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Bluegrass Native & America's First
Poet Laureate Honored

April 23, 2005
John Cropper
VSC contributing correspondent

On Friday, April 22nd, two days shy of the centennial of his birth, Kentucky's Robert Penn Warren was honored with his own postage stamp, joining nearly two dozen of his fellow writers who have also been similarly commemorated. Dark clouds, gusty breezes and even the threat of severe weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of a small town's annual celebration of one of their own.

Robert Penn Warren Family Home                  VSC/Jay Bigalke

Held in the local church parking lot immediately adjacent to his home-town (Guthrie) post office and only a block from his family home (pictured above), the festivities started early, with a catered brunch for support, staff and early attendees. Additionally, the post office opened at 8:30 AM (Central Time) sharp, so that early risers in the crowd could get their stamps before the rush. Seating for three hundred, about one-fifth the town's 'official' population, was set up under a jumbo tent that sported a striking, patriotic American Flag design.

Smaller temporary constructs to either side of the main ceremony tent housed refreshments and retail operations (pictured, right) respectively. After a slow technical and logistical delay, retail operations were fully stocked and functional during the 9:00 AM hour, with brisk early business being the rule rather than the exception. Excellent planning and staffing prevented lines from getting too deep, but crowds clustered just outside the tent as the morning progressed, occasionally making access a challenge.

Cancellations were also a bit cramped, having been positioned at the far side of the tent nearly up against

Postal Service retail tent at Guthrie
VSC/Jay Bigalke

Volunteer hands out ceremony programs         VSC/Jay Bigalke

its wall. One also had to straddle a pole to reach it. Devices were ample, however, with five being made available for the event (one inside the facility and four in the tent). Also available for cancellation was "gilded" metallic-finish ink, reminiscent of gilded book edges of the era, which proved popular with some, but took a bit longer to dry!

One thousand programs were made available and volunteers began handing them out shortly after ten-fifteen, about the time event seating got underway.

As a crowd slowly assembled during the 10-o'clock hour, two buses from nearby Fort Campbell arrived and members of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Band and Honor Guard (pictured, right) file off and assembled in their designated areas. After a few minutes of tuning up, pre-ceremony music filled the air.

As the time to ceremony counted down, most of the town businesses shuttered and their proprietors and employees hurried down to claim a seat. By eleven, it was standing room only, with an estimated five hundred in attendance in and around the main tent.

101st Airborne Air Assault Band
VSC/Jay Bigalke

Mack Linebaugh, Master of Ceremonies         
VSC/Jay Bigalke                                     

Guthrie native Mack S. Linebaugh, Jr. (pictured, left), a U.S. Navy veteran, former President of the Bank of Nashville and currently the Economic Restructuring Chairman for Silver Triangle Main Street in Guthrie, served as the Master of Ceremonies and got things rolling promptly at eleven.

After a Presentation of Colors by the 101st Airborne Honor Guard, the band accompanied Ms. Norma Johnson as she sang the national anthem.

The Honorable A. Scott Marshall, Mayor of Guthrie, followed with a brief speech.

He was followed by Elaine Monroe of the Breathitt Veterinary Diagnostic Center, who was accompanied by a Red-tailed Hawk (pictured, below), mentioned in one of Warren's novels.

The crowd was then treated to another performance by the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Band, as they played the traditional, "My Old Kentucky Home".

Their performance was immediately followed by Roseanna Warren, daughter of Robert Penn Warren, who spoke of her father and his work. Warren's son Gabriel immediately followed Roseanna.

The final musical performance of the ceremony, "America the Beautiful", was performed by Ms. Julie Webb. She was accompanied by the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Band.

The dedication ceremony, officiated by USPS Kentuckiana District Manager Ann C. Wright, immediately followed (pictured, below).

Red-tailed Hawk         VSC/Jay Bigalke

(l-r) Mack Linebaugh, A. Scott Marshall, Ann C Wright, Gabriel Warren,         
Roseanna Warren                                                       
VSC/Jay Bigalke

After the ceremony, the speakers graciously provided autographs to those in attendance who requested them. The crowd then slowly disbursed to purchase stamps, collectibles and other memorabilia from the retail tent.

The Postal Service staff (pictured, below) was very attentive to collectors and non-collectors alike. A few of the personnel also had some philatelic experience and this contributed to the very collector-friendly atmosphere both before, during and after the ceremony.

The postal personnel that made the Guthrie event shine!    VSC/Jay Bigalke

special Robert Penn Warren Pictorial cancel in standard black (left) and metallic gold (right)
VSC/John Cropper                                                                                            

The combination of agreeable weather, home-town pride, friendly atmosphere and helpful staff made this one of the more memorable philatelic events in recent memory. If the success of this event is any indication, Kentucky will not have to wait another thirteen years to see another commemorative stamp issued within its borders.


For more information about Robert Penn Warren, visit http://www.robertpennwarren.com/.

For visitor's information about the city of Guthrie, consult http://www.guthrieky.com/.

For information on the Robert Penn Warren stamp, or other USPS products and/or services, visit http://www.usps.com.

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