Wigginton was born in West Virginia on November 9, 1942. His mother, Lucy Freelove Smith Wiggington, died eleven days later of "pneunomia due to acute pulmary edema," according to her death certificate. His maternal grandmother, Margaret Pollard Smith, was an associate professor of English at Vassar College and his father was a famous landscape architect, also named Brooks Eliot Wiggington. His family called him Eliot. He earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English from Cornell University and a second Master's from Johns Hopkins University. In 1966, he began teaching English in the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, located in the Appalachian Mountains of northeastern Georgia.
Wigginton began a writing project based on his students' collecting oral histories from local residents and writing them up. They published the histories and articles in a small magazine format beginning in 1967. Topics included all manner of folklife practices and customs associated with farming and the rural life of southern Appalachia, as well as the folklore and oral history of local residents. The magazine began to reach a national audience and became quite popular.
The first anthology of collected Foxfire articles was published in book form in 1972, and achieved best-seller status. Over the years, the schools published eleven other volumes. (The project transferred to the local public school in 1977.)
In addition, special collections were published, including The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, Foxfire: 25 Years, A Foxfire Christmas, and The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Toys and Games. Several collections of recorded music from the local area were released.
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