'Catfish" Gray


Clarence F. “Catfish” Gray believed the bitters he produced from
 herbs and roots would cure his "patients" of just about anything.


HUNTINGTON — The late Clarence Fredrick Gray — better known as “Catfish,
 Man of the Woods” — was a well-known local herbalist and folk doctor who
 gained national attention. Featured in several documentary films,
he even appeared on David Letterman’s and Johnny Carson’s
late-night television shows.

Born in Liverpool, W.Va., on the Jackson-Roane County line, Gray
believed God had a plan for his life — to cure the incurable and
 reclaim those whom doctors had declared terminal. When he
wasn’t digging roots or harvesting herbs for his cure-all
 bitters, he spent his time greeting the hundreds of
visitors who trekked to his rural Glenwood,
W.Va., home in search of herbal wisdom.

In his early years, Gray worked a variety of jobs as he raised his
10 children. In the 1950s, he was working as a night watchman
 at Huntington’s old city market when a workplace accident
 left him unable to do physical labor.

“I had a wife and children so I had to do something,” he recalled
 in a 1975 interview distributed by the Associated Press
to newspapers and TV stations around the world.

“So I went out and cut wildflowers, took them down to the market
and sold them. The fellows there all laughed at me and said
 I couldn’t sell weeds, but I sold $18.50 worth that first
day. I made $3,000 that summer and have
 ben selling herbs ever since.”

He was a walking encyclopedia of plant life, knowledge that had
been handed down to him by his family. He believed that
nature  offered healing for any disease in the herbs
found in the fields and woods. The walls of his
ramshackle home were plastered with cards
and letters from people who had heard
about him and had written wanting
to buy his bitters.

Gray, 84, died March 13, 2002, shortly after suffering a heart attack.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Feb. 23, 2021.


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