Interview with William F. "Bill" Best, April 2, 1991
Project: Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project
Interview SummaryWilliam Best was born near Lake Junaluska in North Carolina and came to Berea College in 1954 as a student. He states that he wanted to become a teacher, but his "radical" teaching methods resulted in his failure to get a recommendation from the college. He explains that he objected to the "missionary attitude" of most of the teachers in the Appalachian region. In Best's opinion, this attitude, which was later demonstrated by the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs), denied the mountain people their culture and tried to make them "generic Americans." Best describes the book Yesterday's People by Jack Weller as an example of this mentality.
Due to his unusual methods, Best was offered a position with Operation Torchlight. He explains that this program was designed to prevent students from dropping out of high school and to encourage those who had quit school to go back. Best explains that he worked with Operation Torchlight for three years and then went to work for Upward Bound.
Best gives his opinion on the Appalachian Volunteers, who he describes as vulgar and "shabby." Best believes that they came to the mountains to justify their own upper middle class position. Best believes that the AVs were unsuccessful because they did not have any desire to learn about the Appalachian culture, and they thought that the mountain people could not solve their own problems.
Best views the demise of the AVs as a result of their attitudes which eventually alienated not only the power structure, but also the mountaineers themselves. Moreover, their presence delayed indigenous Appalachian reform movements, and caused many to turn away from reform in the 1960s.
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Interview UsageInterviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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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Best, William F. Interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. 02 Apr. 1991. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Best, W.F. (1991, April 02). Interview by T. Kiffmeyer. Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Best, William F., interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. April 02, 1991, Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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