Professor Scott Huffard receives Faculty Fellowship from Appalachian College Association to fund book research

Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of History Scott Huffard is one of 23 recipients of the 2021–22 John B. Stephenson Semester Fellowship offered by the Appalachian College Association (ACA). The fellowship, which funds post-doctoral or pre-doctoral research at ACA membership institutions, will go into effect during the 2022–23 academic year. 

For Huffard, receiving this fellowship was a great moment in his career and something he is very proud of.  

“It’s an exciting moment, and I’m excited to get it. For my career it’s pretty huge,” Huffard said. 

The ACA is a nonprofit group of 33 private four-year liberal arts colleges located in the central Appalachian Mountains. The mission of the ACA is to serve surrounding communities in Appalachia through diligent work from faculty, staff, and students. Granting research fellowships to faculty furthers the mission of the organization to continue the great legacy of transformative work in the area. 

To be considered for the award, a potential recipient must be a full-time faculty member at an ACA partner institution for two years prior to applying and receive an endorsement from their institution’s chief academic officer.  

“I had to get a recommendation from the provost, Dr. Gill. The process of getting selected included writing a proposal discussing what the project is, what it is about, and how I will use the time and money,” said Huffard. 

Huffard will be using the fellowship to take a semester leave from Lees-McRae to conduct research for his upcoming book about legendary train engineer Casey Jones.  

Casey Jones was a 19th-century railroader who was killed in a fatal collision with another train at a station in Vaughan, Mississippi. Jones’ death and his actions, which were widely believed to have saved the lives of his passengers, were immortalized in the folk song “The Ballad of Casey Jones.” Huffard’s book will examine Jones’ life and the posthumous rise of the mythology surrounding him. 

“This fellowship will give my book research funds for travel and supplies. I am hoping to do a tour of some of the sites associated with Casey Jones’ life. I’m going to go to Tennessee, Mississippi, Chicago, Detroit, Oregon, and I’m going to try to go to the site of the train wreck itself,” Huffard said.  

Huffard’s current project will not be his first publication. In 2019, he wrote “Engines of Redemption: Railroads and the Reconstruction of Capitalism in the New South.” The Casey Jones book continues Huffard’s research into the infamous history of the country’s railroads. 

“Casey Jones is probably America’s most famous railroad engineer,” Huffard said. “I was interested in this guy’s story and how it moved and spread across America.” 

Huffard wants his works to be read by people in the academic sphere, but also sought out by other individuals interested in this unique subject matter.  

“Hopefully, this book will be received by a wide variety of folks. People interested in the history of the South, in the history of railroading, and in capitalism should be interested in this topic. It will even appeal to people who are into music,” Huffard said.  

This fellowship will help Huffard accomplish one of his career goals by getting his second book published. In addition to covering his travel and onsite research, the fellowship allows Huffard to dedicate several months solely to the project.  

“It will give me a semester off to really focus on the research and the writing, which can be tough to do when you are balancing a full-time teaching load,” Huffard stated.  

Writing these books and traveling the country for research are just a few of Huffard’s long-term goals as a historian. He wants to continue to elevate the history department at Lees-McRae for many years to come.  

“I have also been trying to grow the history program here and get more students and offer new classes. Leaving a legacy at this school is important to me,” he said.   

Huffard plans to write more books in the future, with the goal to eventually use those books in his classes. He explained that he sees writing books as a way to enhance the work he does in the classroom. 

As a professor, Huffard is dedicated to cherishing history and showing passion in and out of the classroom. Receiving this award is a tremendous honor for him and will allow him to further positively represent Lees-McRae.  

“I want to be remembered as someone who did history very well. Someone that enjoyed it and brought passion into the classroom,” he said.  

By Brian Sims ’22May 03, 2022