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Local author Jerry Pattengale talks 'Hee Haw'

A STAR FALLS:In this May 17, 2009, file photo, country music star Roy Clark performs after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show “Hee Haw” for nearly a quarter century, died Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, publicist Jeremy Westby said. He was 85.

BY Emily Rachelle Russell - erussell@chronicle-tribune.com

Following the recent death of country music star Roy Clark, 85, the Wall Street Journal printed an article remembering the impact of Clark’s co-hosted television show “Hee Haw,” including political analysis by Marion author Jerry Pattengale.

“Hee Haw,” an American television show featuring slapstick humor and country music, originally aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Pattengale has written a column for the Chronicle-Tribune about life in Buck Creek for decades. Two years ago, during the 2016 election season, Pattengale wrote a column for the C-T drawing parallels between the somewhat controversial show and the importance of rural voters to the 2016 election. The column was picked up by the Christian Post and, earlier this week, quoted in an article by Michael Taube in the Wall Street Journal.

One incident that played a part in the connection between the show and the election traced back to Junior Samples, an actor on the show who once spoke of running for lieutenant governor of Georgia. Samples was known for bumbling through his parts on “Hee Haw” and making frequent mistakes on the air.

Though he never followed through on his idea to run for office, Pattengale and Taube both consider Samples as a sort of precursor to Donald Trump.

“[In 2016] there were enough votes in [the rural] community to make a difference and to pay attention to the small towns as well as the large cities,” Pattengale said. “Donald Trump is no Junior Samples or vice versa, but both of them have had their miscues in public and … people actually seem to admire someone that wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind and making mistakes.”

The television show’s intellectually low humor and portrayal of women was considered by many viewers to be crude or embarrassing, Pattengale explained. The show was eventually cancelled as part of CBS’s “rural purge” in 1971.

However, Pattengale believes the role of the rural community in the 2016 election and the popularity of the show with that same audience in the 60s and 70s show the relevance of small country communities like Marion and Grant County.

“Perhaps the 2016 presidential election was a rural surge and an urban purge,” read one of Pattengale’s quotes in the Wall Street Journal. “Call rural voters hillbillies, country bumpkins, or blue-collar workers, but they’re definitely not deplorables.”

Pattengale said he was honored to be quoted in a positive way in such a prominent national publication. He found it exciting to show that works written for local papers can eventually reach an audience of millions. Friends all over the country texted and emailed him after seeing him quoted in the Wall Street Journal, he said.

“When you write things with an eye to the national audience for the local paper … you really are just speaking to the person next door in the next state over or across the country,” Pattengale said.