Our Town: Hazard, Kentucky

By Leslie Potter | 2/15/15 9:00 AM

Hazard, Kentucky, is a historic community in Eastern Kentucky with amenities you might not expect to find in a small, rural town.

Nan Gorman became mayor of Hazard after her husband, Mayor Bill Gorman, passed away in 2010. She was later re-elected to the seat.

“[My husband] did so much and his heart was in it,” she says. “He was passionate about Hazard, Perry County, and Eastern Kentucky.”

Nan shares that same enthusiasm for the town where she grew up and ultimately returned to after studying art and working as an artist in other parts of the world. She was previously employed as a full-time artist by the state and designed the current version of the Official Seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Nan’s love for the arts is evident in her vision for Hazard.

“Today we have plans for things to make it interesting for ourselves and tourists,” she says. “We’re planning a river walk, an artisans’ center on main street. We hope to have art classes, music classes, more theatrical productions.”

Along with the arts, Hazard is home to a science education center unlike any other in the state. The Challenger Learning Center, located on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College, brings science close to home for the people of Perry County.

“In most rural, small communities like this, you wouldn’t think of seeing something like the Challenger Learning Center,” says Tom Cravens, director of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.

“The families of the Challenger astronauts were the ones that started the concept of the Challenger Learning Centers,” Cravens says. “That was all brought about by the space shuttle Challenger disaster where we lost six astronauts plus teacher Christa McAuliffe. The family members felt like something positive needed to be done from that tragedy. The first Challenger Learning Center opened in 1988 in Houston, and then the Challenger center here in Hazard opened in 1999.”

The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky includes exhibits about space exploration, including a regionally relevant program where students learn how coal mining and space science are surprisingly similar.

One place where Hazard honors its history is the Bobby Davis Museum and Park. The museum was started by the parents of its namesake, Robert Davis, in memory of their son who was killed in Germany at the end of World War II.

Martha Quigley, Museum Director of the Bobby Davis Museum and Park, says that local residents were immediately interested in the museum as soon as it opened, and have contributed to its collection.

“I think that sort of echoes the type of community we have,” says Quigley. “All you have to do is put the word out and they were interested. They wanted a museum and they started bringing their own possessions and donating them to the museum.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2010, which originally aired on February 14, 2015. Watch the full episode.