A Guide to the Billy Edd Wheeler "John Brown" Collection , 1974 AC 028

A Guide to the Billy Edd Wheeler "John Brown" Collection , 1974

A Collection in
University Archives, McConnell Library, Radford University
Collection number AC 028


Radford University, University Archives, McConnell Library

University Archives
McConnell Library
PO Box 6881
801 East Main Street
Radford, VA 24142-6881. USA
Phone: 540-831-5701
Email: aspelbrin@radford.edu
URL: http://lib.radford.edu/Archives/

© By Radford University. All rights reserved.

Processed by:Gene Hyde

University Archives, McConnell Library, Radford University
Collection number
AC 028
Billy Edd Wheeler "John Brown" Collection , 1974
Physical Characteristics
1.0 Linear feet.
Billy Edd Wheeler
Locked in compact shelving, level 1, row 30E.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

An appointment for research is required. Collection is open for research. No interlibrary loan. For more information see the collection finding aid

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of photograph], Billy Edd Wheeler "John Brown" Collection, Appalachian Collection, McConnell Library, Radford University, Radford, VA. Billy Edd Wheeler "John Brown" Collection , Accession # AC 028, University Archives, McConnell Library, Radford University

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Lorne Bair Rare Books in March 2013.


Further accruals are not expected.

Custodial History

Purchased from Lorne Bair Rare Books in March 2013. Originally from the estate of Fred Newbraugh of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

Biographical Information

Billy Edd Wheeler is a noted playwright and songwriter. He was born in 1932 in Boone County, West Virginia, and attended Warren Wilson College, Berea College, and Yale Drama School.

Wheeler has written numerous plays, including several long-running outdoor dramas: "Hat?elds and McCoys", staged in Beckley, West Virginia; "Young Abe Lincoln," in Lincoln City, Indiana; and "Johnny Appleseed," in Mans?eld, Ohio. He is also the author of books on Appalachian humor and several volumes of poetry.

He has had considerable sucess as a songwriter, and his songs have been covered by the Kingston Trio, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Kenny Rogers, O.C. Smith, Hank Snow, Judy Collins, and many others. His best known songs include "Jackson," "Coward of the County," and "Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back." Wheeler has also recorded his own songs.

Scope and Content

Folder 1 contains Act I and a synopsis of Act II of the play "John Brown" by Billy Edd Wheeler, circa 1974. The play appears to be an attempt to capitalize on the success of Wheeler's "The Hatfields and McCoys" with a similar outdoor drama based on the life and career of radical abolitionist John Brown, to be performed outdoors in or near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, the site of Brown's famous Armory Raid. The manuscript consists of a finished Act I (60pp) and a two-page Synopsis for an as-yet-unwritten Act II, but the play was apparently never completed or produced.

Folder 2 includes minutes and correspondence related to the play. Correspondents include C. Leslie Golliday, President of the Eastern Panhandle Historical Drama Association; Fred T. Newbraugh, Secretary of the Association; Ewel Cornett, composer and member of the Board of Directors of the WV Historical Drama Association (Beckley); and actor Don Somers, a member of the Reading Committee. Also included are minutes of an October 10,1974 meeting between the Board of Directors of the Eastern Panhandle Historical Drama Association and the West Virginia Historical Drama Association of Beckley. The material in this folder provides strong clues as to why the project went unfinished: in the words of Fred Newbraugh, Secretary of the Eastern Panhandle Historical Drama Association (a group apparently formed for the sole purpose of passing judgment on this project), "John Brown [is not] the proper subject for a historical drama in this area ... if I can draw an analogy between some modern day John Browns I would look at ...[the] man [who recently] seized the Washington, D. C. Federal Court House and held it several days with hostages ... [or] ... an airplane hijacker."

The remainder of the correspondence describes differences between the Eastern Panhandle group and its sister organization in southern West Virginia, Historical Drama Association of Beckley (which was at this time in its fourth season of producing Wheeler's highly successful Hatfields and McCoys). Correspondence between representatives of the two groups grows increasingly heated, with accusations of usurpage of responsibility and "undemocratic" proceedings, finally culminating in a face-to-face meeting between the two groups in Berkeley Springs, the minutes of which are included. - Notes culled from a description by Lorne Bair


Contains play, correspondence, and commentary originally bound in a metal-tabbed binder. The documents have been removed from the binder and place in folders. The binder is also included in this collection.