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Rudy Abramson

Writer co-edited an encyclopedia that covers 13 Appalachian states

Herald-Leader Staff Report

Rudy Abramson, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who co-edited an encyclopedia that covers the geology, agriculture, literature and humor of 13 Appalachian states, died Wednesday at a Fairfax, Va., hospital.

Mr. Abramson, who was 70, had received massive head injuries in a fall Tuesday at his home in Reston, Va. The 1,832-page Encyclopedia of Appalachia, which he co-edited with Jean Haskell, an Appalachian scholar, was published in 2006.

At his death, Mr. Abramson was working on a biography of Harry Caudill, the Eastern Kentucky lawyer and environmentalist who wrote Night Comes to the Cumberlands, a book that drew national attention to the problems of Appalachia in the 1960s.

Mr. Abramson was instrumental in the creation of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

“He was passionately interested in a better life for rural Americans everywhere, especially in Appalachia,” said Al Smith, who co-founded the institute.

A native of Florence, Ala., Mr. Abramson worked in the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau from 1966 to 1993, covering everything from the U.S. space program to the Vietnam War. He was the Nashville Tennessean’s Washington correspondent before he joined the Times.

He wrote two books, Spanning the Century: The Life of W. Averell Harriman, 1891-1986 and Hallowed Ground: Preserving America’s Heritage, about the Piedmont region of northern Virginia.

Mr. Abramson also once taught at Berea College.

In 2002, he wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times protesting plans by CBS television to do a reality show based on the old situation comedy The Beverly Hillbillies. The network intended to place people from rural areas in Beverly Hills and film them.

“This time we shall see real rural people put on display in circumstances reeking of condescension,” he wrote.

CBS dropped its plans to do the reality show after protests by rural residents and the United Mine Workers of America.

Mr. Abramson is survived by his wife, Joyce, daughters, Kristin and Karin; and three grandchildren.

Published in Lexington Herald-Leader from Feb. 15 to Feb. 20, 2008
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