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A new book tells the story of the man behind 'The Beverly Hillbillies' and 'Petticoat Junction'

An unpublished bio of TV legend Paul Henning, written by his wife, has been unearthed.

Image: The Everett Collection

Paul Henning was working as a soda jerk in his local Brown's Drugstore when he met Harry Truman. Henning was merely a young man living in Independence, Missouri, while Truman was county judge for Jackson County. The future president advised Henning to go to law school. He did just that.

Image: JCHS.org

Yet, decades later, the two men would end up in far different places. Truman, of course, sat in the Oval Office. Henning, on the other hand, created the wildly popular sitcoms The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.

Between his legal studies and television career, Henning worked as a writer on the radio program The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. There he got his foot in the door and honed his comedy-writing chops.

Henning died in 2005. Fortunately, a decade earlier, Ruth Henning, his wife, had written a memoir detailing his early life and showbiz career. Ruth passed in 2002. That's the couple in the above photo, on the right.

Recently, the Jackson County Historical Society unearthed this manuscript. On September 26, the book, titled The First Beverly Hillbilly: The Untold Story of the Creator of Rural TV Comedy, will at last be published. You can order it now for $27.

The JCHS has another historical gem for fans of the Clampetts. It has posted a 1997 audio interview with Henning, who was 86 at the time. Listen to the interview and check out some exclusive photos at JCHS.org.

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