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KILGORE, JAMES C.

KILGORE, JAMES C. (1930-16 Dec. 1988) was an English professor at CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE who gained wide recognition as an African American poet. He was born in Jackson Parish, La., and received his bachelor's degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Tex. Kilgore earned advanced degrees at the University of Missouri and Columbia Pacific University and also saw overseas duty with the U.S. Army. Inspired to write poetry by the civil rights movement, he cited LANGSTON HUGHES and Gwendolyn Brooks as 2 of his models and published his first poem in 1962. Coming to Cleveland, he joined the CCC English department in the 1960s and continued to publish poems in such periodicals as Phylon and Negro Digest. Eventually 9 volumes of poetry were issued under his own name, including A Time of Black Devotion, A Black Bicentennial, and Let It Pass. Kilgore won an Ohio Arts Council Award in 1978, and in l982 he was named Ohio Poet of the Year by the Ohio Poetry Assoc. Always eager to encourage other writers, he founded the Cuyahoga Writers Conference in 1974 and helped organize an Urban Writers Workshop Series in Cleveland. In a voice likened to that of actor James Earl Jones, the 6'5" Kilgore gave readings of his work in venues ranging from the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART to the Mansfield Reformatory. Not long after his retirement from full-time teaching in l986, he died in a fire that destroyed his BEACHWOOD home and also took the lives of his daughter and grandson. He was survived by his wife Alberta and a son.