April 24, 1964          (Associated Press photo) June 14, 2000          (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette photo)

April 24, 1964 (top): Inez, Ky. was a mountain town of 900 when President Lyndon Johnson arrived and visited two families living in what were described in newspaper accounts as “tarpaper shacks.”  On the rickety porch of one home, Johnson chatted with Tommy Fletcher, a 38-year-old man who’d earned about $400 the previous year. Fletcher supported a wife and eight children.

In the years after Johnson declared War on Poverty, poverty rates fell, and America’s poor experienced an increased standard of living. Johnson initiated programs such as Head Start, food stamps, work study, Medicare and Medicaid.

(Photo by Associated Press)

June 14, 2000 (bottom): While Appalachia and the rest of the country progressed, Tommy Fletcher remained stuck. He never found steady work, never left his shack in Inez. When a Post-Gazette reporter and photographer visited him in 2000, Fletcher was uncommunicative. Mostly, he stared into the distance with sad, weary eyes.

(Photo by Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

— Steve Mellon

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