It was the vision of Bonnie Cashion, Katherine (Kat) Peyton, and a community full of women eager to know more about their favorite authors. The High Point Literary League formed in 1981 when the 17 local book clubs teamed up to charter an organization that would “sponsor an annual luncheon featuring nationally known authors.”
An understated, overly ambitious goal.
Modeled after the storied and successful book clubs of Charlotte and Greensboro, the High Point Literary League held its first meeting on March 4, 1981, and featured authors John Yount (“Wolf at the Door” and “The Trapper’s Last Shot”) and Burke Davis, Sr., (“Sherman’s March,” “To Appomattox,” and “They Called Him Stonewall”). North Carolina and Virginia newspaper columnist Walter Spearman served as moderator for that first meeting and for several thereafter. That initial gathering was so successful that the Literary League had enough funds to sponsor a second meeting that same year and brought in James Dickey, author of “Deliverance.”
“Deliverance,” which was written in 1970 and made into a movie in 1972 has since been awarded countless accolades, including being ranked as 42nd on the list of the 100 best 20th Century Novels by the editors of “Modern Library” in 1998 and in 2005 was included in “Time” magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.
The High Point Literary League had made its mark and set the bar high.
The Literary League’s initial membership quota of 200 was quickly filled and exceeded, so they increased their membership to 225 that first year in order to take in all members of those 17 local book clubs who made up the inaugural members. When that number was filled, the Literary League established what was to become a permanent HPLL fixture – a waiting list for membership.
Today, membership of High Point Literary League stands strong at 450. As we peruse that initial membership roster, we honor High Point Literary League’s inaugural president, Bonnie Cashion, and more than 20 original members who remain active in the High Point Literary League over 40 years since the organization’s first meeting.
What started as an endeavor to bring the best contemporary authors to High Point, soon expanded to include a mission to endow a scholarship at High Point University. Inspired by founding member Helen Mounts, the High Point Literary League Scholarship goes to a High Point University student who, among other criteria, excels in writing and literary areas of study. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to 39 students.
The High Point Literary League’s list of 80-plus featured author/presenters reads like a Who’s Who of Contemporary American Literature. It is that way because the women who have followed in the footsteps of our founding leaders — Bonnie Cashion, Kat Peyton, Helen Mounts, Mary Clark Cole, Esther Culp, Sue Ellen Ryan, Elsie Tomlinson, Addie Wendler, Ellen Harris, and Hazel Young* – have maintained the passion and the integrity with which our bibliophile sisters started this organization.
*Founding HPLL Board Members