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Horace Kephart, a Cornell graduate student in the 1880s and later a Yale librarian, evolved into an enigmatic woodsman, author, and activist instrumental in establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail that runs through it. In a Chats in the Stacks talk given at Mann Library, Janet McCue discusses “Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography” (Great Smoky Mountains Association), which she co-authored with George Ellison and which garnered the 2019 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.

The biography is a culmination of decades of scholarship and painstaking research using collections at Cornell and beyond. The book chronicles Kephart’s conservation advocacy and its enduring impact on the land he loved, while also telling the multifaceted, personal story of Kephart, a man full of contradictions.