By Janie Southard
"In November we moved from Crawford to the new house in Airport Gardens. We took Mommy and Daddy's cast iron bed, their wardrobe and the cedar chest, which contained daddy's clothes; his mining cap and the belt the sheriff had brought back to mommy ..."
So begins first-time author Loretta Creech's story of her father's murder in 1965 during the United Mine Workers' strike of Leatherwood #1 mine in Leatherwood, Ky.
"My daddy's death stopped the strike, but we never did know who shot him," Creech told The Daily Standard during a recent telephone interview from her home near Lexington, Ky. Her father's death left his wife Gladys with 10 children to raise, the last baby born after his death.
Creech, a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and now retired from Toyota Motor Manufacturing, wrote her book, "No Tears for Ernest Creech," from the diary she kept in 1967, while at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky.
"I wrote notes to myself that first year at Alice Lloyd, otherwise I could never have remembered all the details. I guess then it was a way for me to get over his death," said Creech, whose sisters (Annette Franck, Connie Fraley, Dianna Klausing and Oneda Kraner) all now live in Mercer County. "I am the second of Mommy's seven girls," said Creech, who attended college on a music (voice) scholarship.
About six months after the death of Ernest Creech, Ted Humes, a writer for "Human Events" magazine based in Washington, D.C., wrote of the death in an article titled "No Tears for Ernest Creech." Humes' sub-head read "the great society claims to be helping the people of Appalachia, but it does nothing to protect the individual working man from union violence."
Humes told the story of how Ernest, then 38 years old, broke the Mine Workers' picket line and put in a full day's work. It was on the way out of the parking area that he was shot while inside his pick-up truck heading home.
Creech well remembers the day Humes came to their frame and concrete block house in the mountains.
"Mr. Humes sat down in one of our hard-bottomed chairs on the front porch, took out his thick black book, his shiny silver pen and started writing, asking Mommy questions about Daddy ... He quoted the words very well that came out of Mommy's mouth that day," Creech wrote in her book.
She told The Daily Standard her goal in writing her book is the hope that someone will come forward who knows who killed her father.
There were 12 men on the picket line when her father was killed. Creech believes at least one of them knows what happened. All 12 stood trial.
"It's the code of the mountains that even now the family (of the killer) would be protected. But that's a pretty bad thing to do -- to kill a man with 10 children," she said.
After the Humes article ran, the family got letters, checks and money from all around the country. "We even got a letter and some money from Lucille Ball," Creech said.
Ernest Creech was a good man, according to his daughter's book. His goals were all for his family's welfare, and he worked hard to keep them all together.
"A lot of kids quit school, but Daddy wouldn't let any of us quit. He knew how important an education was because Daddy only went up to the third grade," she said. "He was important and not a forgotten man."