Carl Veazey was the “Historical Guru’’ of Hopkins County, according to his friend Steven Ray. Though serious in its sentiments, it was a moniker typically made in jest.
Whenever Ray would mockingly bow down to him, Veazey would laugh it off and critique his kneeling stance with a wry lilt in his voice: “That’s not even how you do it. Get down lower on the ground.”
Veazey, 69, of Hanson passed away this week at Baptist Health Madisonville, but his writings on local history and personal connections in the community have solidified his legacy in Hopkins County.
A postal worker prior to his retirement, he was also the official Hopkins County Historian for eight years after decades of involvement with the Genealogy Society and Historical Society of Hopkins County.
“He truly had a sense of value of history, and he did many things in this county to promote that as a historian,” Ray, the current program director of the Genealogy Society, said.
Local attorney Randy Teague, a friend of Veazey’s since 1964 as well as the vice chair of the Historical Society, attributed Veazey’s interest in local history to his upbringing. Veazey’s father was known to expand on interesting tales about their family’s history.
One of Veazey’s favorite pieces of trivia about his family was that his great uncle was the landowner of the farm in Arkansas where Johnny Cash was born, Ray said.
Though Veazey had no formal education in history, he was considered a student in the pursuit of knowledge throughout his life. He spent hours of research into the formal records of Hopkins County. He was also an avid collector of rare history books.
Teague compared Veazey’s work as an amateur historian to that of a seasoned detective.
Veazey was precise, analytical and thorough, Teague said. Before he published any fact, his verification process was rigorous; he would contact living relatives adjacent to the local topic and physically travel to sites that his research had revealed for confirmation.
“That’s what distinguished Carl from some historians who just like a good story and maybe fudge a few facts or fill in some facts,” Teague said. “Carl wasn’t that way. He was a stickler for proof.”
Veazey didn’t make up history, Instead, Teague said, he dug it up.
While some may expect a historian to remain stationary at a desk, Veazey was one of kinetic energy in his mind and movements.
He delivered several historical programs and led tour guides throughout Hopkins County. According to those close to him, Veazey believed history was something that could still be experienced through landscape and conversation.
Earlier this month, Veazey and Ray traveled to Lewisburg to research more about the 1965 Peach Orchard Road murders in Logan County. They visited the cemetery and funeral home to take pictures of the site where the bodies were discovered. According to Ray, Veazey was excited to go to the Genealogy Society’s program on Saturday to talk to the authors of the new book on the case and living family members of key individuals.
According to Teague, Veazey’s main historical devotion was reserved for the Harpe Brothers, who are considered the earliest documented serial killers in United States history. In the late 1700s, the Harpe Brothers were active in the southwestern region in Kentucky and Micajah “Big” Harpe actually died in nearby Muhlenberg County.
Veazey would routinely visit alleged sites of the Harpe family’s whereabouts to confirm and document the specific facts. Teague estimated that Veazey spent close to 30 years compiling research on the historical figures.
Veazey was also influential in the historical marker program and contributed to the monuments such as the Spanish Flu mass grave in Earlington and J.W. Millions School.
Both Teague and Ray were quick to bring up Veazey’s incredible wit and sense of humor.
“He had a brilliant mind,” Ray said. “He was truly an interesting character that never failed to look at every detail of an issue.”
Teague said his humor could still be found in the articles he would write for the Historical Society’s annual yearbooks and the column he contributed to The Messenger.
“He was a great writer,” Teague said. “He would write these columns about really interesting pieces of history that most people would’ve never known about.”
His writings can still be found in the archives of The Messenger and Historical Society, and Teague encouraged those with the same curious disposition of Veazey’s to check out his investigations into local history.
“For most of us, when we’re gone, we’re gone. We don’t leave a trail,” Teague said. “Unlike most of us, he’s got a written legacy.”
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the chapel of Harris Funeral Home in Madisonville with Pastor Tami Coleman officiating. Burial to follow at Carter Creek Cemetery in Greenville. The visitation will be from 11 a.m. until the funeral hour Saturday at the funeral home. A complete obituary can be found on Page A4 of today’s publication.