poetSCARBROUGH, GEORGE ADDISON – devoted son of Oscar and Bell McDowell Scarbrough, died December 2, [2008). He was 93.

A nationally prominent poet and writer from East Tennessee, he was born October 20, 1915 on a farm in Patty Station in Polk County into a sharecropper’s family of seven children. He never married. Thanks to his mother, he learned to read by making out the bold, black letters of World War I headlines on newspapers that served as wallpaper and insulation in the log cabin where he was born. Through words and hard work, he overcame his background and environment by studying for two years at the University of Tennessee, then winning a scholarship to the University of the South at Sewanee. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Lincoln Memorial University and a master’s in English from UT. He was awarded an Honorary Doctrate Degree from LMU in 2005.

A talented writer, Scarbrough is a legend among his peers and those who know and have passion for poetry as literature, the poetry of pure beauty from words as they fly together in a line pregnant with life and thought. Mr. Scarbrough’s wide circle of friends included Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, James Dickey, Jesse Stuart, Andrew Lytel and other leading literary figures of the 20th century. James Dickey wrote that “George Scarbrough’s poems have carried him deep into the very heart of the Southern land. The medium is words, and on the superbly imaginative use of these, he has arrived at the deepest roots, beyond what could be imagined by anyone less than a true poet. Anyone who gives himself without reserve to George Scarbrough’s poems will find his life renewed.” Reflecting his intrinsic gift for poetry, his daily speech was rhythmic and soft. “Everything I record is about my life,” he says of his writings. “I use a lot of images. We’ve all had our losses.” Many of Mr. Scarbrough’s poems reflect a sense of awe inspired by the natural environment and rural landscapes of his youth, which he called “the heart’s world.”

He could rattle off his ancestry, going back years to the clapboard house of his birth; to his aunts and uncles; to Scarbrough’s Mill on Chestuee Creek in Polk County; to King Alfred and Hadrian’s Wall; to the various spellings of Scarbrough, but all related to those first immigrants from the 17th century. Mr. Scarbrough reviewed books for “The Chattanooga Times” for forty years and taught at several colleges and secondary schools.

During the two years of his residency at Brakebill Nursing Home, he received visits, cards and tributes from many former students thanking him for being that special teacher who had the most influence on their lives. One student related, “he lit the fire of inquisitiveness in all of us, making us search on our own for more literary knowledge.”

E.P. Dutton was his first publisher. Iris Press published his “New and Selected Poems” in 1977. The re-incarnated Iris Press, owned by Bob Cumming of Oak Ridge, re-published “Tellico Blue,” in 1999. “Invitation to Kim,” a book published by Iris Press in 1989, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Describing himself a few years ago, he said, “I’m an old leaf, a-tremble on a twig in fall.”

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Edith Emmeline Scarbrough Green, and brothers Robert Lee Scarbrough, Charles Spencer “Pete” Scarbrough, William Athel Scarbrough, Blaine Pleasant Scarbrough, and Joseph Kenneth “Kim” Scarbrough. He is survived by special friends, Clyde and Gwen Senviel and Sam and Margaret Rogers of Knoxville; special niece, Susan Lauver and husband David; special nephews, Ellis Green and wife Phyllis of Knoxville, David Scarbrough and wife Cathy of Allen, TX. Visitation will be held at 2 p.m. on December 13 followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m. at Weatherford Mortuary in Oak Ridge. Interment will be at Friendship Cemetery in Polk County. Memorial gifts may be made to the Friends of Literacy, 101 E. Fifth Ave., Room 217, Knoxville, TN 37917 or the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 636, Benton, TN 37307.

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