|Viola Jefferson Goode Liddell|
This coming Sunday – Dec. 18 – will mark the 115th birthday of the late Viola Jefferson Goode Liddell of Camden, who is arguably Wilcox County’s most famous author.
Liddell, who passed away in 1998, was recently featured in a 10-page article by history professor Tennant McWilliams in the Fall issue of Alabama Heritage magazine. As you might imagine, this article generated much discussion about Liddell’s impressive literary career and other books that have been written about Wilcox County over the years.
With that in mind, and with the help of more than a few Progressive Era readers, I have compiled a “Wilcox County Recommended Reading List.” These books not only shed light on the history of Wilcox County, but they would also make great gifts for booklovers on your Christmas list. Without further ado, here’s the list:
- “Down Home: Camden, Alabama” by Bob Adelman (1972): This book was compiled by photographer Bob Adelman over a five-year period and aimed to paint a “social portrait of Wilcox County and particularly its county seat, Camden.” Most of the book’s text is in the words of the individuals that Adelman photographed as part of the book’s compilation.
- “Grass Widow: Making My Way in the Great Depression” by Viola Liddell (2004): This book details Liddell’s return to Alabama after a divorce and describes the obstacles she faced as a single mother in the 1930s. She eventually landed a teaching job, but still struggled to rise above the hang-ups of small town living.
- “The Heritage of Wilcox County, Alabama” (2002): Compiled by the Wilcox County Heritage Book Committee, this 340-page, hard-to-find book may be the most complete book ever written about the history of Wilcox County. It contains short articles on just about any local history topic you can think of, including the histories of local communities, past and present citizens, the county’s Civil War history and a long list of other subjects.
- “Lummie Jenkins: The Unarmed Sheriff of Wilcox County” by Delynn Jenkins Holloran (2008): This book describes the career of one of Alabama’s most interesting and unique law enforcement officers, former Wilcox County Sheriff Lummie Jenkins. Jenkins, who at one time was the longest tenured sheriff in the United States, was known for not carrying a gun and for being a master of human psychology.
- “A Place of Springs” by Viola Liddell (1979): Liddell’s second memoir, this book discusses the events that occurred in Wilcox County and the Black Belt during the Great Depression and during the Civil Rights Movement.
- “Men of Wilcox: They Wore the Gray” by Ouida Starr Woodson: This book is generally considered to be the best book about Wilcox County and the Civil War. This book describes the formation of the Wilcox True Blues in 1861 and goes on to describe the unit’s ups and downs throughout the war.
- “Rivers of History” by Harvey H. Jackson III (1995): This book describes the impact of the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba rivers on the history of Alabama. Wilcox County, Camden and Millers Ferry are all prominently mentioned in this great book about Alabama’s largest rivers.
- “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” by William Arnett and Others (2002): This outstanding book, which was released in conjunction with a national tour of Wilcox County’s famous quilts, gives an historical overview of two centuries of quilt making at Gee’s Bend and contains 110 color illustrations.
- “With a Southern Accent” by Viola Liddell (1948): A Book of the Month Club selection when first published, this book made Liddell famous in Alabama literary circles. This book mostly contains stories about Liddell’s childhood growing up in the Gastonburg community and contains material that most Wilcox County residents will find interesting.
- “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” by Kathryn Tucker Windham: This classic book of ghost stories features a story about the supposedly haunted Purifoy-Lipscomb House at Furman. Fans of this book should also check out “Haunted Alabama Black Belt” by David Higdon and Brett Talley and “Ghosts and Goosebumps: Ghost Stories, Tall Tales and Superstitions from Alabama” by Jack and Olivia Solomon, both of which mention spooky places in Wilcox County.
In the end, I think it’s important to say that the books mentioned above are just a few of many that describe life in Wilcox County. I’d really like to hear from anyone out there in the reading audience with recommendations for other books for this list. If you know of a good book about Wilcox County that isn’t mentioned above, please let me know by e-mailing me at email@example.com.