Ruth Henning had a story to tell more than a generation ago, and this month that story makes to the public, thanks to the Mid-Continent Public Library and the Jackson County Historical Society.
“The First Beverly Hillbilly: The Untold Story of the Creator of Rural TV Comedy,” by Ruth Henning, is being rolled out at a Sept. 28 event at which Independence resident Mary Childers will speak. She’s a niece of Paul and Ruth Henning, both natives of Independence. Paul Henning created “The Beverly Hillbillies” – it’s first episode was 55 years ago this month – followed by “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.” Ruth often collaborated. All three shows were hit sit-coms in the early to mid-1960s.
The Sept. 28 event is free. It’s from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Wild About Harry, 104 W. Maple Ave. on the Independence Square. The book is coming in hardback at $26.99, but it can be ordered online now for $25 an picked up at the event.
The library and Historical Society have collaborated on a couple books now, starting in 2014 with “Cowtown: Cattle Trails and West Bottom Tales,” by Edward T. Matheny Jr.
“That was our very first project,” said Steve Potter, Mid-Continent’s director and CEO.
The library sees publishing books as part of its mission to tell local stories, particularly those that might otherwise not find an audience. It has expanded its capabilities – color, graphics – and is aiming to publish a dozen titles a year.
“We’re getting there,” Potter said.
The Historical Society could continue to be a partner.
“They’re sitting on mounds of great stories,” Potter said.
That’s how “The First Hillbilly” came to be. The Historical Society has the papers of longtime Examiner editor, columnist and reporter Sue Gentry – which happened to contain a manuscript of Ruth Henning’s book about the years of success she and Paul enjoyed in Hollywood.
“Thank you for being on my side about this book,” she wrote in a 1994 note to Gentry. “I really believe one day it will find a publisher.”
The manuscript came to light, and the Henning family agreed to go forward with publication.
When the book was first announced early this year, Childers said her aunt “thought thought Paul had an interesting life and needed to tell it.”