William Ferris has a distinguished career as an author, folklorist, filmmaker and academic administrator which covers thirty years. William Ferris was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1942, he attended Brooks High school in North Andover, Massachusetts. He received a bachelor's degree from Davidson College, a Master's degree in English literature from Northwestern University, and a Master's and Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ferris taught at Yale University from 1972 to 1979 and at Jackson State University from 1970 to 1972. In 1979 Dr. Ferris became the head of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture on the campus of the University of Mississippi. He served that post for eighteen years, building the center into to a distinguished institution. He established the Oxford Conference for the Book, the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, and conferences on Elvis Presley, civil rights and the law, and civil rights and media among other cultural programs. The center has in its possession the largest blues archive in the world and has, because of the research conducted there, been a source for a wide range of audio recordings, films, scholarly papers, and books. In 1993 the center was named a non-governmental organization affiliated with the United Nations. In 1997 William Ferris was named chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities by President Bill Clinton. Dr. Ferris's honors include the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities given to him by President Bill Clinton, France's Chevalier and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters, the American Library Association's Dartmouth Medal, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. William Ferris has now joined the history department of the University of North Carolina where he teaches courses in Southern Literature and Oral Tradition and Southern Music. He hold the Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History chair and is Senior Associate Director of CSAS and
Adjunct Professor in the Curriculum in Folklore. He is also senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ferris, former chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities, has written or edited many books and created fifteen documentary films.