Ken Beck: 'I died really well'

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Writer Ken Beck was guest speaker at the February Auburntown Historical Society (AHS) Meeting. Beck writes for a hand full of newspapers including The Cannon Courier. (Photo by Donna Nichols)

"I died really well," laughed Ken Beck as he spoke at the February Auburntown Historical Society meeting. As an extra in a 1986 western movie, "The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James", Beck's character was shot and killed by Johnny Cash who portrayed Frank James. Always partial to cowboys of yesteryear, Beck wrote a feature article about the film, which starred country music superstars Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.

According to Beck, there are great stories everywhere. His curiosity and ingenious way of piecing together information allowed him to do what he loved while working as entertainment writer for The Tennessean newspaper. During his 31 years with the newspaper, he interviewed hundreds of film and TV Stars.

His friendship with Jim Clark, whom he met while working at the newspaper, resulted in their co-authoring a book about "The Andy Griffith Show." Originally published in 1985, the book led to additional books about their favorite show and the best-selling "Aunt Bee's Mayberry Cookbook," which has sold nearly a million copies.

Born in Murfreesboro in 1951 to Alton and Hazel Rogers Beck, his Cannon County roots go back at least six generations. His parents met while his dad was stationed at Sewart Air Force Military Base in Smyrna, TN. His mother, Hazel, was the oldest of 13 children born to C.D. (Dowell) and Lois Rogers of the Readyville community. His grandmother's maiden name was Knox. During childhood, Beck and his family spent lots of time visiting in Cannon County and attending Curlee Church of Christ, and he learned to swim above the Readyville Mill dam.

Beck's life's passion has been telling stories and recording Southern traditions before they pass away. Beck stated one of the most interesting characters he interviewed was J.R. Buchanan of East Tennessee. He was a "tracker" who found lost hikers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nicknamed the "Bloodhound of the Smokies," Buchannan stood only 5'4" and knew everything about the woods there was to know. He found some 150 lost folks in the woods and also helped recover about three dozen who died there.

Ken Beck is always looking for a story to tell. His favorite TV episode of the "Andy Griffith Show" is entitled, "Man in a Hurry," in which a frustrated businessman learns to slow down within the peaceful pace of Mayberry. But, don't look for Ken Beck to slow down anytime soon. He is always busy interviewing and engaging in research. He writes feature articles for several local newspapers. His last book was "Walking On," as he and his writing partner, Jim Clark, teamed with Dwana Pusser, the daughter of Buford Pusser, the legendary sheriff of McNairy County, Adamsville, TN, and of "Walking Tall" fame.

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