More than 100 river enthusiasts attended a gala dinner Saturday night to benefit the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL.

The St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri–St. Louis celebrated river travel and the people who write and sing about it Saturday at a gala dinner to benefit the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library. More than 100 people braved the snow to attend the dinner, which also honored two authors who have chronicled river life.

“The Mercantile Library is very grateful to its many river enthusiasts who have made the Wright Award over the years one of our signature events,” said John Hoover, director of the library.

The Pott Library annually honors two authors for their contributions to maritime literature. The 2011 Captain Donald T. Wright Award was presented to Ron Powers. Born in Hannibal, Mo., Powers began his career as a journalist winning a Pulitzer Prize for his television criticism in 1973 and an Emmy in 1985 for his work on CBS News Sunday Morning. His hometown has been a great influence on his writing, which includes a 2005 biography of Mark Twain.

Charles F. Lehman received 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.

Entertainment was provided by the John Hartford Stringband, which has continued performing the legendary singer songwriter’s music since Hartford’s death in 2001. The crowd scooped up every item in a first-ever silent auction, which included a trip from St. Louis to New Orleans on a working towboat.

John Hartford grew up in St. Louis and at an early age fell in love with two things: music and the Mississippi River. He recorded more than 30 albums over three decades starting with his 1967 song, “Gentle on my Mind.” He was a licensed riverboat captain and a renowned collector of boat and river artifacts, including antique steamboat parts, photos, and more than 1,000 books. Much of that collection was donated to the Pott Library. Dinner attendees were treated to special exhibition from that collection.

The Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library is a special library within the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL. Established in 1985, its namesake was one of the 20th Century’s best known and most distinguished river transportation executives and pioneer river industry entrepreneurs.

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

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