Hazel King Remembered

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Hazel King Remembered  Posted: August 9, 2007

KRC received word today that Hazel King died on June 20 at age 87. Returning to her native Harlan County after 21 years in the Air Force, Hazel was a fearless, courageous, and selfless voice for the land and people of the coalfields throughout the years before and after the enactment of the federal mining law in 1977.

We at KRC will cherish always the notes of encouragement she would send - an inspirational bookmark with a note on the back; an occasional money order with a note of appreciation; a book of poetry.

Fitz had the privilege of working with Hazel for over thirty years on scores of mine enforcement and permitting cases, including the permanent protection of the hardwood-forested ecosystem on Black Mountain. She was responsible for filing the citizen complaint that resulted in the first federal cessation order issued under the 1977 Act against a mining operation, and for hundreds of enforcement orders after that. Many community members, including miners concerned with problems at operations for whom they worked, would rely on her to be their voice - and she never failed to be that voice and to demand accountability from the mining operations and from state and federal regulators.

From weekly meetings of the Cloverfork Organization to Protect The Environment in the late 1970's at the Louellen Fish and Game Club, to hearings in Frankfort, London and Washington D.C.; from rallies in Knoxville, to a gathering at the memorial for the Buffalo Creek disaster, Hazel worked tirelessly and fearlessly to protect creation - the true "Act of God," from strip mining - which she believed to be a reckless "act of man." Her work was nationally recognized in 1997 with a Community Involvement Award from the federal office of Surface Mining on the 20th Anniversary of the federal mining act.

Hazel's gentle voice, her fearlessness in talking truth to power, and strength of will were an inspiration to those of us who had the opportunity to work with her. Her life and her dedication as a community activist were grounded in a deeply personal, faith-inspired love of the mountains and an anger and sadness at the destruction of the land.

A note accompanying a book of environmental poetry called "Beyond Time," that reflected her . The note read in part:

Dear Fitz

This book captures my feeling of deep love for the mountains - wild life - plants etc - in words which don't come easy for me - would have added remarks on page after page but why spoil something so beautiful?

Please keep up the good work - it is so important to so many - especially to me - and it grows more important all the time.

Best wishes

On behalf of the Board and staff here at KRC, we express our sympathy to her family and rejoice in a life of service well-lived. Her spirit will forever hike the ridges and valleys of her beloved Cloverfork watershed, and memories of hearing her voice on numerous phone calls expressing her fears and hopes for the mountains, will inspire us. Let us all rededicate ourselves, with love, humility and hope, to continuing the work that Hazel thought so important.

Roy Silver created a set of web pages as a tribute to Hazel several years ago, which can be visited at http://southeast.kctcs.edu/roy/hazel/

Roy has agreed to be the contact if you want to email a letter of sympathy and any memories to share with her brother and sisters. A memorial service at the Evarts Funeral Home will be held on Saturday, August 11 at 1 p.m., with visitation from noon to 1 that same day. Roy's email is rsilver@uky.edu
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