Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lynwood Montell, Kenneth Clarke, James Miller

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The oral folk history of William Bernard "Big Six" Henderson is unique in that Henderson himself has been a contributing factor in keeping the tales of his moonshining experiences in the oral traditions of distinct areas of Kentucky, especially Cumberland County. Interviewing Henderson and apprehended and non-apprehended moonshiners allowed speculation into the concept that Henderson was indeed a folk hero. Using Dixon Wector's requirements for heroes, the hero performing unselfish service, acquiring a nickname, obtaining sympathy for handicaps, struggles, and failures, and reaching hero status after death, and providing examples of Henderson's encounters with moonshiners, verifies Henderson's hero status, except Henderson is a hero prior to his death. Mody Boatright's additional characteristics of combat with individuals, boasting, a pride in weapons, women, and animals, a remarkable birth, and becoming a hero after a tragic and supernatural death gives concrete support for Henderson being raised to the level of folk hero. Again, Henderson qualifies as a folk hero, disregarding his future demise.

This paper is divided into the following parts: (1) an introduction which gives reasons for a study of this type; (2) the background and careers of Henderson; (3) the tales involving Henderson and various Moonshiners; (4) Henderson's status as a folk hero; (5) conclusions and suggestions for future studies of this nature; and (6) a brief sketch of the informants.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Folklore | History | Oral History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social History | United States History