March 13, 2002: Herbalist Clarence "Catfish" Gray Dies

Mar 13, 2017

Herbalist and folk doctor Clarence Frederick “Catfish” Gray died in Huntington on March 13, 2002, at age 84. A native of Jackson County, he worked in various jobs, raised 10 children, and was a walking encyclopedia of traditional plant lore.

At the height of the 1970s folklore revival, Gray was a frequent subject of newspaper and television interviews.
Credit E-WV / WV Humanities Council

After a workplace accident in the early 1950s left him unable to do physical labor, Gray began gathering and selling wildflowers and herbs, while dispensing advice for using them medicinally. He sorted and packaged his unique blend of herbs in little bags at his home near Glenwood in Mason County.

Customers around the world enjoyed hearing his opinions on topics like diet, religion, lifestyle, and astrology. Known for his quaint, engaging personality, Gray also sold herbs at crafts fairs and other gatherings.

At the height of the 1970s folklore revival, Gray was a frequent subject of newspaper and television interviews. In addition, he was featured in the 1974 Appalshop document Catfish: Man of the Woods, and in an article in Goldenseal magazine. Catfish Gray is still well remembered by friends and customers for his cheerfulness and sincerity, and for his love of plants and people.