Nolan Porterfield (1920-2020)

Jul 1, 2020


Nolan Porterfield, author, journalist, educator and broadcaster, died May 18, 2020, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Although born in Colorado on February 26, 1936, at age 6 he moved with his Texan parents to Draw, Texas, and always claimed the Lone Star State as home.

Porterfield graduated from O’Donnell High School and later received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from Texas Tech University and the Ph.D from the University of Iowa. In the 1950s, he worked in newspaper production and advertising with the Denver City (Texas) Press, the Gallup (New Mexico) Daily Independent, the Chicago Tribune and the Lamesa (Texas) Daily Reporter, where he served as the state’s youngest daily newspaper publisher. In the military, he was stationed at Fifth U.S. Army Headquarters, where he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service.

Beginning in 1964, he was associated with Southeast Missouri State University for 31 years, retiring as professor emeritus of English and Writer in Residence. He also taught and lectured at the Ohio State University, Stephen F. Austin University, the University of Texas and in England at King’s University, the University of Exeter and the University of Liverpool.

Porterfield published five books, including the novel, “A Way of Knowing,” and two biographies, as well as many short stories and articles in national magazines. He is best known for “Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler,” the biography of the “Father of Country Music,” which has been in print constantly since its publication in 1979. His literary awards included the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award and two awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, one for Best Novel of the Year and one for Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year. His final project was to have been a fictional thriller set in his beloved Texas.

He was producer and host of “Old Scratchy Records” on Western Kentucky University Public Radio in Bowling Green. He is also represented in many anthologies and encyclopedia entries, and his book and record reviews appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a member of the Authors Guild, Association for Recorded Sound Collections, American Folklore Society, Texas Folklore Society and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 39 years, Erika Brady, and a daughter, Kelly Porterfield of Granite Shoals, Texas.

Cremation was chosen, and a memorial service will be held at a later date. Arrangements have been entrusted to the J.C. Kirby and Son Lovers Lane Chapel in Bowling Green.