1977 Photo of Attorney Jack Kerhaw, Special Investigator Gary Revel and James Earl Ray
Photographer: Mary Noel, inside Brushy Mountain Prison
Born in Missouri and growing up in Tennessee would not stop Jack from making a splash in the world in ways few would have expected. His majors of geology, history and art were a simple foundation on which he built a law degree and a law practice that would eventually represent the accused assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., James Earl Ray.
‘The Fugitive Poets’ was a group of students he got involved with that became a powerful addition to the literary fabric of America. They published ‘The Fugitive’, one of the most influential publications in the history of American letters. One of Jack’s peers in the group, Robert Warren Penn, would later write ‘All The King’s Men’ as well as over 50 other significant literary works. Among his many achievements was the position of Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
Another of his Fugitive associates, John Crowe Ransom not only was the founding force behind ‘The Fugitives’ but also helped found the school of literary criticism, ‘New Criticism’. The 1941 volume of essays ‘The New Criticism’ began the American literary thought of criticism based on the text of literature rather than extraneous information. One of his works, a collection of essays first published in the Kenyon Review was subsequently published in 1972. He served as a Senior Fellow of the Kenyon School of English and subsequently as a Senior Fellow of the Indiana School of Letters.
The American poet, essayist and social commentator John Orley Allen Tate was another friend and associate of Jack Kershaw and would also become a Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
The poet/psychiatrist Merrill Moore was also a peer of Jack Kershaw. Merrill the poet was a prolific sonnet writer as well as a bit of an activist psychiatrist during WWII. He had the distinction also of being, for a short period of time, the medical doctor caring for Chiang Kai-Shek, the Nationalist Chinese Supremo, and Generalissimo.
Donald Davidson, poet and historian, was no less remarkable than any of the other friends and associates of Jack Kershaw. He would not only write poetry and prose but also write one of the most influential textbooks for English courses in American colleges, American Composition and Rhetoric.
Laura Riding was one of the few ‘Fugitives’ not a peer or colleague from Vanderbilt. She gained her status through her association with Allen Tate. Nonetheless her poetry, much of it free verse, made its distinctive mark in the ‘The Fugitive’ publication.
The novelist, poet and journalist William Ridley Wills was another ‘Fugitive’ that demands recognition for being in that class of intellectuals along with Jack Kershaw. The novels ‘Hoax’ and ‘Harvey Landrum’stand alongside his poetry and work as a journalist.
Another ‘Fugitive’ Cleanth Brooks revolutionized the teaching of poetry in America with the publication of his ‘The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry’. Besides being most prominent in ‘New Criticism’ he also was the driving force behind the structure and doctrine of ‘Formalist Criticism – the interior life of a poem’. Among his other most influential textbooks were: An Approach to Literature, Understanding Poetry, Understanding Fiction, Modern Rhetoric and Understanding Drama.
American novelist, dramatist, essayist and professor of literature Andrew Lytle was not only a friend and associate of Jack Kershaw via ‘The Fugitives’ but he was also the first cousin of Jack’s wife, Mary Noel. On a side note my daughter Mary was named Mary Noel Revel due to the support and encouragement I received from Mary Noel-Kershaw during the years I worked with her and Jack in the 1970s. ‘The Velvet Horn’ is considered one of Lytle’s best works but his biography of General Nathan Bedford Forrest: ‘Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company’ and his ‘A Wake for the Living’ was also important works of American Literature.
There are other ‘Fugitives’ who most certainly deserve recognition but this writing is more about the man and the legend, Jack Kershaw. He was a leader as shown by his role of quarterback in one of the first professional football teams in our nation formed in Nashville Tennessee in the late 1930s. He later became a publisher and published the book, ‘The Stringbean Murders’ about the killing of Stringbean (David Akeman) and Stringbean’s wife Estelle. His works of art have received little attention but deserve to be recognized as the great works of abstract and the surreal that they are. His sculptor of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joan of Arc are absolutely stunning and giants in their fields. He led the way in helping many understand how the US Government had perpetrated a fraud on the American people with the House Select Committee on Assassinations. As all insightful students of government committees know now, the HSCA was not interested in investigating the assassinations of JFK and MLK for the purpose of finding the real killers but only for the purpose of continuing the cover-up of the actual crimes.
My friend and associate Jack Kershaw is dead. I miss not being able to pick up the phone and hear his gravely old voice on the other end. He tried to bring civility to our nation in many different ways and often was misunderstood in those attempts but alas, he helped me understand a great deal about patience and understanding, so in my case he succeeded. If you get a chance to see any of his paintings or sculptors take a minute to try to feel the spirit of the man that truly loved and shared his best with the world at large.
Jack Kershaw’s General Nathan Bedford Forrest Equestrian Statue at Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial Park is juxtaposed to his Joan of Arc Statue but both were sculpted by Jack.
The statues, both over 20 feet tall represent two most certainly different and controversial ideologies but each stands on it’s own right to exist and make it’s individual statement on it’s historical significance. Some have said the the Forrest statue is a blemish on the State of Tennessee because it brings back to remembrance Tennessee’s participation in the Confederacy.
Jack didn’t have a mean bone in his body but to hear some tell it you’d think he was out to send us back to the slave-trading era.
The 25 foot tall General Forrest Statue which is one of the tallest equestrian statues if not the tallest in the world can be found between the Old Hickory Boulevard and Harding Place exits on I-65 outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
The Joan of Arc statue which is also about 25 foot tall is still in Jack’s studio where he is preparing her for her presentation to the world. Her place of rest has not been decided on yet but the French have their eyes on her; oh, come to think of it there is a lady statue here in this country that has some connection to France too. It is the Statue of Liberty which represents what this country is about, the liberty to sculpt and display statues; even controversial ones.
Copyright 2010 by Gary Revel