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Edgar Tolson

Edgar Tolson (1904-1984; Campton, Kentucky) married twice and fathered eighteen children. He preached for many years but was increasingly conflicted between Baptist doctrine and a heavy drinking habit. In the mid 1930s, he blew up the church he preached at to make a point to his congregation. 

Tolson gained notoriety in 1967 when he was “discovered” by the director of the Smithsonian’s Museum Shop through a federal program for East Kentucky craftsmen. Art professors from the University of Kentucky became Tolson’s patrons, and it is debatable how much their influence determined the nature of his work thereafter.
He remains the preeminent Kentucky folk carver of the 20th Century, with works in collections of many major American art museums. His son, Donny Tolson, b. 1958, is an active carver, whose work is reminiscent of his father’s.