Poet Laureate of
James Larkin Pearson1879-1981
James Larkin Pearson was born September
13, 1879, in a small cabin atop Berry Mountain
in Wilkes County to William and Louise McNeill
The Early Years
In early boyhood, James Larkin Pearson was
determined to become a poet. He had little formal
education, and early in life he worked on the
family farm and did some carpentry.
“Many of my poems were composed as I went
about my work on the farm. I always carried my
notebook and pencil to the field with me, and as I
trudged between the plow-handles in the hot
sunshine, my mind was busy working out a poem."
According to Pearson, he composed his
first poem at age 4, while out one cold
winter day with his father.
"My fingers and my toes,
My feet and my hands,
Are jist as cold
As you ever see'd a man's"
Pearson left the family farm at age 21 and found
work with R. Don Laws on The Yellow Jacket, a
newspaper printed at Moravian Falls. Pearson was
a daily columnist, and spent two years in
Washington, DC as a correspondent.
The Yellow Jacket was distributed
nationally and was well known for its
radical political views.
In 1910 Pearson started his own
paper, The Fool-Killer.
The Fool-Killer was sold nationwide,
and at the height of its popularity
boasted 50,000 subscriptions.
Pearson described his paper as “a bundle of
literary dynamite that will shake the rotten
foundations of society . . . It is salted with
wit, peppered with humor, and seasoned
Download and read The Fool-Killer on the
James Larkin Pearson research guide:
By 1912 The Fool-Killer’s circulation increased enough
that Pearson had to expand his printing operation. He
purchased the equipment shown above, including a
CB Cottrell & Sons printing press (right).
Throughout his printing and newspaper publishing
career Pearson continued writing poetry. He self
published several volumes and published individual
poems in his newspapers.
The literary world took notice of Pearson’s poems
after 1929, when writer Upton Sinclair featured his
work in an article in The New York Times.
After 1924, Pearson’s work was published in many newspapers
and anthologies of poetry. In 1953 Governor William B. Umstead
appointed him the second poet laureate of North Carolina, a
position he held until his death in 1981.
Wilkes Community College
James Larkin Pearson Library
The James Larkin Pearson Library opened at Wilkes
Community College after Pearson’s death in 1981.
The mission of the library is to preserve Pearson’s
legacy as a printer and a poet and to provide
access to his publications, writings, and
The Wilkes Community College Pardue Library and
Learning Resources Center hopes you will enjoy
touring the James Larkin Pearson Library exhibits.
If you have questions about the Pearson Library,
please call the WCC Pardue Library at 838-6114.
For more information visit