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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


Not for Publication

July 30, 1997 -- No. 519

Prize-winning UNC-CH historian can comment
on the Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death

August 16 marks the 20th anniversary of the premature death of musical and cultural phenomenon Elvis Presley. Reporters interested in doing stories about “The King of Rock” will want to talk with Dr. Joel Williamson, Lineberger professor of humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The prize-winning UNC-CH historian is nearing completion of the first draft of “The Feminine Elvis,” a book he began researching in 1991. Williamson explores two themes in his book. One is how did Elvis affect young American women -- particularly young Southern women -- so strongly, enabling them to overcome in a sense the goody-goody “Melanie” side of their upbringing and tap into the “Scarlett” side, if only for a few hours at a time.

Going beyond the “Gone with the Wind” analogy, a second theme is why was it was Elvis and none of his predecessors or contemporaries who had such a profound effect. Williamson relies heavily on original research in northern Mississippi and elsewhere to support his ideas and enjoys talking about Presley, whom he describes as “Rhett Butler with a guitar.”

He is the author of books about race relations in the South and William Faulkner, both of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

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Note: Joel Williamson can be reached at (910) 276-9345 until Aug. 16. Thereafter, he will be back and forth between his Chapel Hill home, (919) 929-6613, and the beach, (910) 579-3025. After Aug. 24, he can be reached at home or at his UNC-CH office, (919) 962-2383.

Contact: For a release explaining some of the historian's views on Elvis Presley, call David Williamson at News Services, (919) 962-2091.