came down to join his writer’s colony in 1952. But Stetson knew how to coax the good and the beautiful from this morass. He pulled up stumps and cypress knees until a little lake formed, attracting kindred spirits, as well as wildlife that roosted on and under the house he built out over the water. Though slight and soft-spoken, Stetson tackled the problems of the South, of his South, with the same spirit – fearlessly, directly, and with optimism. He did it with his pen, with wit and wile, and through folklore. Like all the great Southern writers, Stetson was steeped in folklore, but while for some, folklore put the seal of fate in the status quo, Stetson saw it as a way to turn things around. While abhorring racism, Stetson understood and wrote about the plight of poor white folk, who had been the butt of writers from William Walker Percy to William Faulkner. These were attitudes he shared with my father, Alan Lomax, a close friend of seventy-odd years. During my father’s final years, Stetson loyally made the drive to Tarpon Springs many times. At that point, Stetson couldn’t hear and my father had aphasia. Yet the two if them would sit for hours, laughing and talking, hatching plans for cultural equity and the brotherhood of man. Stetson swore they understood one another perfectly. He talked about setting up a retirement home in the Keys for social thinkers and kindred spirits. That was Stetson – compassionate, loving, full of surprises, up for anything. I loved him, and I will miss him terribly, but will not say goodbye.

Anna Lomax Wood, September 2011

Stetson Kennedy Site

Originally posted: September 21, 2011