Arthur Talmage Abernethy

Arthur Talmage Abernethy (1872-1956). Courtesy Pinterest.

Arthur Talmage Abernethy
Occupation Journalist, scholar, theologian, poet
Genres Theology, biography, poetry
Notable award(s) North Carolina Poet Laureate
Spouse(s) Edna Beatty (Lachot)

Arthur Talmage Abernethy (October 10, 1872 - May 15, 1956) was an American poet, journalist, scholar, and theologian. He pastored several churches, contributed articles and poems to newspapers around the United States, and was named the first Poet Laureate of North Carolina 1948.


Youth and educationEdit

Abernethy was born in Rutherford College, North Carolina, a town named for the college of which his father was founder and president.[1][2] Born the fifth son[3] to Rev. Robert Laban and Mary Ann Hayes Abernethy, Arthur proved to be a precocious child, teaching himself telegraphy by the age of 9 and passing the exams to get his A.B. degree from Rutherford at the age of 14. He was denied this degree, however, due to his age.[1]

He remained at Rutherford College becoming professor of Latin in 1887 (making him among the youngest professors in the nation), teaching there for several years. Already a Latin and Greek scholar, he went on to receive his A.M. degree from Trinity College (now Duke University) in 1891 and his doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University.[2]

Journalism and activismEdit

Abernethy soon turned his attention to journalism, becoming editor of The Telegrapher and a biographical writer for The Philadelphia Record. He befriended Edgar Wilson Nye who was an adviser to him.[1] He contributed columns to The Charlotte Observer as well as newspapers around the country including Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia.[4] Some of his work appeared in Collier's Weekly.[5]

He had been married several times, the last time to widow Edna Beatty Lachot of Pennsylvania. She had two children and Abernethy adopted her daughter Anna Mary.[3] He met his wife while serving as business manager for the Philadelphia College of Commerce.[2]

Abernethy was active in politics as well, becoming a leader in the Prohibition movement.[6] He ran for United States House of Representatives in 1928 as an anti-Al Smith candidate, losing in the Democratic primary to incumbent Alfred L. Bulwinkle.[7]

He was instrumental in helping establish a Carnegie library in Rutherford College, the first free public library in Burke County.[8]

In 1938, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him an "American Ambassador of Sunshine."[9] That same year, Governor Clyde R. Hoey declared Abernethy to be an honorary citizen for life of Charlotte, Hickory, Asheville, and Valdese, North Carolina.[3]

Later life and poet laureateshipEdit

Arthur Talmage Abernethy Life & Works

Arthur Talmage Abernethy Life & Works

Abernethy turned to the ministry later in life, becoming pastor of several churches including First Methodist Church, Belmont, New York; a church in Cincinnati, Ohio; and just prior to retirement, Asheville Christian Church. He returned to North Carolina, becoming mayor of the town of Rutherford College for a time and a magistrate.[2] As magistrate and later, Justice of the Peace, he frequently filed his reports with the Clerk of Court in verse.[3]

Throughout his life, Abernethy wrote many books and had many poems published. By his own account, he wrote over 50 books and over 3,000 poems. Surprisingly, he never published a collection of poetry.[4]

Abernethy died in Asheville, North Carolina, and is buried at Rutherford College Cemetery.[2]


Abernethy was close friends with North Carolina Governor R. Gregg Cherry who appointed him to the poet laureate position in November 1948.[9] Originally, the term of office was supposed to last only a few weeks[2]—until the end of Cherry's governorship – but Abernethy was reappointed by the next governor, William Kerr Scott, remaining in the post until Governor William B. Umstead appointed James Larkin Pearson.[4]



  • The Hell You Say! A novel. Rutherford College, NC: privately published, 1893.
  • Bertie and Clara (1896) x
  • The Apostles' Creed. A romance of religion. Nashville, TN: Cokesbury, 1925.
  • Christians' Treasure Island: A restoration romance. St. Louis, MO: Bethany Press, 1927.
  • A Royal Southern Romance: A biographical novel of facts. Nashville, TN: privately published, printed by Parthenon Press, 1934.

Short fictionEdit

  • Moonshine: Being Appalachia's Arabian Nights. Asheville, NC: Dixie, 1924.


  • Mechanics and Practice of the Electric Telegraph. [Rutherford College, N.C.?]: [privately published?], [1890?]
  • Did Washington Aspire to be King? (pamphlet). New York & Washington: Neale, 1906.
  • The Jew a Negro: Being a study of the Jewish ancestry from an impartial standpoint (pamphlet). Moravian Falls, NC: Dixie, 1910.
  • Center-Shots at Sin: A series of evangelistic sermons. Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1918.
  • Twenty-Five Best Sermons. Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1920.
  • Crazy Americans. Gastonia, NC: Glenn Printing, 1929.
  • How to Raise a Boy Baby. Lenoir, NC: Smith, 1930.
  • Where are Our Dead? Rutherford College, NC: privately published, , [1935?]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[10]

See alsoEdit

Preceded by
inaugural position
North Carolina Poet Laureate
Succeeded by
James Larkin Pearson


  • >Edward W., Phifer, Jr., Burke: The history of a North Carolina county. Morgantown, NC: 1977.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Johnson, Rossiter; Brown, John Howard (1904). The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans. Boston: The Biographical Society. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Powell, William Stevens (1979). "Abernethy, Arthur Talmage". Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Vol. 1, A-C. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780807813294. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "46 Abernethy, Arthur Talmage". The Heritage of Burke County, North Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Hunter Publishing Company. 1981. p. 63. ISBN 0-89459-132-0. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Past North Carolina Poets Laureate". North Carolina Arts Council. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
  5. Phifer, 302.
  6. "SAYS HE'S 'SWORN OFF' AS A PROHIBITIONIST; Rev. A.T. Abernethy, Who Prayed for Dry Law, Calls It Pathetic Disappointment". The New York Times. March 23, 1926. 
  7. "NC District 09 - D Primary". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  8. Phifer, 305.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Arthur Talmage Abernethy". NCpedia. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  10. Search results = au:Arthur Talmage Abernethy, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 26, 2015.

External linksEdit

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