Biographical / Historical
George Henry Yater was born August 15, 1922 in Louisville, Kentucky, the second son of James David and Ellen Fahy Yater. His only sibling, James David, Jr., died in 1915 at the age of two years. Yater grew up in the Beechmont neighborhood. His father worked as a yardman for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, thus providing the impetus for his lifelong interest in trains. Yater attended both Beechmont Elementary School and Holy Name School, graduating from the latter in 1936. He then attended St. Xavier High School, graduating in 1940. Having an academic bent and an inquiring mind, Yater became vitally interested in all aspects of Louisville life and the city's history.
In December 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yater volunteered for military service and was inducted into the United States Army. He went to basic training in Miami Beach, followed by technical training in West Palm Beach and Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was assigned to the signal corps and served in India and Burma, and later on Wake Island. He was honorably discharged from the army in March 1946.
He returned to Louisville, attending the University of Louisville on the G.I. Bill and at the same time beginning his career in journalism as a "copy boy" for the Louisville Courier-Journal. He earned a B.A. in history in 1950. About the same time he met a young New York native, Marjory Horton Jupenlaz, who was completing a social work internship in Louisville. She returned to New York, and Yater began studying at Columbia University. George and Marjory were married in December 1951. They settled in New Albany, Indiana as Yater had been hired as a reporter for the Louisville Times, a position he held until 1955.
For the next three decades Yater worked as an editor for a trade publication (The Insurance Field), as a features writer for the Courier-Journal Sunday Magazine, as director of the news bureau for the Kentucky Department of Public Information, as editor of Louisville Magazine, and in the Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of Louisville.
In 1979, George Yater published his first book, the widely acclaimed definitive history of Louisville: Two Hundred Years at the Falls of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County. He completed a second edition of this book in 1987. Yater then served as an advisor on the Louisville area for The Kentucky Encyclopedia, published in 1992. The success of this volume brought about the publication of The Encyclopedia of Louisville (published in 2000), of which Yater served as an associate editor.
Beyond his strictly professional accomplishments are Yater's contributions to many organizations, including the Kentucky Historical Society, the Filson Historical Society, the Floyd County Historical Society, the Louisville Historical League, the Beargrass-St. Matthews Historical Society, the Portland Museum, Riverside, the Farnsley-Moreman Landing, the Kentucky Railway Museum, the Louisville Trolley Club, and the Louisville chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
George Yater died on January 25, 2006.