Total Pageviews

Monday, December 26, 2011

North Carolina Author: John Foster West (1918-2008)

John Foster West, born on December 10, 1918, the son of John Wilson West and Fannie Elvira Foster, was my 2nd cousin 2X removed.  He was the grandson of John Witherspoon West and Catherine West and the great grandson of John Balus and Mary Ann Swanson.  My 1st cousin 1X removed (CALT) had told me about him.  Afterwards, I read about him on the Internet and discovered that he had passed away in 2008.  Later, my 2nd cousin (DFK) sent me an article that John Foster West had written about the West family.  This, my first encounter with any written evidence that Alexander West I was an early progenitor of my West family, was an article published in The Journal-Patriot on November 8, 1976.  In his article, “History of West Family Is Given,” John Foster West identified Alexander West I as the “deep tap-root” for many families still living in Wilkes County as well as across the country.
The 1920 Census indicates that John Foster West was living at Lewis Fork at the time that census was taken.  In 1941 he attended Mars Hill College.  There he met and later married Nan E. Love. From 1943 to 1945 he was in the Army Air Corps. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of North Carolina in 1947 and a Master of Arts degree in 1949.  In addition, he studied at the University of Iowa where he completed some work toward a doctoral degree.
During his 42-year career in education, he taught English and creative writing at Elon College in North Carolina.  He also taught at Old Dominion College in Norfolk, Virginia, and Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.  When he retired from Appalachian State University in 1991, he was named professor emeritus.

John Foster West published the following books: Up Ego! (1951), Cogito, Ergo Sum (1954), Appalachian Dawn (1973), Wry Wine (1977), Lift Up Your Head, Tom Dooley: The True Story of the Appalachian Murder that Inspired One of America’s Most Popular Ballads (1993), Summer People (2000), The Ballad of Tom Dula: The Documented Story Behind the Murder of Laura Foster and the Trials and Execution of Tom Dula (2002), Time Was (2002), High Noon in Pompeii: The Latter-Day Poetry of John Foster West (2004), and Going Home to Zion (2005).  In addition, he co-authored This Proud Land—The Blue Ridge Mountains (1974) with Bruce Roberts West and English Direct: Teacher’s Book Level 1 (1998) with Keith West.   Furthermore, he made numerous contributions to magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals.
His name was included in Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Who’s Who Among American Scholars, Comtemporary Authors, and the Dictionary of International Biography.  He served as president of the North Carolina Writers Conference, the North Carolina Folklore Society, and Sigma Delta Chi, a professional journalism fraternity.
John Foster West died on May 2, 2008.
During his career he mentored many aspiring writers and will be remembered as a writer, a poet, a historian, and an activist for the preservation of ecology in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Beall, Glenda Council. Netwest Mountain Writers and Poets (blog).


  1. Hi-
    John Foster West was my uncle. His brother, Ted Gradon West, was my father.
    I've never been able to find out much about my grandmother, Elvira Foster, but I've been doing some family research lately. Feel free to email me if you'd like to talk! :)

  2. Hello Cousin West, Thank you for your comment and interest in my blog. Sadly, I don't have any information about your grandmother, Fannie Elvira Foster, other than her birth (1880), death(1962), and marriage (5 Jan 1907) dates. According to my information, she and John Wilson West (1867-1946) had 9 children (Millard, Leonard, Ella, Orene, John Foster, Vernice, Ted Gradon, James L., and Arnold). Ted Gradon was my 2nd cousin 1R, and you are my 3rd cousin 1R. Our most recent common ancestors were John Balus West and Mary Ann Swanson. They were my 3rd gr. grandparents and, apparently, were your 2nd gr. grandparents. Yes, I would like to talk, but I don't have your e-mail address. Try clicking on the "subscribe by email" link at the bottom of this message. Perhaps, you can e-mail me directly with your address. If you wish to send it as a comment to this message, I will not publish it here. Thanks, again.

  3. Me and my friend are big fans of Nicolas Sparks (author of Notebook, etc.) and the way he describes North Carolina is absolutely flawless! Were going to take a visit soon because we've never been and we were curious of some cool beaches or areas we should visit

    phlebotomy schools north-carolina

  4. Alice Anne,
    Thanks for your comment. I, too, enjoy Nicholas Sparks' books. Since you like his books and his description of the North Carolina coast, you should visit Wilmington, the setting for many of his books, and Carolina Beach which is nearby. I have been to Carolina Beach and enjoyed it. Also, the outer banks are nice with so much to see (i.e., Kitty Hawk, the Lost Colony theatrical production). In addition, the coastline is beautiful.

  5. I'd like to make one correction to your list of Prof. West's published works. 'Time Was' was originally published in1965 by Random House.
    As to the work,'Cogito ergo sum,' I've never heard him mention it.

  6. Hello Reader,

    Thanks for your correction concerning John Foster West's publications. My information about his works came from my research on the Internet. I would like to hear more from you. Are you a relative? Were you one of his students? Again, thanks, for your help. Your comments will certainly be helpful to my future readers.

  7. How fascinating, I am doing a genogram for school. I am Ted's Daughter, actually Ted and Claudine West's Daughter. I have a picture of John Foster West's mother Fannie. I was interested in getting some more information about her. As you know she figured greatly in his novel Time Was, and of course he was my uncle and I had the honor of taking an English class with him when I attended ASU as an undergraduate student there, he was quite a character. His first wife Nan was the love of his life I was told !!! If you send me your e-mail I can scan the picture of Fannie's obituary.

    1. Dear Unknown, Thank you for your nice comment. I have you in my tree as Ted and Claudine's daughter. I met your sister, T. West, last fall at a West reunion in Lenoir. I would love to correspond with you through email and send you some material. However, I have no way of emailing you since I do not have your email. At this point, I can reply to you only through this blog. If you will post another message on this site with your email, I will not publish it. Nothing is published here until I review it and publish it. I hope to hear from you soon.


Thank you for your interest in my blog and for your comment. I have the option of allowing your comments to become public. I will not publish comments with home addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses unless the responder gives permission. I receive notification when someone adds a comment. However, I cannot reply directly to these comments. In order to see my reply, you will need to check the post again.

You may click on photos to enlarge them.