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Hayes, Hubert Harrison

by Mattie U. Russell, 1988

3 Aug. 1901–30 July 1964

Hubert Harrison Hayes, actor, author, producer, promoter, and folklorist, was born in Asheville, the son of Ernest L. Hayes, a master mechanic, and Elizabeth Ingle Hayes. In 1922–23 he attended Trinity College (now Duke University), Durham, but due to a serious injury he lost his athletic scholarship and had to end his college career. Soon afterwards he was employed by the Augustin Stock Company and toured with the company for three years. Returning to Asheville, Hayes joined the Fire Department but his interest in the theater continued. He wrote a number of plays and became a producer of his own plays and those of others. The first of his plays, written in collaboration with John Tainter Foote, was Tight Britches, which portrays life among the mountain people; it was first produced in Asheville in 1933 and appeared on Broadway the following year. Hayes's outdoor drama, Thunderland, about the Daniel Boone era, was produced during the summers of 1952 and 1953 in the amphitheater at Skyland. He also wrote numerous radio scripts.

During World War II, Hayes taught meteorology and navigation to soldiers stationed in Asheville. He was a licensed pilot and a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

From 1945 to 1954, Hayes was manager of the Asheville City Auditorium and in that capacity promoted entertainment and talent, bringing to the auditorium top names in show business. In 1948 he founded the Mountain Youth Jamboree, a program to promote and perpetuate folk culture and train children to perform on stage. In cooperation with his wife, Leona Trantham Hayes, whom he married on 9 June 1934, he produced the jamboree annually until his death. Mrs. Hayes continued it through its twenty-sixth anniversary performance in 1973. From the start of the jamboree, Hayes had the support of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce in assembling youths from the Appalachian Mountains each spring to participate in folk dancing, music making, and folk and ballad singing in the Asheville auditorium. Every year he auditioned hundreds of children for the jamboree; during the twenty-six years of its existence, 52,000 children performed. It was in aiding, encouraging, and fostering the development and talent of young people that Hayes made his most lasting contributions.

Hayes was first a Baptist and then an Episcopalian. He died at age sixty-three and was buried in Calvary Episcopal Church cemetery in Fletcher, N.C. In addition to his widow, he was survived by his daughter, Yvonne, and two sisters. As a tribute to his endeavors, Mrs. Hayes gave the Hubert Hayes Memorial Cabin, along with his portrait and bust, to Western Carolina University.


Alumni Records (Alumni Office, Duke University, Durham).

Hubert Harrison Hayes Papers (Manuscript Department, Duke University Library, Durham).

Personal papers of Hubert Harrison Hayes (in possession of Leona Trantham Hayes, Asheville).

Recordings, Mountain Youth Jamboree (Duke University Library, Durham).

Additional Resources:

Aldridge, Elizabeth. "News of the Alumni: '26." Duke Alumni Register 21, no. 1 (January 1935). 20. (accessed April 15, 2014).

Hayes, Hubert. A Womanless Wedding. Baker's Plays, 1936. (accessed April 15, 2014).

Mauldin, Joanne Marshall. Thomas Wolfe: When Do the Atrocities Begin? Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 2007. 56. (accessed April 15, 2014).

Bordman, Gerald. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1930-1969: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1930-1969. Oxford University Press. 1996. 101. (accessed April 15, 2014).

Ogle, C. M. "Thunderland in Premiere." The Times-News (Hendersonville, N.C.)  July 4, 1952. 1. (accessed April 15, 2014).

Greenberg, Sue, and Jan Kahn. Asheville: A Postcard History vol. 2. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 1997. 50. (accessed April 15, 2014).

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when I was a young man we were in the mountain youth jamboree we were the only blind class of kids to ever be on stage is there any movie of that at all we were a square dance team , we went to Wm Randolph school we were a class of blind kids but . I remember that it took a lot to be able to be on stage but Mr Hayes did after a lot as I remember let us go on , if any knows anything please let me know..........

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