Kansas City Star; Evansville Press; The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Bert Vincent was a gentle man with a winsome personality and a natural ability to tell folk tales. As a newsman for 50 years and a columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel nearly 40 of those years, he charmed millions of readers with his wit and gentility.
Vincent was born in Bee Springs, Ky., in 1896, and grew up in Edmondson County. He was graduated from Kentucky State Normal College, taught school and became a high school principal. His first journalistic venture was to buy a paper in Leitchfield, Ky., when he was 19. But after six months he sold it back to the owner and went into the Army. He spent 21 months in the Army in World War I, rising to the rank of second lieutenant, and when the war was over, he spent some time "wandering," as he called it.
Then in 1920 Vincent returned to newspapering and held jobs in Jackson and Nashville in Tennessee, on papers in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, and finally with the National Editorial Association in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned to Evansville, Indiana, but after five years, in 1929, he joined the staff of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Except for a brief eight-month try at running a daily in Texas, he remained on the News-Sentinel staff until he died September 26, 1969.
It was at The News-Sentinel, and largely through his daily "Strolling" column, that Vincent captured the hearts and minds of readers. He was a master story teller and delighted his readers and audiences with endless mountain yarns, stories of legend and lore, superstitions and philosophy of the simple folks from the hills.
In addition to writing his column and four books, he found time to champion numerous causes. Through his writing, he helped raise funds for: Levi Memorial Hospital, Hot Springs, Ark.; the Green Valley Hospital, Greeneville, Tennessee; the Animal Shelter of Knoxville; and a chapel at Maloneyville, Tennessee, which has been named in his honor. To preserve the folklore and natural beauty of his beloved hills of east Tennessee, he established the Ramp Festival in Cosby, Tennessee, after helping organize a Ruritan Club for that community. He has been honored by the Sertoma Club International, Lincoln Memorial University, the City of Knoxville and dozens of other civic and social groups. A nature trail, laid out at Goldrush Junction in the Smokies, has been named in his honor, and a library wing at Lincoln Memorial University has been named the Bert Vincent Memorial Library.
Upon his death, a long-time acquaintance spoke for Vincent's many friends when he said:
"Bert was a faithful friend to all ... his hands always in his pockets because he was always taking something out of them to give to someone else. His tongue and his pen, his time and his brain, he freely and truly gave to the service of mankind."