James Larkin Pearson Appointed Poet Laureate

On August 2, 1953, Gov. William B. Umstead appointed James Larkin Pearson of Wilkes County the state’s second Poet Laureate after Arthur Talmage Abernethy. Pearson was born in 1879 in a log cabin on Berry Mountain near the community of Boomer. Education was not a priority for his family and he worked in the fields, composing in his head.

Journalism would be Pearson’s bread and butter for much of his life. He worked first for The Yellow Jacket in Moravian Falls and later for the Charlotte Observer. In time he returned to Wilkes County where he began publishing a monthly paper, The Fool-Killer. His aim was for the paper “to make a fellow laugh right big and to cram a truth down his throat while his mouth was open.”  The Fool-Killer had a readership of 50,000 at its peak.

The News and Observer of Raleigh wrote of Pearson in 1934: “More than any other living North Carolinian he has put the life of the people into poetry, made it tangible and beautiful and easily seen.” Pearson died a few days shy of his 102nd birthday and held the Poet Laureateship to his death. His library and press were acquired by Wilkes Community College.

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