Egerton, who wrote about Southern culture, social justice and Southern cuisine, died in his home in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday. His service has been tentatively set for Sunday, Dec. 8.
“John was, in my opinion, one of the most notable people to grow up in Cadiz and always fondly spoke of his youth here and of his alma mater Trigg County High School,” said Trigg County native Paul Fourshee. “As he became quite well known and in demand, he always seemed to have time to visit friends and family here.”
Egerton was born in 1935 in Atlanta, Ga., to William G. and Rebecca Egerton, but they later settled in Trigg County. He covered high school sports for The Cadiz Record while still in grade school.
He graduated from Trigg County High School in 1953 and attended Western Kentucky University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, and earned his bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky.
He served with the Public Relations Department at the University of Kentucky between 1958 and 1960.
In 1965, Egerton moved to Nashville and took a job writing about it for the Southern Education Report, which monitored integration efforts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and its successor, Race Relations Reporter.
In 1971, he became a freelance writer, writing at least 20 non-fiction books. Some of those books include “The Americanization of Dixie”, “Generations: An American Family”, “Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History”, and “Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South.”
In 1977 and 1978, he was journalist in residence at Virginia Tech.
In 1988 and 1989, he wrote a syndicated food column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other southern newspapers. In 1996, he was a senior correspondent for The Tennessean. In 1997, he was a senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas.
An article in the Dallas News says Egerton “was able to overcome the Southern civility that had prevented others from discussing sensitive topics for fear of being impolite or causing a disturbance.”
“John, while remaining thoroughly civil, would have none of it,” the article quotes Jim Ridley, editor of the Nashville Scene, as saying. “He aimed right for the sore spots that people didn’t want to talk about — the region’s legacy of injustice.”
His son, Brooks Egerton, is an investigative reporter for The Dallas Morning News.
“Some people are confused how he got from civil rights to food, but I always try to tell people that there’s a great unity in the subject,” his son, quoted in the Dallas News, said. “For him it was all connected ... He had a passion for the underdog that very naturally flowed from one area that people associated with to the other.”
Franklin Clark is a reporter for The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at email@example.com.