Progress or decline?

It should be obvious that everyone in the nation—everyone in the world—benefits when Americans go to college. Americans have earned a reputation for inventiveness and technological advances. Are we ready to give that up?

From James Webb telescope

Back in the day, when the average U.S. worker did just fine with a high school education (or less), the few who went to college were easily subsidized by state taxes up to 80% of the cost. But as the world became increasingly technological, as science became multiple branches of study of everything from our genetic code to the finer points of interstellar rocketry, more and more young people wanted to know more than what high school could teach them.

Few among us want to go back to time when our food supply depended on a plow and a mule and day after day of unrelenting labor, when lights went out with sunset, when one out of every one hundred women died from childbirth. We may feel stressed with the pace of life, but we cannot turn back the tide of progress. The alternative to progress is stagnation, or at worst, destruction.

The United States is slipping behind other nations in the educational achievements of its young people. Rather than analyzing and correcting the reasons behind this decline, our elected leaders succumb to the easy way out which is to facilitate the transfer of tax dollars to private schools and relegate college funding to high-interest loans.

The reluctance, and in many cases the angry protests, of conservatives to support reduction of student loan debt is yet another example of the shortsightedness of this particular slice of our population. These same folks are eager to take advantage of the latest pharmaceuticals, the newest technology in cell phones and digital conveniences/entertainment, as if it all sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus. News flash: These and the many other advancements we enjoy every day are the result of people going to college.

Why would we want to strangle the future our young people can offer?

It could be that there’s a subconscious inclination among conservatives to dig in their heels and not go into that promising future. Maybe the reluctance to facilitate college education is a rejection of modern life and its collection of pros and cons, and instead nostalgia for a long-lost past where completing 8th grade was the biggest accomplishment anyone could expect. That wasn’t so long ago, back when most families lived on a farm and grew most of their own food, when telephones and electricity didn’t exist. But not even the most radical conservative is ready to give up the morning shower, or their cell phone, or the motor vehicle that takes them wherever they want to go.

Progress means finding solutions to problems large and small, problems like Covid 19 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus that so far has left a million Americans dead. In less than a year, our college grads developed a vaccine that provides protection from death and, in most cases, protection from infection, by this virus. Are we ready to give up that kind of science?

The U. S. has to choose whether to continue to lag behind other nations in supporting the education of its young. President Biden and Democrats in general have supported this modest reduction of student loan debt. But over half of student loans will remain to be paid, racking up compound interest that increases the amount owed faster than payments can be made.

It’s a rigged system. Student loans, unlike any other loan, cannot be written off in a bankruptcy, so even when illness or other tragedies of life crash down on a person’s shoulders, those student loans still must be paid. The cost of higher education continues to increase as colleges try to accommodate the loss of state funding while still providing the advanced education students need.

Higher education is the path to future successes for our nation, not only in medicine but in every other aspect of our civilization. Our supply of food and water will increasingly depend on how well we can mitigate the damage caused by climate change. Our health depends on our ability to stave off more exotic viruses. We need to know more about the causes of diseases like cancer, tuberculosis and Alzheimer’s. When we encourage the pursuit of higher education, we not only address future needs for food and medicine, but also provide for an endless advancement of every aspect of human existence.

We need to move our thinking away from the idea that college is ‘extra.’ While we will always need workers skilled in certain trades that are better taught through vocational schools and apprenticeship, increasingly we need people who can program software, refine microchips, and analyze the human genome. And never forget the thousands of college graduates we rely on every day: doctors and dentists, lawyers and judges, engineers and architects, chemists and researchers, managers and accountants, historians and diplomats, psychologists and psychiatrists, and teachers—to name a few.

It is past time for our educational system to provide affordable college education. One way or the other, a student’s cost for college has to return to a reasonable amount—if not free. States need to shoulder more of the burden, as they did before Reaganomics took effect. Lenders for student loans need to be limited to a one-time charge of interest. Colleges need to find ways to reduce costs.

We face a national emergency in education. Public school teachers need much better pay. Taxpayer funds must never be diverted to private schools which don’t have to accommodate special needs students or which promulgate narrow belief systems. As long as our brightest minds are handicapped by the cost of college education, our nation suffers.

The proud image of our nation, which conservatives love to flag-wave about, is not only about those hardworking linemen, farmers, plumbers and other ‘blue-collar’ jobs, but also about the college grads who figured out how to engineer a tractor that can be operated from an air-conditioned cab while pulling a ten-row cultivator, or who calculated the weight and conductivity of wires to carry our power grid, or who invented flex lines and connector glue to replace labor/cost-intensive copper pipe fittings. It takes all of us.

Bailout or Investment? Student loan debt

It’s not a student’s fault that the government shifted student loans over to private lenders who started increasing the interest rates on the loans. It’s also beyond a student’s power to determine what college costs. In 1980, the price to attend a four-year college full-time was $10,231 annually—including tuition, fees, room and board, and adjusted for inflation—according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2019-20, the total price increased to $28,775. That’s a 180% increase.

Needless to say, the income to be earned with the degree did not also increase by 180%.

Tuition prices alone increased 36% from 2008 to 2018, while the real median income in the U.S. grew just over 2.1% in the same period, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Zane Heflin, policy analyst at The New Center and author of the report titled “The New American Dream: Alleviating the Student Debt Crisis,” says the ramifications of the 2008 Great Recession are still hitting the higher education world, and students are paying the price.

“The two main drivers of the rising cost of tuition are reduced state funding and the incentive for tuition raises as an unrestricted revenue to benefit colleges,” meaning colleges can choose to spend tuition money however they wish, Heflin says. “States and local communities are spending less per student. Someone has to take on that cost, and unfortunately it’s been the student.”[1]

2019 report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points to cuts in statewide higher education funding for the rapid tuition increase in the last decade.

“Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the school year ending in 2018 was more than $6.6 billion below what it was in 2008 just before the Great Recession fully took hold, after adjusting for inflation,” the report reads. “In the most difficult years after the recession, colleges responded to significant funding cuts by increasing tuition, reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses.”[2]

One way or the other, all of us will pay for this outrageous increase in costs for college. One way we’ll pay is to not have access to physicians, dentists, engineers, architects, therapists and counselors, school teachers (happening now), and other professionals who learn what they must know by going to college.

Don’t want to subsidize college education? Schedule an appointment with your friendly plumber for your next dental care.

A second way to address this issue would be for those professionals to charge a lot more when you obtain their services. If you think medical care or attorneys’ fees are high now, just wait until the cost of college means fewer professionals available for your needs AND the higher costs the remaining professionals will charge you.

A third route to address student debt is for policy makers to move past partisan bickering to formulate realistic policy changes regarding higher education. One option would be to remove interest from student loans, or fix it at a very low rate, in order to reduce the cost. It is absurd to allow higher education debt to exist in a marketplace alongside, for example, consumer debt. The need for a new car or a vacation in the Bahamas is far less a priority than the societal need for medical science researchers.

Another option for policymakers would be to reformulate the Pell grant program, expanding the amounts it provides to a more realistic total and allowing the grants to cover graduate school. Perhaps even more critical is the need for government to control the interest rates on student loans. Interest on graduate loans are higher than on undergraduate loans, yet a growing majority of jobs—public school teachers, for example—demand a master’s degree plus regular continuing education credits. Currently, unsubsidized loans for graduate students have a 6.54% interest rate (for the 2022-2023 academic year), while undergraduate students get a 4.99% rate on both unsubsidized and subsidized loans. 

The topic again brings up the comparison between the United States and other nations which provide free college. Even India provides free higher education.

But even if compromise is the only way forward, the U. S. needs to develop a plan that does not bury the poorest students in debt. Sliding scale tuition is one idea. There are already Pell Grants, which provide some money for poor students toward the costs of higher education, and expanding those grants to apply to a broader need is a good point to consider. After decades of providing free college, Britain has taken this approach with policies where “students pick up the bill for, on average, around 65 percent of the cost of the education they receive, with taxpayers plugging the gap. More students are enrolled than ever before and those students benefit from more per student funding than the generations that paid nothing for college.” [3] 

 According to a recent article at online magazine The Best Schools:

“Why is college so expensive? There are a lot of reasons — growing demand, rising financial aid, lower state funding, the exploding cost of administrators, bloated student amenities packages. The most expensive colleges — Columbia, Vassar, Duke — will run you well over $50K a year just for tuition. That doesn’t even include housing!

“…Administrative costs: These costs account for roughly $23,000 per student every year. This is double the amount that Finland, Sweden or Germany — all boasting top-performing education cultures — spend on the same essentials.

“[Yet] professor salaries have barely budged since 1970. According to the New York Times, “salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.”

“By contrast, ‘According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.’ The New York Times uses the massive California State University system as a case example, noting that between 1975 and 2008, the number of faculty grew from 11,614 to 12,019. By quite a sharp contrast, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183. That’s a 221% increase.”

These increases are driven by greater demand. As society advances with more technological change, fewer jobs are available to those who do not have a college education. Yes, vocational training and trade schools are important, and those programs should be respected and made available as early as high school. In many states, trades like carpentry and electricians are part of apprenticeship programs subsidized and integrated with unions. Right-to-work states suffer the loss.

Finally, it is incumbent on loan and grant programs as well as colleges and universities to ensure that borrowing students receive clear information about their debt. Many financial aid counselors, especially in public universities, fail miserably in providing necessary information as well as making sure that students have a real-world understanding of the debt they’re incurring.

As summarized in Prudential’s Student Loan Debt: Implications on Financial and Emotional Wellness, there is a wholesale lack of understanding of college loan debt among students and graduates: Many student borrowers—53 percent—didn’t know their future monthly repayment amounts. Most—74 percent—were unsure of how long they would be making payments, and 25 percent had no idea whether they had private or government loans.                                                                                                              

Those who are outraged by the idea of student debt forgiveness might take some initiative here to help solve the problem. It will take all of us thinking and contributing to the dialogue in order to best serve the future needs of our nation.

Research has drawn a correlation between education level and living longer, as well as indicating that individuals with a college degree tend to be healthier and happier. Other benefits accrue as well. https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/utepconnect/blog/march-2019/the-hidden-benefits-of-earning-a-college-degree.html

[1] https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2019-11-04/why-is-college-so-expensive

[2] https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/why-is-college-expensive/

[3] https://reason.com/2019/08/22/democrats-love-to-promise-free-college-but-why-did-u-k-recently-started-charging-tuition/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/the-real-reason-college-tuition-costs-so-much.html

His Inner Search

Furthur is a 1939 International Harvester school bus purchased by author Ken Kesey in 1964 to carry his “Merry Band of Pranksters” cross-country, filming their counterculture adventures as they went. The bus featured prominently in Tom Wolfe‘s 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test but, due to the chaos of the trip and editing difficulties, footage of the journey was not released as a film until the 2011 documentary Magic Trip.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an exodus from the cities brought hundreds of new settlers to the Arkansas Ozarks. Their personal stories are testaments to an awakening shared by many of the Baby Boom generation, personal and communal. This interview is one of 32 personal stories gathered in 1999-2000, and published in Aquarian Revolution: Back to the Land.

I didn’t like the way I was treated as a kid. I was beaten regularly. I don’t think I’ve cried since I was seven years old, because if I cried, they would beat me with a leather strap until I stopped crying. I had a bleeding ulcer from age twelve until it healed up after I left home right before my eighteenth birthday. I had a shrink and a probation officer trying to get me out of my house legally.

I ran away at thirteen and was involved with a stolen car. I remember when we ditched the car, this other kid I was with, he was fifteen, big kid. We were on our way to pick up some fake plates and police chased us because they recognized him so we dumped the car. We jumped out of the car doing about 45 mph, leaving my guitar case and suitcase with birth certificate, everything telling them who I was, and we ran, picked up a third guy, jumped on a bus to Baltimore, blew all the money we had, started hitchhiking. We were on our way to California. The police picked us up at two a.m. on the highway. I never gave them my name. I was planning on breaking out of jail.  I can remember when I was riding that bus, I was thinking about my parents and how much I loved them, but I just couldn’t stand to live with them.

That was about the time I started getting high. A lot of things were about to break then, one way or another. It was either going to come out of me in violence, or… I think I found a channel to do it naturally and just chill out. Just reach in. 

They made me see a shrink when I was thirteen because of the stolen car. He said I was afraid to express myself with my dad and that’s why, if anybody crossed me, I’d be right on them. After thirteen, I was getting into a lot of trouble. I was a practical joker who did things I probably shouldn’t have been doing, but I did it with a smile. I had my destructive period. One night three of us smashed a car that was parked alongside the road. We used sticks and rocks and beat it in. Totaled it. Those were heavy years.

I think it was being able to smoke that pulled me out of it. My friends were mostly tough guys, had attitudes. By the time I was seventeen, I had started to drift off with the ones who didn’t.  I remember violence on TV, violence was everywhere. It was either protests or Vietnam. At sixteen, if anyone defied me, I would be down their throat in a second. One time a teacher put me in the front seat of the class, wouldn’t let me sleep. I was, man, you won’t let me sleep, what kind of a deal is this? I might have been getting a D at that point, but I didn’t care about that class. He put me in the front seat, banged my shoulder or something, made me wake up and started talking to me, I told him to leave me alone and he did something else to irritate me, and I jumped out of my seat, grabbed him by the lapels, dragged him across his desk, and smashed him into the blackboard in front of the whole class, and said “Leave me the fuck alone.” So of course they threw me out of school instantly.

That was my attitude with anybody. People would come to me from the grade ahead, bigger kids than me, and say hey, this guy’s doing this and that, and I’d go confront him. And I wouldn’t just confront him and intimidate him with anger, I’d put it into words. I’d say something to them that they couldn’t argue with. I didn’t want to argue with anybody, but if you’re going to argue with me, stand back or get out of the way, save yourself. My dad didn’t think I was a man because I wouldn’t be angry with him and fight back. Yet I’d go out and fight and do all this.

Coming out of that, I started being friends with all the teachers I had given trouble. My shrink might have been talking with my parents then. I had two shrinks, one my mother took me to and one that came to my school once a month. I had a probation officer, too. First time I went to the shrink, I sat to talk to him, and he said, ok. Then I went out and he talked to my mom. I come back in and sit down and he looked at me and said, K–, I cannot talk to your mom.

She was so headstrong. You did as she said or whack, or twist your ear. Most of my physical abuse was from my mom. It reached a point with my mom that I was more verbal. By the time I was ten or so, my mom didn’t scare me.

I ended up getting married my senior year. I was moving out. I’d run away another time, it was the third time. It wasn’t like running away. I was walking back and forth with my clothes, patting my mom on the back, saying it’s ok Mrs. C–, it’s ok.  I was outta there. My wife’s parents took me in. The probation people were trying to get me out of my house before I was eighteen, if I could find somebody. They knew that anything was better than where I was. As hard as I might have been trying, chilling out, it was hard pretty much to the end.

Finally, I argued back with my dad and that was it. I made a quick exit because he just wanted to knock my block off. I think that changed him. He kind of stopped by the time I was seventeen, eighteen, when I was working for his business doing electrical. …

~~~

Now retired from a successful self-employed career, the subject of this interview moved to Hawaii where he has opened a meditation retreat. Read the rest of his compelling story, available for only $4.99 (ebook) or $11.32 (paperback), at Amazon

Putin’s Coup

Abortion has been, and continues to be, a vital weapon in the Republican toolbox, a means to gain control over a multitude of less savory objectives. With this hot button, they have been able to whip up energy within their ranks. Over the last fifty years, a growing mob of zealots have taken to the streets and the halls of government with placards showing the pitiful fetus so wronged by evil women and their fiendish abortion doctors.

The truth is that the flap over abortion was never as much about the ‘unborn baby’ as it was about political capital. Powerbrokers saw right away that this issue aroused emotion like nothing else. Yet what the Republican Party stood for, then as now, also enshrined racial prejudice, but it had become impossible to openly advocate for white supremacy.

The mass migration of voters from Democratic ranks to the shelter of the Republican Party began not with Roe v Wade, but with the 1952 Brown vs Board of Education decision and followed more decisively with the Kennedy-Johnson push for civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The Act prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs. It also strengthened the enforcement of voting rights and the desegregation of schools.

Police dogs, held by officers, jump at a man with torn trousers during a non-violent demonstration, Birmingham, Alabama, May 3, 1963. Police officers used both dogs and firehoses to break up the rally.

After the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white, conservative Southern Democrats became Republicans. The South had been mostly Democratic before 1964; it was mostly Republican after (although on the local level continued to be heavily Democratic for decades). Many “values voters” became Republicans.[1]

The 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion did not have nearly the same impact as the Civil Rights Act as far as political response. For a time, other issues sidetracked voter attention, such as the winding down of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal that shoved Nixon out of office. The Arab oil embargo also diverted public interest with skyrocketing gasoline prices. In reality, the behind-the-scene Republican strategists were slow in coming around to a full understanding of how to use the abortion issue to represent the real interests of conservatives.

Early in Reagan’s presidency, developing tactics on the abortion issue spread through the nation in the hands of then-fledgling evangelical groups wielding signage of dismembered fetuses (remarkably mature for the gestation dates named) and demonstrations by women crying for the lost babies or, more heart-rendering, testimonials by women who had obtained abortions and later regretted it. (This vanishingly small group remains an active feature of anti-choice campaigns. One could sum up their position as yet another demonstration of ignorance.)

At first, Democrats yielded ground on the matter, not firmly convinced enough about women’s right to bodily autonomy to take a firm stand. Lamentably lacking in early opposition to the anti-abortion crowd were strategies to fight back with their own weaponry, for example, citing Biblical scriptures showing that personhood began at birth.

After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.[2]

Democrats have finally taken a stronger stance on the topic, linking the party to “their support of ‘human rights’ and of groups whose rights have been long suppressed – African Americans and other minority groups, women seeking to vote and enjoy full property rights, LGBTQ people and immigrants.”[3]

To Republicans, the abortion issue is a coded message about the party’s stance on longstanding prejudices, not only uppity women but also African Americans and other minorities, LBGTQ people, and non-white immigrants. Without having to advertise racism or other prejudices, Republican strategists can push voters to champion the rights of the fetus while avoiding the party’s full agenda.

It is not the facts of an issue which drive evangelical voters. As a general rule, evangelicals don’t embrace facts. Their hands are full of Bibles, which they don’t precisely understand, but they do hear what preachers tell them. What the preachers tell them is intended not to elucidate the facts but rather to stoke FEAR of God’s wrath. And, in these narrow hallways of evangelical mentality, God will punish them if they don’t stop women from killing fetuses.

It’s not that evangelist preachers are pursuing a goal they understand in terms of social policy. Their vehement sermons about abortion and their endorsement of specific political candidates derive from their urgent personal desire to make money off of Jesus. Evangelicals are an easy mark. See, for example, the fundraising headline at Focus on the Family’s website: “SAVE 2X THE BABIES FROM ABORTION!  Double Your Gift to Save Lives!”

The more insidious objective of the Republican agenda is to continue shifting power to corporations and the super wealthy while the frontmen lure evangelical voters with the promise of a Christian nation. Sadly, evangelicals lack any understanding of the threat posed in religion as government, a condition that increases exponentially as more private religious schools and homeschooling take the place of public education.

Remedies for the current crisis would include regulations that deny diplomas to any student, homeschooled or otherwise, who cannot pass examinations proving understanding of American history and government, among other subjects required of public school students. If U. S. citizens cannot begin adulthood on the same page, we have no hope of continuing as a nation.

One thing such an education would ensure is the awareness that the Republican/evangelical drive toward a Christian nation is a form of sedition, “an overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or insurrection against, established authority.”

Vladimir Putin personally authorized a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/kremlin-papers-appear-to-show-putins-plot-to-put-trump-in-white-house

Equally tragic is while Republican power brokers chortle over wins for the One Percent, they have failed to recognize the puppet master profiting from their maneuvers: Putin.

Trump’s victory lap over the demise of Roe v Wade unveils one of the subtle purposes of Vladimir Putin’s support. The Russian ploy to undermine U.S. society gained a witless ally in Trump, who pulled his best con job in his election to the presidency, aided and abetted by the machinations of Russian interference.

What has now been made clear is that Russian trolls and automated bots not only promoted explicitly pro-Donald Trump messaging, but also used social media to sow social divisions in America by stoking disagreement and division around a plethora of controversial topics such as immigration and Islamophobia.

The overarching goal for Russia, during the election and now, analysts say, is to expand and exploit divisions, attacking the American social fabric where it is most vulnerable, along lines of race, gender, class and creed.

“The broader Russian strategy is pretty clearly about destabilizing the country by focusing on and amplifying existing divisions, rather than supporting any one political party,” said Jonathon Morgan, a former state department adviser on digital responses to terrorism whose company, New Knowledge, analyzes the manipulation of public discourse.[4]

Russia’s desired outcome in the months before Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was not simply to see him elected. It aimed, instead, to more broadly “undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” (in the words of a January 2017 intelligence assessment), an effort that Russia believed would be aided far more by Trump’s election than Hillary Clinton’s. This overlapped with its desire to “provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States” (in the words of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III), leading it to weigh in not only on electoral politics but cultural fights — investing in amplifying and exacerbating contentious social debates.[5]


[1] https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_realignment_in_the_United_States

[2] Also Job 33:4: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Ezekiel 37:5, 6: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones:   Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.   And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Exodus 21:22: If a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine; it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense.

[3] https://www.npr.org/2022/05/08/1097118409/the-leaked-abortion-decision-blew-up-overnight-in-1973-roe-had-a-longer-fuse

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/14/russia-us-politics-social-media-facebook

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/24/bump-russia-american-unity-undermined/

The Campbells, Part VI – The Children of William and Melinda Campbell

This is the final chapter of the Campbell Family History to be presented here. Subsequent family tree information can be found in my book, A Crime Unfit To Be Named: The Prosecution of John William Campbell. The ‘crime’ involved consensual sexual activity and sent a 72-year-old man to state prison.

John Randolph Campbell

John Randolph Campbell, holding a Bible, believed in his late 20s circa 1875-1880

Records of John Randolph’s birth name a birth year of 1853, although various other records show conflicting dates. A church record states that he was born December 24, 1853, in Independence County, Arkansas. In 1873 at age 19, he married Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Prince at Sulphur Rock, Independence County, Arkansas. She was his second cousin once removed.

Miss Prince was born September 1849 in Tennessee, daughter of William Prince and Martha Lamberson.  This Lamberson is related to John’s mother’s family: Melinda was her first cousin once removed. William J. Prince was born 1813 in Georgia, and died during the Civil War in Independence County, Arkansas, as did his wife Martha Lamberson Prince, born 1825 in North Carolina. Sarah Sally’s siblings were William H., b 1842 TN (CSA AR 8th Inf. Co. E, enrolled August 6, 1862 at Sulphur Rock, AR, between Newark and Batesville); Mary A., born 1847 TN (married James Scott); Virginia b 1850 MS; James Ferdinand b 1852 AR; Martha Jane b 1857 AR (married George Hill 1872; David Bruton 1879);  John T. b 1858 AR; Tennessee “Babe” b 1860 (raised by Mary, married Riley Whaley).

Birth records for the couple’s sixth child, Benjamin, dated 1888, states that John age 38 was a farmer and preacher, born at Newark Arkansas, and that Sarah age 40 was born in Mississippi.

John Randolph Campbell and his new wife Sally produced the following children:

i. Emma Campbell b. 1874, Newton Co., AR, d. 1888 of rheumatic fever at age fourteen

ii. Mary Molly Campbell b 1876, m. Frank Pratt(s). Children were Mabel m. Fred Albert; Lizzie m. John Hilburn; Beulah; Pierce; Lennox; Urcil “Huck”; Margie; Nettie (died).

iii. John William Campbell, b 1878, m. Mary Jane Ellis. John William is the great-great grandfather of my three Campbell children.

iv. Jack O’Neil, b. Dec 25, 1882 at Newark, Indep. Co, AR, d. Apr 14, 1960, Newport, married July 19, 1903 to Emma Bell Hicks and produced Lennie Mae, Bertha, Commie O’Neal, Rutha Lee, and Opal Christine.  Jack then married Donnie Inness and produced another eight children: Edna Irene, Burl Nathaniel, Aubrey Evereett, Almeta Beatrice, Leeaun Utah, J. C., Alvin Newton, and Thelma Joyce.

v.  James Campbell b 1880, m. Mary Willis. Children were Dallas, Nanny, and another daughter.

vi. Clu Campbell, died at age 9 – not found in family birth records

vii. Benjamin Harvey Campbell, b June 14, 1888, Pleasant Plains, Indep. Co AR, d. Nov 19, 1966, Newport, Jackson Co, AR. married Willie Hicks, married Ocra Ellen Tibbs, and their children were Eva Jewell and Clemins Alvin. He then married Helen Carmen “Nell” Yancy, and produced Vesta Lola, Virginia Vivian, Mather Carnell, Veda Lee, Milous Harvey, and Benjamin Morris.

The 1880 Newton County Arkansas census for Jackson Township lists John Campbell age 26 with wife Sarah age 25, with children Emma age 6, Mary age 4, John age 2, and James six months. John’s occupation was farming.

John Randolph and Sarah Prince Campbell, circa 1900

The 1900 census for Fairview Township, Newton County (?) lists John R. Campbell age 46 as a mail carrier, land owner with a mortgage, married 27 years to Sarah, age 50, with seven children of which five were living.  Jackson, age 17, was a hack driver, and Harvey age 13 was a farm laborer. They housed a lodger named William Hicks. The 1920 census for Jackson County Arkansas, Richwoods Township, finds John R. Campbell age 67 and Sarah A. age 72 living in a rented home, with his occupation described as clergyman and evangelist.  The 1930 census for Amagon (Richwoods Twp) lists John R. age 80 and Sarah age 84 living in a rented home without occupation.

John Randolph was about five-nine at 185 pounds, although in older age he became “heavy set.” He worked as an itinerant preacher, following the Church of Christ denomination. “On September 29, 1895, John R. Campbell was authorized to work as an evangelist by the “Disciples of Christ, worshiping at Surrounded Hill Arkansas.” In 1889, he was ordained as a preacher by E. M Kilpatrick, and J. L. Kitridge, Clerk for Tex-Ark & Indian Territory: Credentials, page 32.

This poor quality image shows John Randolph in the process of baptizing a convert, date unknown.

According to one descendant, “John Randolph used to preach near Bradford [Arkansas] at least once a month; Aunt Nell [wife of Benjamin Harvey] remembers hearing him preach in 1914 near Swifton … said his name was Campbell and he was a Campbellite preacher. In 1917 he lived in the Pennington community and preached at different places. He received very little money as payment, mostly fresh vegetables, canned food, and some meats. Aunt Nell said she overheard some older women talking about the time he received a large handkerchief and two week’s board for holding a meeting. He preached some at Amagon and went to church barefoot … services were held in the schoolhouse.”

John Randolph and Sally, date and location unknown

He also rented farms to grow cotton and he traded horses and any other item of value. When his third child John William and family settled in Fayetteville after 1918, John Randolph and Sarah joined them, living first at John William’s store at the corner of Rock and Mill, then on Frisco Street and finally on the south side of Spring Street in the four hundred block before moving back to east Arkansas. His grandson John Carl later recollected that he drove an old Overland Blue Bird.

Overland Blue Bird

One descendant stated that “John R. Campbell was a preacher. He was really a corker. Pulled some pretty good stunts. Think he drank a lot.”  It was said by his grandson Zack that there were only two places that John Randolph would drink home brew, and that was “on this side of the Bible and on the other side.” His wife Sally dipped snuff, and sometimes smoked a cob pipe. Sally’s daughter-in-law (Mary Jane Ellis) stated that the Prince women were known to have “woods colts,” a euphemism for illegitimate children. In old age, Sally suffered a “dowager’s hump,” now known as osteoporosis. Sally and John Randolph both died in the Newport Arkansas area.

Mary Molly Campbell

Little is known about William and Melinda Campbell’s second child, Mary Molly. She is not listed in the 1860 census of Howell County Missouri. Later records show her spouse as John Willis Payne. Willis was born in 1854 in Kentucky, with both parents also born in Kentucky.

Willis and Mary Payne are found in the 1880 Newton County, Arkansas census, Jackson Township, at ages 25 and 26, respectively, evidence she was born in 1855 two years after John Randolph. Also in the household is her younger brother James, listed a ‘boarder.’

In a letter dated 1971 from Elizabeth Campbell Farmer, daughter of James “Jim” William Campbell, Elizabeth states: “Mary Payne is my papa’s (Jim Campbell) only sister. We called her Aunt Molly and she was married to Willis Payne.”

After 1880, Willis and Mary vanish from public records.

James William Campbell

James William Campbell with his first wife Nancy Jane Bell on his right and her half-sister and his second wife Eliza Lawson on his left, circa 1888. James holds a pistol in his hand.

At age 24, James married Nancy Jane Bell (age 19), daughter of William Levi and Nancy Busby Bell, September 18, 1882, in Newton County, Arkansas. This was two years after he was named as ‘boarder’ in the household of his sister Mary and brother-in-law Willis Payne. James and Nancy moved to Harrison (Boone County) Arkansas but in 1886 they moved back to Newton County where they settled in the Mt. Judea area (pronounced “Judy” by locals). There James dug wells and cisterns and built chimneys, as well as farming his land with cotton, corn, and small grains. He was a “great hand with a scythe and cradle and would get $1.00 per day for cutting wheat, a good wage for that time and more than most men were paid.” His son, Wesley A. Monroe, said they had “biscuits one to three times each day during the wheat harvest then cornbread three times a day for the rest of the year.”

He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1892 and remained in office for years. About the same time the family moved into a “box” house on land they homesteaded, a cause for celebration since most families lived in rough log cabins. In his capacity as JP, he married many couples and was said to shed tears during the ceremonies. He only went to school two days in his life, according to his descendants, but was a self-educated man. He taught school two summers – “Script” or conscript school. Each family paid one dollar for each child attending.

James and Nancy Jane Bell Campbell 1905, with children Dewey Floyd (between them) and Rosa on right

In the fall of the year, James would go away to pick cotton (probably in the river bottoms) and would take his wife’s handicapped half-sister Eliza Lawson as well as his older children. His wife Nancy Jane stayed home to care for the younger children and the homestead. It is said that James and Eliza lived as husband and wife during the cotton-picking trips.  Nancy spun thread and wove most the cloth used for their clothes, including coats. The pants and coats were made of half wool and half cotton, called “linsey-woolsey.” 

James also served in some capacity with the Spear Mining Company for their lead and zinc mine near Pendle. He was a school trustee for the board of education and helped to hire teachers. He was a “jack of all trades,” doctoring animals and people by setting broken limbs on splits that he whittled. He farmed and grew everything his family ate, including the livestock.

The eleven children of James and Nancy, as well as his child by Eliza Lawson and children by  Nancy Walls, his third wife, are not listed for sake of privacy.

Sarah E. Campbell

The 1860 census, taken July 19, gives Sarah’s age as one month. Thereafter, no record of her is found. Assumed she died in infancy.

~~~

And — as they say — so it goes.

Pussyfooted Justice

Slave Market in Ancient Rome, by Jean-Léon Gérôme

If Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett really stood up for their convictions on the abortion issue, they wouldn’t just shuffle the decision to the states. They’d completely overturn Roe v Wade.

Why didn’t they?

Because they AREN’T convinced they are right.

If bodily autonomy isn’t guaranteed for the entire nation, and states are the appropriate venue for giving or denying those rights, what’s next? Slavery?

After all, former Confederate states form the bulk of those states eager to strip women of bodily autonomy.

What is loss of bodily autonomy other than slavery?

But wait! Save those cogent arguments!

  • Fanatic evangelicals eager to sacrifice women on the altar to their angry misogynistic god will never change their minds.
  • Lawmakers eager to harvest the fruits of their fifty-year campaign to be elected by targeting women will never stop the manipulation.
  • Evangelical women eager to bow down to male authority in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives believe their salvation depends on submitting to authority, God and men.

These people do not have the intellectual capacity to reason through the facts. Whatever intellect they might naturally possess has been subverted by religious brainwashing.

Throughout the millennia, women have aborted unwanted pregnancies—or abandoned unwanted newborns to die. Their decisions have shaped the human race. Yes, evangelicals, even you are the result of selective breeding.

Evangelicals believe that overturning Roe will magically end abortions. They are willingly ignorant of the history.

What would it take to really stop abortion?

  • Monitor all women of childbearing age, every month, for pregnancy.
  • If they test positive, sequester them so they can’t grab a coat hanger. Keep them locked up until they give birth.
  • That means keeping them away from their jobs, their husbands, their children.
  • It means turning women into baby machines under the force of law.

In truth, it is not possible to stop abortion.

What is possible—and predictable—is that laws restricting abortion rights will cause women to suffer. Sterility and even death are often outcomes of back-alley abortions.

This is the Big Win for evangelicals. In religious teachings, God said women should suffer because Eve tempted Adam into falling for the apple. So why ease that suffering? God said.

Never mind that pathetic Adam couldn’t think for himself and Just Say No. That bitch used her sexuality to manipulate the poor guy into something he knew he shouldn’t do.

What could better ensure that God extends welcoming arms when the faithful reach those pearly gates than a record of supporting the punishment of women?

NEVER MIND the truth staring us in the face, the result of smug religious thoughtlessness: OVERPOPULATION.

The greater the world population, the greater the environmental damage. The higher our standard of living, the greater the environmental damage. Electricity, motor vehicles, chemical agriculture, waste disposal—already we see the oceans rise, thick with waste. Already we watch as climate change disrupts agriculture and water supply.

It’s not possible to maintain anywhere near our standard of living with the population projected to double in the next 80 years.

World population estimates from 1800 to 2100, based on “high”, “medium” and “low” United Nations projections in 2010 (colored red, orange and green) and US Census Bureau historical estimates (in black). Actual recorded population figures (as of 2010) are colored in blue. According to the highest estimate, the world population may rise to 16 billion by 2100; according to the lowest estimate, it may decline to 7.2 billion.

For decades, we’ve seen the increasingly negative results of overpopulation—people dying of starvation, the spread of disease, the expansion of desert into previously productive lands due to climate change as well as overuse of farming and grazing in marginal areas.

The evangelical solution: Teach them about Jesus. It’s in God’s hands.

No. It is in OUR hands.

We see the rush of people from marginal lands into areas of greater resources. From Africa into the Middle East, from the Middle East into Europe. From Central America and South America across our southern border.

The evangelical solution: Build a wall.

How long until the money runs out to care for the disabled, the elderly, the compromised? How long until schools are so crippled that they fail utterly? These are problems of OVERPOPULATION.

When the time comes, do we allow women to continue their ancient role of deciding who is born, or do we authorize the government to make those decisions? A government empowered to force birth is equally empowered to deny birth.

The evangelical fight to make the United States a “Christian” nation is nothing less than an attempt to overturn our government. The Founding Fathers were clear on this point, to keep religion OUT of government. Power to the people.

“The people have the power. All we have to do is awaken the power in the people.”
— John Lennon

The Old Student Union

You come in the south door, clamoring down the curve of steps that lead to the basement. Brushing past the expanse of tidy mailboxes on your right, you quickly jog down a couple more steps where you might turn left into the bookshop, mayhap to toss down a dime in payment for a blue book required for an exam in your next class, or just to roam the few aisles appreciating the scent of ink, reams of white paper, or a raft of sketching pencils. But truly, the quest is not here, but across the small lobby where large doors open into the room full of crowded tables, wonderful aromas of coffee and hamburgers, and the roar of chatter from a hundred voices. For me, this place more than any other embodies the reality of life on campus.

There, to the right, behind tall counters laden with coffee and iced tea urns, stand the women in white aprons and hairnets. They watch each student who approaches. At least two of them tend the grill, a massive flattop of well-worn steel burned black by the incessant demand for another hamburger, another fried egg. An endless task of scraping the surface clean with a large flat spatula occupies any spare moment. You watch as one of those women turns her attention to you, and you place your order, mouth already watering.

For a dollar and a quarter, manna from heaven in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich can be yours. You stand there and watch as she turns to her work, wielding a big floppy brush to spread melted butter onto two slices of bread before slapping it onto that grill. The bread quickly turns golden brown before being flipped over—more butter, more searing heat. Then cheese. Glorious marvelous wonderful cheese is added, and the two slices of bread marry it into a sanctified One.

Suffering a quick angled slice of razor-sharp knife to form two triangles, your bundle of deliciousness sails down the line under the supervision of successive women in white, passing the lighted refrigerated case where a person might choose a slice of cream pie, or a peeled egg, or perhaps a salad. But your eyes follow the rich ooze of cheese that rims the bread crust and threatens to inch onto the heavy white china plate. Along the way, a few slices of dill pickle are added along with a glass of iced tea. Finally the plate makes its way to the lady at the cash register and lands on a tray. You tender your cash and then you were standing there, peering through the roiling clouds of cigarette smoke in search of a place to sit.

Squinting toward the bright light pouring in through big windows and glass-paneled doors leading to the porch, you peruse the tables for someone you might know, or—futilely—for an unoccupied table. If fortune fails to smile, you wander through a door to the left of the cashier into the larger dining area where an empty table is more easily found. Or you might, weather permitting, ease out onto the big porch in search of that gang of friends who usually occupy one of the tables. Most desired is the first room with the grill where the bodies, the flattop and the mingled aromas of food generate more warmth than the building’s heat can supply.

Whatever the case, finally dragging out a chair and with the books, notebooks, and other encumbrances unloaded onto an adjacent chair, you lift the sandwich in trembling hand. With a last swallow of eager saliva, your teeth sink into the crisp-tender concoction that will nourish the rest of your afternoon. The bite of just-enough sharpness in the cheese contrasts with the buttery crunch of the toasted bread still hot from the stalwart grill, and the sandwich begins to disappear. The tang of dill clears the palate for the other half of the sandwich, and then, alas, it is gone.

There’s time yet to sip the iced tea. With a brief glance around, you might leave your table to visit the cigarette machine where a quarter dropped into the slot and a quick jerk of the knob yields a fresh pack of your preferred brand. You stroll back to the table, slam the pack a few times against your palm, then unwrap the shiny cellophane to retrieve one of the perfectly-shaped cylinders. Then, with the smoke filling your lungs briefly before you exhale, there is time to look around, assess the day, ponder the meaning of life. A great lassitude supplants your otherwise fraught existential despair, courtesy of butter, cheese, and the endorphins they bestow.

Yes, an exam in French is coming in a half hour, and you’re not ready. You probably didn’t perform as well as you wished on the algebra exam earlier this morning. But these too shall pass, what’s done is done, and so forth. As you tap ash into the tiny flat metal ashtray and consider the nature of life, the comfort of cheese lingers.

Maple Street side leading into porch area

As do many other memories. I left after my sophomore year to live near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with my new husband. Two and a half years later when he was transferred to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, I returned to Fayetteville to finish my degree. There were mornings when I’d drive to campus in early morning fog to park in a graveled lot across Maple Street and venture up these steps into the Union for a cup of coffee before my early class. Those too were nostalgic moments thinking of the earlier years, of fellow students and dorm mates, of professors and classes, of ever changing current events.

The student union of those days is gone, sacrificed into other uses for a larger more elaborate facility than what Memorial Hall could ever provide. Built in the early 1970s, the new union seems to us older alumni as somewhat cold and vast compared to the old environs of Memorial Hall. Yes, it was crowded and unquestionably not best suited to more modern needs, but it was our place in our time. In service as a student union only thirty years from its construction in 1940, the facility nevertheless filled a critical role in campus life.

As described in the 1941 yearbook: “The basement floor is made up of the confectionery with a black and chromium soda fountain and cafeteria facilities, and the amusement rooms. Walking down the hall from the confectionery one can go into two rooms equipped with ping-pong tables, and one with large, lively snooker tables. Up the stairs to the main floor, and there one sees the front entrance, from which leads the ballroom and the lounge room. With a lofty ceiling support four huge glass and metal chandeliers and tall arched windows draped with yards and yards of flowing expensive cloth, the ballroom is truly a ‘dream.’ Over the especially designed band shell is a mural depicting all phases of student life at the University, and all around the floor are chairs for chaperones and those who care to sit the dance out. Overlooking the ballroom is a balcony for those who care to watch rather than dance. The chandeliers are all connected with one master switch which changes the lights in the room from red, blue, green, and orange back to natural lighting in a gradual fading process.

“Equipped with heavy leather chairs and divans, the pastel-colored lounge room can compare very well with the lobby of an expensive hotel. Scattered throughout the room are lamps with indirect lighting, and down at the end is a large fireplace topped by a huge square mirror. Here students come to read, talk, or just listen to the radio.” 1941

“The fountain room of the Student Union, where at some time or other, everyone sees everyone, is a happy confusion of coffee lines, bridge games, table-hoppers, and glaring renditions from the juke-box. From 9-11, 2 until 5, it’s the place to see and be seen, grab a late breakfast or a hurried lunch, or just sit and talk.” 1951

Bookstore 1950s:

Open hallway where advocates of one issue or another could interact with students. In my time, it was to sign the petition to save the Buffalo River and then to stop the war in Vietnam.

Note: If you’d like to wander through the Razorback yearbook from your time on campus, here’s the link

Easy Gift Shopping!

Books are gifts that last forever, endlessly entertaining for the recipient you have in mind. For the old codger in your family, give him (or her) a rush back to their prime with any of these four affordable treasures!

Gas, Grass & Ass

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a busy highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences in an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell’s stories portray a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence. Get your copy now!

5 star review: “I enjoyed this true story about a determined young woman in the early 70’s owning and operating a small gas station on her own. Interesting “characters” who frequent the station and the dynamics of small town life. Takes you back in time !”

Aquarian Revolution

They were the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ rarely speak in their own voice. Now documented in these personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution. Buy it today!

“Denele Campbell’s informative ‘Aquarian Revolution: Back to the Land’ fills a much-needed niche in the history of the Counter-Culture movement. Unlike in more crowded Europe, America’s rural expanse offered an escape, a new beginning in the 1960s, from a social cancer spreading through the dominant culture. The dream of finding land to till and an alternative life style had been an American dream since its founding. America’s cities, mired in racism, sexism, poverty, and riots, seemed doomed. The ‘baby boomers’ sought escape by going to the land, many for the first time. Denele Campbell has carefully chronicled the personal stories of thirty-two pioneers who opted to create their utopian vision in the Ozarks. As such, their quest is at times fascinating, amusing, and often painful. Yet, it is a good read for those who lived through this era as well as today’s young.” —-T. Zane Reeves, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico and author of Shoes along the Danube.

Ray: One Man’s Life

“I’ve had my jaw broke three times, my nose broke five times to the point that the VA had to do the operation they do to boxers. My hand’s been broke and on fire once, enough that the skin was gone clear back to my wrist. I’ve fell off buildings, ladders, and mountains. Somehow I survived all that craziness.”

How Ray Mooney survived the incredible journey of his life is indeed a question for the ages. Polio, combat assault jumps from helicopters in Vietnam, and three children by three different wives didn’t kill him. Neither did the flagrant murder of his father by his father’s latest wife. But the traumas changed him, as they would change any man.

Told in his own words, Ray’s life story rushes from one shocking experience to the next and brings him to the last days as he faces end stage lung disease. Turkey killer, outlaw, entrepreneur, and disabled vet, this boy from the horse farms and tobacco fields of Kentucky relates his adventures with wry wit and breathtaking honesty. Buy Ray’s story

South County: Bunyard Road and the Personal Adventures of Denny Luke

1972. A Yankee learns the Ozarks way and lives to tell his tales. Now almost a native, Denny fondly reminisces about the people and places of his adopted home.

Denny Luke is an adventurer. During his years as a Navy man, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.

Hot cars and Enduro racing occupied Denny’s next few years as he helped usher in the computer age in Minneapolis. But another adventure awaited when in 1970 he fell in with a bunch of hippies. By 1972, he had found his way to the Ozarks.

An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate the southern fringe of Washington County in Northwest Arkansas.

Buy South County!

Shop Denele Campbell’s author page for all her books. You don’t have to be a geezer to find something you can’t live without! Amazon.com

The Jeff Bezos Problem

By Daniel Spils – originally posted to Flickr as Jeff visits the Robots, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11253016

This morning I received a query from a friend of mine asking where he could buy one of my books. He didn’t want to buy from Amazon and further line the pockets of Jeff Bezos.

This widespread reaction to Bezos’ fortune and his choices of how to spend his money has reached the point where I feel obligated to fully explain why my books are marketed at Amazon and why we might need to take deep breath and cut Bezos a tiny bit of slack.

In 1994 at the age of 32, Bezos decided to establish an online bookselling enterprise. Within the next twenty years, his company Amazon had expanded to offer an enormous range of products. But his original idea was about books. By the early 2000s, Bezos had expanded his concept to allow authors to publish their own books.

Before this, authors faced two options. Traditionally, a printed submission letter with an outline of the proposed book would be submitted to a publishing house for consideration. If interested, the publisher would request the manuscript for review. With a slim chance of acceptance, the book could easily languish in these dead end processes for years before a) a publisher somewhere accepted the book or b) the author gave up in despair.

By the end of the 20th century, publishing houses increasingly refused this first layer of submission from authors. Instead, authors were directed to find an agent who, after screening the manuscript, might deign to take the book under his wing and offer various revisions and plot recommendations before then trying to market the book to a publishing house. The publishing house still could refuse the book, but if they saw any promise in the project, their editors would pick through the manuscript for yet more revisions. Again, months turned into years while authors held onto hope, usually to ultimately meet with rejection.

Literary Criticism, caricature of literary critics removing passages from books that displease them, c.1830 Charles Joseph Travis de Villiers

Or worse. Two books of mine submitted in the late 1990s through this Sisyphean process ended up published by other people. I’ve described these infuriating experiences of intellectual property theft in previous blog posts here, here, and here.

The other option for authors was to self-publish. This path was taken by my mother who paid nearly $2,000 for her family history to appear in print. A friend of mine also took this route when she paid a vanity press to print a few thousand copies of her book, which she had to store in her garage and distribute herself. But along with the internet and the engineering genius of Bezos, Amazon formed a branch known as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) where an author had total control over the publication of her/his book.

Print on demand simply means that when someone purchases a certain book, it is then printed and shipped. An author using KDP must prepare the manuscript by certain layout guidelines, but is then free to choose page size, white or cream paper, and certain other formatting options. The manuscript is uploaded at the KDP website and after proofing, the book is ready to purchase. The author can either use KDP’s cover templates to create the book’s cover or upload a cover file created entirely by the author. (I use Photoshop and thoroughly enjoy the use of color, imagery, and font choices.)

The freedom this provides an author is absolutely stunning.

A few print-on-demand enterprises co-exist with KDP, but KDP’s software is supremely user friendly and allows for maximum author flexibility. KDP also offers swift interaction with staff via email, chat, or phone if/when questions arise. KDP pricing, at least for paperbacks, means that authors gain a higher share of the sale price than is available through any other publishing outlet. Ebook pricing is not quite as competitive as a few other entities such as Smashwords, but promotional options are much wider.

My first book, Notes of a Piano Tuner, published in 1996 by a traditional small regional press, sold for $16.95. My royalty was one dollar. Through KDP, a recent book that retails for $26.95 pays me $8.70. KDP retains $7.47 for printing costs, and the rest is KDP profit. While that is a sizeable profit for KDP and its parent Amazon, I am still ahead of the 5.8% profit I received through traditional publishing. At $8.70, that’s over 32% profit.

Book market in India

Perhaps even more important for most authors is that self-pub books at KDP remain on their virtual bookshelves forever and essentially worldwide. These services are available to authors in India, China, Japan, and many other far flung locations and in their own language. KDP provides the services needed to register my ISBN number with the Library of Congress. They provide marketing tools I can use to promote my books. I don’t have to do anything for my books to be found in online searches for my subject matter.

While all this is wonderful and amazing and possibly would have occurred sooner or later without Jeff Bezos, the fact is that he was the one who made it happen.

Not to say there hasn’t been a downside to the avalanche of author-published books his brain child has created. Key to the bookselling industry have been the various filters through which a manuscript would pass—agents, editors, and ultimately reviewers who offer insight into the nature and quality of any particular book, thereby providing a prospective reader a guideline of sorts to measure whether plopping down the requisite dollars is a wise decision. But as this Indie avalanche hit mainstream reviewers like Book Review DigestBooklistBook World, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal or other traditional book review sources including Saturday Review, Observer, New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker, the welcome mat quickly rolled up.

Self-publishing authors, known as Indies (independent), suffer no such critiques either before or after publishing. Some are able to pay a few of these review entities to gain a review, but the price is steep. Kirkus, for example, wants $500 per review for the onerous task. Most turn up their noses entirely.

The reason for this bottleneck in the literary pipeline is painfully clear to anyone who reads Indie books at random. The writing can be abysmally awful, everything from misspelled words to dangling modifiers and other grammatical abominations to outright absurdity in balanced presentation or research authenticity or, in fiction, plot line or character development. Furthermore, the Indie risk of showing one’s bare behind, i.e. complete lack of literary talent, is compounded at the review stand by the sheer quantity of self-published books flooding the marketplace.  

For a few genres, most notably romance fiction, a review option of sorts has sprung up to fill the gap. Facebook pages, groups, and multiple websites have proliferated where authors can submit a romance book for review. For a modest fee, usually $50 to $100, a promoter will set up review ‘tours’ that take a book through several such entities and can, in theory, rack up a nice quantity of reviews for that particular book which are then posted to the Amazon book listing page as well as to other book promotion sites like Goodreads. A rating of 5 stars is a sure path to reader interest, and most of these reviewers won’t post a review of less than 3 stars.

The Caxton Celebration – William Caxton showing specimens of his printing to King Edward IV and his Queen By The Graphic, June 30, 1877, p617. Retrieved from old-print.com. Printing up through the end of the 18th century was largely a product of wealthy patrons who paid for the books they wanted in print.

No such wondrous option exists for most other types of books. A few exist for science fiction, a few for historical fiction, but virtually none for nonfiction. Authors must find creative ways to let the public know about their books, which up to a few years ago could include setting up an author page on Facebook alongside a personal page. One author I know had gained nearly one thousand ‘followers’ on her Facebook author page, and each time she published a new book or wanted to promote an existing book, she simply posted an enticing bit on her author page and the majority of her followers would receive the notice on their newsfeed.

Sadly, those days ended with Facebook’s corporate rush for money. Now my friend’s author page posts are seen only by a half dozen or less of her followers. The only way she can make a bigger splash is to pay Facebook to promote her posts. Depending on her choice of audience, the number of days the post should run, and her spending limit, Facebook will promote the product. It has reached the point, however, where Facebook newsfeeds are so spammed with similar “sponsored” ads that people usually just scroll past.

Ironically, even traditional publishing has stopped most expenditures on book promotion. Publishing is less about literary accomplishment and more about profits, and the trimming has proceeded at pace. Authors whether Indie or not are expected to pay their way through book signing tours and public appearances.  

Despite these stumbling blocks in Indie publishing, the old publishing world has crumbled. Few corporate-owned publishers are willing to risk possible low returns on an investment of manpower, ink, warehousing, and distribution unless the odds are good that an adequate return is more or less guaranteed. That’s why books by celebrities and known authors crowd the shelves and why libraries, which depend on mainstream reviews to determine acquisitions, will rarely if ever shelve Indie books.

In my case, where the majority of my books are focused on local history, I can promote my books through networks of friends and in local outlets. In the case of the book my friend wants to purchase, Good Times: A History of Night Spots and Live Music in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the demand has been great enough that I have partnered with the Washington County Historical Society to serve as an outlet through which they gain a decent percentage of the sale price and which offers the interested public a local source for the book.

However, the book is still published by KDP. As the author, I pay only the printing cost and receive no royalty from the sale. Whatever margin I wish to receive is gained in the wholesale price I charge the historical society. But, simply put, that and the rest of my books likely would not exist without Bezos.

Ooh, the 70s!

As chronicled in the massive history of Fayetteville’s music scene, the 1970s overflowed with great music that echoed down the length of Dickson Street. The Charles Tuberville Band was among them.


Back: Singleton, Smith, Billy Osteen
Front: Ellis, Tuberville, Womack
Photo courtesy Joe Phelps

Charles Tuberville Band

Charles Tuberville became hooked on the guitar after watching an older cousin plug his “machine” into an amp and began playing a song by The Ventures. Then when The Beatles took rock n’ roll by storm, that changed everything. Charles got his first guitar, an electric Harmony Bobcat, for Christmas in the 7th grade. “‘At the time, I was playing trumpet in the school band. The day I got my electric guitar, that trumpet never again came out of the case,’’ he recalled in an interview for Blues News.[1]

His Fayetteville band formed in the early 1970s and played popular clubs like Notchy’s and The Library. In 1976 when the Brass Monkey took over the former Gaslight space in the basement of the Mountain Inn Annex, the Charles Tuberville Band served as the house band. Members of this powerhouse group were Charles Tuberville and Billy Osteen (Cal Jackson still in Memphis) on guitar; Albert Singleton then later Cherry Brooks, vocals; Lance Womack, drums; Jimmy Smith, keyboards; Jim Sweeney (Tulsa), Joe Ellis, bass. Members of this band later appeared in other groups. Charles Tuberville moved to Tulsa in 1979 and went on to ply his guitar craft in multiple formats, performing on an album with Tulsa musician Jimmy Markham including Get Ya’ Head Right (2018) and producing his own album, Somethin’ in the Water in 2019.

Don’t miss these great stories of creativity, ambition, and craziness that permeates the 550+ pages of GOOD TIMES: A History of Nightspots and Live Music in Fayetteville, Arkansas — available at Amazon.com and the local Washington County Historical Society offices.


[1] Bill Martin, “Charles Tuberville,” Blues News, Sept/Oct 2019, p. 3