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The Alex Haley silver maple.

What better way to honor the author of Roots than to plant an offspring of a lovely old tree that shades the porch of his boyhood home?

On a wall in Alex Haley's Tennessee mansion hangs a glass frame that holds two old sardine cans and 18 cents. Haley kept it there to remind him of just how little he had at one time in his life. Haley used 12 years of that life to trace his African ancestry, and wrote it all down in his epic book Roots, inspiring millions around the world and bringing him enormous success.

First published in 1976, Roots was made into an eight-part television miniseries a year later.

Over half of all U.S. homes with TV sets watched the final two-hour episode.

Haley died last February in a Seattle, Washington, hospital at the age of 70. He will long be remembered for his writings--notably Roots, but also articles in Atlantic, Harper's, Reader's Digest, and The New York Times Magazine--documenting and illuminating his African heritage. In keeping with that same idea, AMERICAN FORESTS' Famous & Historic Trees program seeks to preserve and document important aspects of American history by collecting seeds from notable trees on historic sites across the nation. It is eminently fitting that a large silver maple overhanging the porch of Haley's boyhood home in Henning, Tennessee, is now part of the award-winning program.

Born in Ithaca, New York, Haley was raised in Tennessee by his maternal grandmother, Cynthia Palmer, and spent many summer evenings listening to her stories about ancestors Kunta Kinte and others who became characters in his Pulitzer-winning novel.

After leaving Tennessee, Haley spent 20 years in the Coast Guard. During that time, he sharpened his writing skills, partly by writing love letters home for his shipmates--he was able to express what they felt. He said his most creative moments occurred at sea. In 1952 the Coast Guard created for him the rank of chief journalist.

Seeds from the silver maple memorializing Alex Haley, collected by Global ReLeaf volunteers, are now producing small offspring. Twenty of them were planted as a memorial grove last April 23 in Kansas City, Missouri. The planting project was sponsored by the Pohrer Association, Dena Fund, Heartland All Species/Earth Day Kansas City, and the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

Other interested groups and individuals can participate in this program by planting an Alex Haley Silver Maple. Each little tree comes with a growing kit, a personalized Certificate of Authenticity, and a one-year guarantee. Each seedling planted becomes a living legacy to a man who dedicated his life to preserving the rich heritage of a people and the rich history of this nation.

For more information, and a free catalog of more than 200 Famous & Historic Trees, write Famous & Historic Trees, P.O. Box 7040-AH, Jacksonville, FL 322387040, or call toll-free 800/677-0727.

Jamie Roney is director of public relations for Famous & Historic Trees.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Historic Trees; author Alex Haley
Author:Roney, Jamie
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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