The Times wrote last week about the attempts by Arkansas State University to purchase and save the boyhood home of music superstar Johnny Cash near Dyess. Now it appears that a long-hoped-for deal is going through.
After a year-long negotiation, the family of the current owner, William Stegall, has reportedly accepted ASU's $100,000 offer to buy the Cash house and the small plot of land it sits on in a cotton field about a mile outside Dyess. Stegall has lived there for over 30 years. Built by the government in the mid-1930s as part of a 500-family farm resettlement community, it was the first new home the Cash family ever owned when they moved in during the winter of 1935. Johnny Cash lived there from the time he was three years old until he graduated from high school in 1950.
The house is in sorry shape, with a pronounced lean and some major alterations having been done inside and out. Beth Wiedower, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Rural Heritage Development Initiative, said the forthcoming restoration will be helped along considerably by the recollections of Johnny's youngest sister, Joanne.
"She's sharp as a tack, and she's drawn out a floor plan of the house and showed us where every piece of furniture was inside," Wiedower said. "We've got some really great, solid information on how to take it back to its original appearance." A concert to raise funds for the restoration of the Cash house and other Depression-era WPA buildings in Dyess is scheduled for Aug. 4 on the ASU campus in Jonesboro, with Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Johnny's kids, Rosanne and John Carter Cash, and others scheduled to appear.