Kathryn Tucker Windham

Kathryn Tucker Windham

Windham on her balcony in Selma in 2007
Born (1918-06-02)June 2, 1918
Selma, Alabama
Died June 12, 2011(2011-06-12) (aged 93)
Selma, Alabama
Occupation Journalist, short story writer, storyteller, photographer
Nationality American
Subject Fiction, Non-fiction

Kathryn Tucker Windham (June 2, 1918 – June 12, 2011) was an American storyteller, author, photographer, folklorist, and journalist. She was born in Selma, Alabama and grew up in nearby Thomasville.[1][2][3]

Windham got her first writing job at the age of 12, reviewing movies for her cousin's small town newspaper, The Thomasville Times. She earned a B.A. degree from Huntingdon College in 1939.[4] Soon after graduating she became the first woman journalist for the Alabama Journal.[5] Starting in 1944, she worked for The Birmingham News. In 1946 she married Amasa Benjamin Windham with whom she had three children. In 1956 she went to work at the Selma Times-Journal where she won several Associated Press awards for her writing and photography. She died on June 12, 2011.[2][3]

Ghost stories

Kathryn Tucker Windham wrote a series of books of "true" ghost stories, based on local folklore, beginning with 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1969). Other titles were Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts (1971), 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1973), 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey (1974), 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey (1976), and Jeffrey's Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts (1982). In 2004, she wrote Jeffrey's Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, which was a collection of featured stories from the previous books.


Jeffrey is a purported ghost that took up residence in the Windham house in October 1966.[3][6] According to a letter printed in the foreword to 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, Windham became interested in ghost stories after this ghost began to haunt her family. At first, the family heard footsteps in rooms that would later be found empty. Sometimes, objects had been moved.[7]

A photo of Jeffrey was accidentally taken when some young people visiting the Windham home decided to play with a Ouija board in an effort to contact the ghost. When photos from that night were developed, a dark shadowy blot with a vaguely human-like shape was found to be in one image. Soon after this picture was taken, Windham contacted Margaret Gillis Figh, who was a noted collector of ghost stories, to ask about Jeffrey. Out of that meeting, the idea for 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey was inspired.[7]


Following an invitation to speak at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Windham began to gain attention for storytelling. She often appeared at storytelling events, historical meetings and classrooms. Her stories about ghosts and growing up and living in the Southern United States have earned her a place on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, which brought her national attention and praise. She also performed stories and gave commentaries on Alabama Public Radio's Alabama Life.[8]

Windham is the founder of the Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival, which has been held annually in Selma since 1978.[9] Kathryn Tucker Windham appeared on stage in a one-woman play about Julia Tutwiler. Named They Call Me Julia,it was based on Windham's book of the same name.


The Thomasville campus of Alabama Southern Community College is the site of the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum.[10] Her personal papers and manuscripts from 1939–2010 were donated to the special collections department of the Auburn University Libraries.[11]

Honors and Awards


The 2004 documentary film, Kathryn: The Story of a Teller, directed by Norton Dill, chronicles Windham's life and varied careers.[21]



  1. "Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham dies". Montgomery Advertiser.
  2. 1 2 Frances Osborn Robb (June 30, 2008). "Kathryn Tucker Windham". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Auburn University. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 Dennis Hevesi (June 15, 2008). "Kathryn T. Windham, a Storyteller of the South, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  4. 1 2 "Alabama Academy of Honor: Kathryn Tucker Windham". State of Alabama. March 15, 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  5. 1 2 "Four Distinguished Communication Leaders to be Inducted into C&IS Hall of Fame at UA". UA News. University of Alabama. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  6. "A Southern Treasure". Expression. Archived from the original on February 5, 2006. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  7. 1 2 Windham, Kathryn Tucker; Margaret Gillis Figh (1969). 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Huntsville, Alabama: Strode Publishers. pp. VII–IX. ISBN 978-0-8173-0376-1.
  8. "Kathryn Tucker Windham's commentaries on Alabama Public Radio". Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  9. "Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival October 8–9, 2010". Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  10. "Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum". Retrieved 2006-08-25.
  11. "Manuscript and Archival Collections". Auburn University Libraries. Auburn University. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  12. "Storytellers Kathryn Tucker Windham and Joseph Sobol to Present Curtis Endowed Lecture March 30". UA News. University of Alabama. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  13. McFerrin, Alison. "Windham a pioneer on many levels". The Selma Times-Journal. The Selma Times-Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  14. "Governor's Arts Awards - 1995 Recipients". Alabama State Council on the Arts. Alabama State Council on the Arts. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  15. "Circle of Excellence Award Recipients". National Storytelling Network. National Storytelling Network. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  16. "Governor, First Lady To Receive UA Art Patron Award". UA News. University of Alabama. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  17. "Nominations for 2014 Alabama Humanities Award". Alabama Humanities Foundation. Alabama Humanities Foundation. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  18. Windham, Ben, "Ben Windham: An Encounter with Harper Lee," The Tuscaloosa News 24 August 2003.
  19. "ABA Citizen of the Year". Alabama Broadcasters Association.
  20. Benn, Alvin (2009). "Kathryn Tucker Windham: Supreme Storyteller" (PDF). Alabama Arts. XXIII (1): 34–39. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  21. "Kathryn: The Story of a Teller". Allmusic (AMG). Fandango. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
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