City of Asheville hosts Wilma Dykeman celebration

Wilma Dykeman
Author and environmentalist Wilma Dykeman grew up in the Beaverdam community. Her first book, "The French Broad," published in 1955, was the first winner of the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award.

Asheville residents are invited to a community celebration of Wilma Dykeman’s birthday from 4-6 p.m. this Friday, May 20, in Jean Webb Park, 30 Riverside Drive. The City will be on hand to provide information about the next three years of Riverfront Redevelopment activities, including sharing the final report on public art in the River Arts District.


This event is free and open to the public, and will include refreshments, cake, live performances and river trivia.


Dykeman is the namesake of a comprehensive plan to balance environmental protection and economic development along an urban parkway along Asheville’s riverfront. She warned of pollution in the French Broad River in her 1955 book “The French Broad,” which won the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize.


It was a clarion call to respect our natural world, issued seven years before Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” and the first case ever made that clean water is good for the economy. Wilma also pioneered in the areas of civil rights, women’s rights (including birth control), Appalachian Studies, and GMO’s.


She was born on May 20, 1920, just north of Asheville at the head of Beaverdam valley. She died in 2006 at the Keever Solace Center off Sweeten Creek Road. Between these Buncombe County bookends, she lived an extraordinary life filled with books and writing, learning and laughter, social debate and family nurture.


This event is in partnership with the City of Asheville, Wilma Dykeman Legacy and RiverLink.