Nearly 50 years ago, on a presidential campaign swing through eastern Kentucky, Sen. Robert Kennedy promised to help a disabled coal miner build a community center in the tiny mountain town of Hemphill to give idle youth and others a place for recreation and meetings. James Johnson used the brick-making machine and VISTA workers that Kennedy supplied to create community space and built a park and area for horseback riding. Years later Johnson developed black lung disease and couldn’t keep the center going. After he died, his widow, Mabel, helped establish a new Hemphill Community Center in this mountainous region in the heart of Appalachia.
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