James M. Gifford

CEO & Senior Editor

James M. Gifford, a native of Shelbyville, Tennessee, received the B.A. from Maryville College in 1967; M.A. from Middle Tennessee State University in 1970; and the Ph.D. in history from the University of Georgia in 1977. He is a widely published scholar who had received professional awards as a teacher, editor, author, and publisher. For the past 37 years, he has served as the CEO & Senior Editor of the Jesse Stuart Foundation, a regional publishing house headquartered in Ashland, Kentucky.

In February 2022, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear presented Dr. Gifford with the Milner Award, the highest award given by the Kentucky Arts council, to honor his career as an educator, author, and publisher. Past recipients include Wendell Berry, Janice Holt Giles, Jesse Stuart, and Governor Paul Patton.

At age 78, Dr. Gifford is in good health and remains an active scholar. He is currently writing an autobiographical memoir and compiling and co-editing a book on the Depression in southeastern Kentucky and another on the Black experience in central Appalachia.

Judith Kidwell

Administrative Assistant

Judith Kidwell has been the Administrative Assistant to the CEO & Senior Editor at the Jesse Stuart Foundation since 2011.  She earned the B.A. degree in history from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, and the M.S. degree in organizational management from Cumberland University in Tennessee.

She has written for a variety of publications and audiences in her work in banking, institutional advancement, and nonprofit management.  Judith contributed to the anthology Appalachian Murders & Mysteries: True Stories From West Virginia, Kentucky and Southern Ohio, and co-edited and contributed to True Christmas Stories From the Heart of Appalachia.

At the JSF, Judith helps Dr. Gifford prepare manuscripts for publication, distributes the weekly e-newsletter JSF Update, prepares financial reports, and coordinates the Regional Readers books discussion group and the Associate Membership program.  Judith can be reached at judith.kidwell@jsfbooks.com.

Debbie Bustetter

Director of Sales

Debbie Bustetter is the Director of Sales for the JSF and manages customer service, the JSF Bookstore & Appalachian Gift Shop inventory, and the Foundation’s social media accounts.  She processes customers’ orders and keeps the warehouse well organized.  Debbie grew up in the Ironton, Ohio – Ashland, Kentucky area; before joining the JSF in 2016, she was in banking for over 30 years.  Debbie can be reached at dbustetter@jsfbooks.com.

Wayne Onkst

Board Chairman

Wayne Onkst, Chairman of the JSF Board of Directors, is the retired State Librarian and Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.  A lifelong lover of books and reading, he took his first job at the age of 16 as a shelver in the Laurel County Public Library.  After obtaining degrees in history and library science at the University of Kentucky, he was a librarian at the Kenton County Public Library for 27 years, serving as Director of the Library from 1999-2006.  In 2006, he was appointed State Librarian and Commissioner and served until 2015.

Wayne is known for his love of genealogy and historical document preservation.  He authored Presidential Visits to Kentucky: 1819-2017, edited Buffalo Trails to the Twentieth Century: A Centennial History of Erlanger, Kentucky, and co-edited and contributed to True Christmas Stories From the Heart of Appalachia.  He has written several articles on history and was a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky.

Wayne serves on the Board of Friends of Kentucky Libraries; Kentucky Oral History Commission; State Archives and Records Commission; Kentucky Board for the Certification of Librarian; and the University of Kentucky Library and Information Science Program Advisory Board.