Soldier in war on poverty says fight is not over

GRETHEL, Ky. -- In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson came to the front lines of his war on poverty: the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. His trip showed America a disturbing vision of itself: people living in shacks with no electricity.

Growing up in these mountains was a little girl named Eula Hall.

eula_young.jpg
Eula Hall's education ended in eighth grade, and she began working with community organizers.
CBS News
 "We didn’t have indoor plumbing, we didn’t have running water," she says. "There was no health care for the people who didn’t have any insurance or money."

Eula says "people died because they didn’t get the proper health care."

With the closest doctor 50 miles away on unpaved roads, something as benign as an infected cut from a rusty nail could prove fatal.

Hall's education ended in the eighth grade and she began working with community organizers who taught her how to fight to get things done. She eventually became the driving force in changing her corner of Appalachia.

Deep divides split Washington over how to combat poverty

Politicians took notice, and Sen. Ted Kennedy paid a visit.

"I was so happy I got to tour and talk to him," Hall says.

Ninety percent of the wells in Floyd County were contaminated with bacteria. In the late 1960s, she got federal funds to have clean water piped in from the closest water treatment plant.

eula.jpg
Eula Hall
CBS News
 Using federal grants and private donations, Hall also built the first and only medical clinic in the county. What began as a shack in 1973 is now a modern facility with its own doctors, X-rays and pharmacy, serving over 7,000 patients a year.

"I love this place because I know when they open that door and they walk in, they're going to be treated with respect, and they're going to be treated with the best we've got to offer," says Hall, whose fight is documented in a new biography, "Mud Creek Medicine."

Asked if she believes the U.S. has won the war on poverty, she replies, "I think we won a lot of battles in the war on poverty. I won't say we won all, but I think we've done great with what we could do."

As long as she has a cane to walk with, the 86-year-old soldier says she will never stop fighting.

Excerpts from Mud Creek Clinic by Anne Lewis, courtesy of Appalshop Archive.

  • Don Dahler

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter