Gray Barker in Who’s Who Among Students

Sometimes references are hard to track down. When I was writing Strangers and Aliens, I had a heckuva time getting my hands on a copy of the 1991 Illuminet Press edition of John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, just so I could make sure a particular passage hadn’t been quote-mined.

Tracking down Gray Barker’ s listing in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges was much harder by comparison. Barker was actually mentioned in connection with Who’s Who Among Students in his junior year, when it was noted that he wasn’t a senior and thus could not be nominated. This was rectified in his senior year. The Glenville Mercury, the college newspaper for which he served as editor, mentions that he was included in the 1945-46 edition.

At first, I ran into a dead end.

The folks in the Glenville State College archives were didn’t have a copy and were under the impression that this particular edition had never been printed, presumably due to end-of-war (World War II, in fact) paper shortages.

It wasn’t available anywhere online, either archival or for purchase. I eventually contacted Who’s Who Among Students but they didn’t have a copy either! At last they thought they had found a copy on eBay but the seller was confused and did not have that particular edition after all.

They referred me back to the college,  noting that they sent each participant college a free copy… and they reminded me that they didn’t have one.

I was ready to give up when a last ditch Google search revealed that the edition was listed as an item in the Hugh C. Bailey Papers of the Valdosta State University (Georgia) Archives and Special Collections. I have no idea who Hugh C. Bailey and I had never heard of Valdosta State University but the book was there!

The Director sent me the long awaited image below:

If may not seem like much, and most of the material was not new to me, but there was a payoff: this was the first time is ever heard it mentioned that Barker was a publicist for the college. According to the Jason Gum (Reference & Archives, Robert F. Kidd Library, Glenville State College), “this would have had to have been a student position because I do have a pretty comprehensive faculty and staff directory, and he was never listed as a paid employee of the college. I would imagine that publicist probably went along with his Mercury duties.” Even with this qualification, what makes that interesting is that is shows that Barker’s gift for promotion and publicity was recognized well before he started chasing the flying saucers.


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