Skip to content

Dr. William Lynwood Montell

Lynwood Montell was born February 18, 1931, the second child of Willie Guy Montell and Hazel Chapman Montell, in Rock Bridge, a small community in Monroe County, Kentucky, which he usually designated as “God’s country”.

He is survived by his wife, Linda Sue Miller Montell; and his two children, Monisa (Jack) Wright and Brad (Donna) Montell. His grandchildren include, Frank (Shannon), Alex (Megan), and Rob Wright, Tyler and Hunter Montell, and Shawn McCoy, who also survive. He has four great-grandchildren, Maverick, Elliot, Asher Wright, and Jessie (Mason) Lee. He has one great-great-granddaughter, Mia Lee. He is also survived by Linda’s daughter, Lisa Atkins (Nick). Lynwood experienced the joys of grandchildren by spending many hours with Linda’s grandchildren, Hannah (Alex), Zoe, and Kurt, whom he considered his own.

He is preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Charles Eldon Montell; his sister, Madeline Montell McClendon; and by Ruth Evelyn Jackson Montell, the mother of his children.

He attended Campbellsville College, UK, and WKU, where he became interested in history and folk studies. After teaching history at Temple Hill High School, he applied to a Ph.D. program in Folk Studies, which was offered at Indiana University. He received a three-year fellowship pursuing what became his life-long passion—the study and recording of the everyday history of the common man.

After receiving his doctorate, he taught history and folk studies at Campbellsville College. He eventually was appointed as the academic dean and later served as vice-president of the college. In 1969, he accepted a teaching position in history and folk studies at WKU, where he taught for over 30 years. He was a visiting professor at UCLA in 1971. A few years later, at Notre Dame University. The folk studies courses were very popular at WKU, and in 1973 the graduate program was introduced, drawing students from all over the United States, and occasional students from around the world. He was later appointed the head of the Center for Intercultural Studies at WKU. He was a past president of the American Folklife Society and well-known across the U.S. by those in this field of study.

He loved the area of Upper Cumberland. He published or edited 28 books addressing all aspects of its local history and folkways, including race relations in the post-Civil War era, the unofficial role of community-sanctioned crime, tales of firsthand supernatural encounters, and a series of books telling firsthand accounts of people in various professions. This collection included tales told by doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, sheriffs, and funeral directors. He also published books honoring the art of everyday life in such topics as vernacular architecture, foodways, competitive marble-playing, and southern gospel music. He was a master storyteller and was an in-demand statewide speaker for the Kentucky Humanities Council.

He received several awards, including his 2001 induction into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. In 2003 he received the Governor’s Arts Award in the Folk Heritage category. He was recognized by the Kentucky Southern Gospel Association in 2020 for his contributions to the preservation of this music genre.

He loved and celebrated the everyday man. We are blessed to have known and been loved by him.

Funeral Services for Dr. Montell will be held at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 26, 2023,  at Johnson Vaughn Phelps Funeral Home. Visitation will be held from 11:00 a.m. until the time of service. An additional visitation will be held on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, from 11:00 a.m. until 1 pm at Yokley-Trible Funeral Home at 510 W. 4th Street, Tompkinsville, KY 42167. A burial will follow at Skaggs Creek Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Gideons International, the Disabled American Veterans, or the Salvation Army.

Leave a Comment