Lee Pennington is a highly acclaimed poet, filmmaker, and educator. As a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, and a Kentucky poet laureate, Pennington has left an incredible literary mark captivating readers with his profound stories. His films have showcased his travels around the globe seeking to complete the mission of JoLe Productions, “capturing those things being lost.”
But his adventures began right here in eastern Kentucky.
Born in Greenup County, Pennington took his first job as a freelance reporter at the Portsmouth Times while still a student at McKell High School, working there from 1956 to 1958. He shared that Jesse Stuart, his principal at the time, assisted him getting the job, which provided enough funds to buy a suit for the prom, a slide rule that he used all through college, and a high school senior ring.
When he got old enough to get his license, he bought a car with the money from writing articles for the newspaper and from selling strawberries off a row his parents gave him from the family farm on White Oak. Many locals may still recall the Penningtons calling out, “Corn, green beans, fresh strawberries!” from an old Chevy truck selling fresh produce all around Portsmouth.
Following graduation, he and Stuart became close friends and later colleagues. They traveled to several foreign lands and corresponded on a regular basis. Many of those letters have been donated to the Lee and Joy Pennington Cultural Heritage Gallery in the Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville. Pennington went on to teach, write books on poetry, and came to be known as a master storyteller. Later, his international travels became the background for his many films.
The Story Behind the Story of Lee Pennington premiered at the University of Louisville earlier this year, and won Runner-up Best Documentary at The Imaginarium Independent Film Festival.
The film was directed and produced by Scioto County, Ohio resident Laura G Womack, who began working on the project shortly after the Covid -19 Pandemic restrictions were lifted. The documentary takes a look at the behind-the-scenes stories of the 23 published books, 9 plays, and 26 documentaries of Pennington.
The Portsmouth screening is organized by director/producer, Laura Womack, native of Portsmouth, for 6 p.m. Thursday, August 24, at the Scioto County Public Library, Portsmouth Branch. This highly anticipated event will provide an exclusive opportunity for film enthusiasts, poetry lovers, and admirers of Pennington’s work to witness the local unveiling of this film.
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The Scioto County Public Library is located at 1220 Gallia Street, Portsmouth. Enter at the Rear of the building, Lower Level and Follow the Signs. This event is FREE and open to the public.