|John Shelton Reed|
John Shelton Reed, an acclaimed humorist on southern culture who once compared the modern South to a pair of comfortable tattered jeans, will be the speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends of the UNCG Libraries. The dinner gathering will be April 29 at Cone Ballroom in the Elliott University Center.
The William Rand Kenan, Jr. professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Reed has written widely and spoken often, seriously and wittingly, about the ways of the South.
The novelist Lee Smith summed up Reed as "hysterically funny and the most astute observer of the South that we have." The humorist Roy Blount Jr. included Reed as the only sociologist in Blount's "Book of Southern Humor."
Reed's latest book, published last November, “Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s," concerns intellectuals who gathered in New Orleans, including William Faulkner. Reed also wrote the immensely popular "1001 Things Everyone Should Know about the South." Fellow southern writer Florence King described the book as "an informative encyclopedia that is also sidesplittingly funny." The cover includes two iconic, vastly different Southerners, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee." Also shown is one of the South’s favorite delicacies, the "Moon Pie."
Reed also is the author of “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue," which he wrote with his wife, Dale.
In his writings defining the South, Reed has been quoted as saying, “The South is like my favorite pair of blue jeans. It's shrunk some, faded a bit, got a few holes in it. It just might split at the seams. It doesn't look much like it used to, but it's more comfortable, and there's probably a lot of wear left in it."
Also, he once said, "I think there's a suspicion in the South of people putting on airs. You see it in most Southern politicians, but you also see it in someone like Richard Petty, who may be a multimillionaire stock car driver, but he's also beloved because he has a nice self-deprecatory way about him."
Reed joins an array of well-known literary people who have spoken at the annual dinner. They include writers Tom Wolfe, Roy Blount Jr., Robert Morgan, Lee Smith, Fred Chappell, Mickey Spillane, John Ehle, John Crowe Ransom, Doris Betts, John P. Marquand and Paul Greene; columnists Leonard Pitts, Clarence Page, Tom Wicker, James Reston, Robert Novak and George Will; cartoonist Doug Marlette and Walt Kelly; historians Harrison Salisbury, John Hope Franklin and Taylor Branch; photographer Hugh Morton; television personalities Roger Mudd and Charles Kuralt; and Southern observer Hodding Carter.
The Friends of the UNCG Libraries, some 285 members with a board of directors, is a volunteer group that advocates and promotes the Jackson Library and the Harold Schiffman Music Library. The membership is currently raising money to redesign the landscape in front of the Jackson Library facing College Avenue.
The annual dinner, which is the Friends major fund raising event, will start with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by the program and dinner. Tickets for members are $50 each and for non-members $60. Table sponsorships are available for $500. For those who just want to hear Reed, a fee of $15 will be charged.
Reed knows of what he speaks about and writes. He is a native Southerner, having grown up in Kingsport, Tenn. He went north for his higher education. He graduated with a degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his Ph.D.in sociology from Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Chapel Hill in 1969.
Information about tickets to the annual dinner may be obtained by calling the UNCG Box Office at 336-334-4849.
During his long stint in Chapel Hill, Reed also served as director of the Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. He helped found the university's center for the Study of the American South.
Reed has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the National Humanities Center. He has lectured at more 300 colleges and been a visiting professor at many others, ranging from Oxford and Cambridge in England to tiny Centre College in Kentucky. President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary degrees from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and, aptly, the University of the South in Tennessee.
A song he wrote, "My Tears Spoiled My Aim," has been recorded by North Carolina singer Tommy Edwards. Reed's book, "Holy Smoke," inspired Edwards to write a song by that name. Reed was a consultant to the play "Kudzu," based on a comic strip drawn by fellow Southerner and Reed friend, the late Doug Marlette."