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Serpent And The Spirit: Glenn Summerford'S Story
by Thomas Burton
University of Tennessee Press, 2004
Paper: 978-1-57233-246-1 | eISBN: 978-1-57233-398-7
Library of Congress Classification KF224.S78B87 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 345.73/02523

“A snake handler convicted of the attempted murder of his wife by means of serpent bite is serving ninety-nine years in prison. The reader is gradually pulled into an increasingly complex story as Thomas Burton allows the many individuals involved in this event to tell their stories. Readers are less likely to find themselves concerned with what “really” happened than with larger issues they too will become involved in. this is more than a story about the headline ‘preacher tries to murder wife – with rattlesnakes!” it is a story of individuals struggling with their faith and their fate under the steady gaze of their God.” —Ralph W. Hood Jr., winner of the American Psychological Association’s William James Award in the psychology of religion

In this comprehensive, multilayered set of narratives, the story of Glenn Summerford’s fall from grace is told by its participants, through interviews, court documents, and other primary sources. Free of either prejudice against or romanticizing about the snake-handling Holiness religion, this book presents an absorbing story of a fascinating group of people, while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about Summerford’s guilt or innocence. The Serpent and the Spirit is a startling commentary on truth and its representation, religion and its expression, humanity and its flaws.

Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.


Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.

  • Contents 
    • Preface
    • “Holy Ghost Falling”
    • The Serpent
    • Glenda Darlene Collins Summerford: Glenn's Second Wife at the Trial
    • The Court Reporter: Trial Transcripts (Abstract)
    • D. Kennamer, B. Davis, C. Bolte, T. Flippo, L. Peace, S. Ingram: Witnesses at the Trial
    • District Attorney Dwight Duke and Gary W. Lackey: Lawyers at the Trial
    • Captain David Kennamer, EMT-P, and Janette Green, RN: Medical Practitioners
    • Charlotte Colón Corroborated by José Colón: Glenn's Half Sister and Brother-in-Law
    • David Brewer and William Bynum: Newsmen
    • Glendel B. Summerford: In Earlier Years
    • Doris Holcomb Summerford: Glenn's First Wife
    • Reverend Glenn Summerford: In Church
    • Dorothy Dyal: A Convert
    • Glenn: In Turmoil
    • Junior and Virginia Peace Summerford: Glenn's Oldest Son and Daughter-in-Law
    • Bill Summerford: Glenn's Second Son
    • J. L. and Martha Lewis: Longtime Friend and His Wife
    • Willie Southard: Converted Antagonist
    • Marty Summerford: Glenn and Darlene's Son
    • A Friend of the Family
    • Bobbie Sue Lynn: Faithful Helper
    • Junior Blair, Josie Blair, Ruby Berry, Carl Porter: First One, Then 'Nother
    • Summerford AIS 098070: In Prison
    • A Law Clerk: The Litigation
    • Scott Pratt: A Criminal Lawyer on the Potential of the Witness Pool
    • The Spirit
    • Index

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