This is an illustration from the James V. Swift collection at the Herman T. Pott National Waterways Library. An exhibit of work from the collection will be on display in the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL.

Legendary singer songwriter John Hartford got his first job on the Mississippi River when he was 16. He was fond of saying that the river would have been his life’s work “but music got in the way.” The talented Hartford managed to combine his two passions as a Grammy Award-winning artist and a steamboat pilot until his death in 2001.

The St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri–St. Louis will combine those subjects at 6 p.m. Feb. 5 when it honors two authors who have chronicled river life at a gala dinner with entertainment provided by the John Hartford Stringband. The event, which will benefit the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library, also will include a special exhibition from the John Hartford Collection of river history at the library.

The event will be held at the Mercantile Library in the Thomas Jefferson Library on UMSL’s North Campus. The cost of dinner sponsorship runs from $75 to $500 per person. A silent auction includes numerous items, among them: six Blues Cruise tickets on the riverboat Becky Thatcher and a one-way trip from St. Louis to New Orleans on a working towboat courtesy of AEP River Operations.

The Pott Library awards will include:

Writer Ron Powers will receive the 2011 Captain Donald T. Wright Award. Born in Hannibal, Mo., Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, novelist and non-fiction writer.

Charles F. Lehman will receive the 2011 James V. Swift Medal for his lifetime of work on boats starting with his U.S. Navy service in the Korean War to his service as a captain for American Commercial Barge Line. His book, “A Riverman’s Lexicon,” was published in 2009.

John Hartford grew up in St. Louis and recorded more than 30 albums over three decades starting with his 1967 song, “Gentle on my Mind.” After Glen Campbell recorded the song in 1968 it went on to become one of the most recorded and performed songs of the time covered by artists from Elvis Presley to Aretha Franklin. The Grammy Award-nominated John Hartford Stringband has continued to perform, honoring their legendary leader. Their most recent album was released in 2010.

Call 314-516-7240 to RSVP.

More information:

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

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