NoD: “The Man Who Moved A Mountain”

Pikeville, Ky.
William Hambley, “The Man Who Moved a Mountain” – Pikeville, Ky.

From 1973 until 1987, over eighteen million cubic yards of earth was moved in a project known as the Pikeville Cut-Through. It was the largest earth moving project ever undertaken in the United States and only the second largest in the western hemisphere, paling only to the Panama Canal project.

But this isn’t about the project, it is about the man behind the project. A man who loved Pikeville, but who didn’t like how dusty she was. So he decided to take action.

Even in elementary school, William Hambley didn’t care for the railroad tracks that divided his hometown and the local college. The tracks also created a “wrong side of the track” mentality and the substandard housing that comes with it.

The railroad tracks also brought dirty coal cars through the middle of Pikeville. Intermittent flooding of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, which created a horseshoe around Pikeville, was a major problem for this eastern Kentucky community.

By 1960, the young William Hambley had grown. He was a doctor who ran and won the office of mayor in his beloved Pikeville. And through his perseverance, he maneuvered the red tape of over 20 federal, state and local agencies to improve Pikeville’s lot.

Thirteen years after his election, the Army Corps of Engineers broke grown on moving the Peach Orchard Mountain. The river, the tracks and a highway were put in the new cut-through and the old riverbed was filled and reclaimed. Over it, a roadbed – the William Hambley Blvd. – allowed for Pikeville’s expansion.

“The Man Who Moved a Mountain” served as Pikeville’s mayor for 29 years – until 1989 – and oversaw the entire project. Today, the bronze statue of Dr. Hambley forever looks down Pikeville’s changing and growing Main Street from its perch in City Park.