Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Board of Trustees
Robert Shepherd, Trustee, 1963-1971
Robert Lee Shepherd Sr. (1911-1971)

View of campus field. VII 64_life_work_05a

TAGS: Robert Shepherd, Robert Lee Shepherd, Robert L. Shepherd, horticulturists, Pine Mountain Settlement School Board of Trustees, Burton Rogers, death and funeral of Robert Shepherd

ROBERT SHEPHERD Trustee, 1963-1971

Before Pine Mountain

A native of Goodloe, Kentucky, Robert Lee Shepherd held a bachelor’s degree from Berea College, and a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. From 1938 until 1950, he taught in the Floyd County school system. During this time, he also served as a private first class in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Next, he taught at Berea College from 1955 until 1961, when he joined the University of Kentucky (UK) staff. He was serving as a specialist in horticulture for the UK College of Agriculture and  stationed at the College’s Robinson Substation in Quicksand, Kentucky, when he heard from the president of Berea College and the Pine Mountain Settlement School director.

Pine Mountain

In October of 1963, Robert Shepherd received two invitations to become a member of the Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS). Francis S. Hutchins, President of Berea College and Chairman of the PMSS Board of Trustees and PMSS Director Burton Rogers. Both welcomed him as they felt Shepherd would be very helpful in the School’s planning and outreach efforts. They knew that Shepherd, a specialist in horticulture with the East Kentucky Resource Development Project in Quicksand, Kentucky, was not only familiar with the mission of the School, but also with the circumstances of the local area. Shepherd accepted their invitation in a letter dated October 25, 1963.

Director Rogers was also eager to make good use of Shepherd’s willingness to share his horticultural knowledge. Rogers’ first wish was for a map of the School’s farm property map, with the idea that the School farm could play a part in the community as well serve the needs of the School.

Shepherd immediately wrote to the Soil Conservation Service for such a map and also any farm plans the organization had made for the property. He agreed that the maps would be helpful in planning for the farm’s future with Director Rogers and the farm manager.  

Correspondence between Shepherd and Rogers indicates their high regard for each other’s work. In many of their letters, they exchanged information and ideas and discussed plans concerning the PMSS farm. Enclosed in a February 10, 1964, letter to Shepherd was the February bulletin of PMSS’s soil conservation district. Rogers wrote, “I think you will be interested in the statement on our timber stand improvement.”

In the same letter, Rogers told about enjoying the School’s tomatoes and wished “that we could experiment with a small greenhouse here to test our ability and our markets and to provide more employment.” A greenhouse was eventually built and was put into operation by Mr. Conley’s students, with Shepherd donating rolls of plastic to cover it for at least its first two years. 

In a November 11, 1964, letter, Shepherd wrote: “One needs to have a sincere love for the area and the people and I believe you have such love. Your works have proven this.”

At times, Shepherd (sometimes along with his wife, Wilamediae) visited PMSS to work with the farm staff and students on projects, such as the “garden program” in 1966. Over the next few years, he continued to provide advice and at times helped the School acquire seeds and locust trees. In 1969, Rogers thanked Shepherd for “insisting on a donation when I did not like to charge in view of all your contribution in hard work!”

In a letter to Shepherd dated October 9, 1969, Rogers expressed appreciation for a visit by Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd and of the information Shepherd provided:  “I feel we are exceedingly fortunate in your friendship and in all the assistance that you give us and are looking forward to giving in the months ahead. We are indeed very deeply grateful.” Rogers  mentions Shepherd’s membership on the Trustees’ special committee on the future.

In December 1970, Rogers sent a note through Mrs. Shepherd to Shepherd who was hospitalized after a heart attack: “[W]e are all thinking of you with prayer for your speedy recovery. You mean a great deal to us and we need you back in our midst.”

Sadly, Robert Lee Shepherd died two months later at the age of 59. Marian Kingman, Secretary of the PMSS Board of Trustees, sent the following condolences: 

…. We are sure you know, more than anyone, what a vibrant, positive, and unusually capable person your husband was. He had the ability to cheer, inspire, and even prod, and to do it with marvelous good humor. His contributions to mountain folk and to all who knew him were countless…. Bob’s constructive work on the Board of Trustees of the Pine Mountain Settlement School has been invaluable, and his suggestions as the school faces future changes have been most helpful. ….

Burton Rogers sent the following to Mrs. Shepherd:

“… Bob was so extremely active and alive in every way, making everyone and everything else come alive with his infectious enthusiasm, that I just cannot realize that he is not still here with us ready to keep us in good cheer for the road ahead. With all these talents of his, and his immense store of information with the great gift of sharing it so easily and helpfully, I find it hard to understand and to accept our indescribable loss. ….


Robert Lee Shepherd was born on September 11, 1911, in Goodloe, Floyd County, Kentucky. His parents were Brison Shepherd (1841-1926) and Lucinda (Ratliff) Shepherd (1872-1926). He had two sisters and four brothers.

Shepherd married Wilmediea Alice McGuire (born 1918 in Iowa) on July 29, 1947 in Winchester, Kentucky. They had three children: Robert L. Shepherd Jr. (b. 1940), Laurel Jean (1938-1995) and Phylis.

Robert Lee Shepherd, Sr, died on February 18, 1971, in Lexington, KY, at the age of 59 and his wife died in 1994. Both are buried in Berea Cemetery, Berea, Kentucky.

Title  Robert Shepherd
Alt. Title Robert Lee Shepherd ; Robert L. Shepherd ; R.L. Shepherd ; 
Creator Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Alt. Creator Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;
Subject Keyword Robert Shepherd, Robert Lee Shepherd, Robert L. Shepherd, horticulturists,  Pine Mountain Settlement School Board of Trustees, Burton Rogers, death and funeral of Robert Shepherd
Subject LCSH Shepherd, Robert Lee,  — 1911-1971.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Date Published 2023-09-16 aae
Publisher Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Contributor n/a
Type Collections ; text ; image ;
Format Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet.
Source Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Board of Trustees
Language English
Relation Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: BIOGRAPHY. 
Coverage Temporal 1911-1971
Coverage Spatial Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ;  
Rights Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor n/a
Description Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Robert Lee Shepherd ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Robert Lee Shepherd ;
Acquisition n/d
Citation “[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Processed By Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;
Last Updated  
Bibliography ROBERT SHEPHERD Trustee 1963-1971 Correspondence with Director Burton Rogers Series 09: BIOGRAPHY. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

See Also:
ROBERT SHEPHERD Correspondence
GOVERNANCE BOT Correspondence by Year Guide

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