Dr. Richard Drake (1925 – 2019) first came to Berea in 1956, where he finished his dissertation over the American Missionary Association (AMA), a group of abolitionists that supported Berea College, John G. Fee, and African-American education after the War. Dr. Drake was one of the first people to look at the AMA archives, his interests being sparked when he was younger due to the fact that his father was a congregational minister. When the history chairman retired in 1959, teaching the Kentucky history course fell to Dr. Drake. He decided that Appalachian history would be more appropriate and prepared his own materials for class, eventually assembling a collection for use by the Appalachian Volunteers. He later published A History of Appalachia with the University Press of Kentucky in 2001. His classes doubled over time in size as the bias against Appalachia lessened. In the 1960s, Dr. Drake joined the Council of Southern Mountains because “it was a good ol’ Appalachian conversation that I believed in.” Dr. Drake led the natural resources commission, doing what he could to ease coal miners’ problems. In the late 60s, Drake heavily advocated for the college to start the Appalachian Center. He would go on to chair the first Appalachian Studies Conference in 1977 and again in 1984. His advocacy was crucial in establishing the Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies, and his hopes that new Berea College students would be friendly to the idea of the Appalachian way of looking at things is closer today than ever.
Article Written by Kayla Rector