I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed that Katharine Carr Esters claims that she was "tricked" into divulging her true feelings about Oprah and that she now denies that she revealed to me the identity of Oprah's biological father. While I found her to be a strong woman with the courage to speak her mind, I gather that she may have come under some pressure.
I will have my representatives contact Ms. Esters to formally request that she release me from my promise to her not to reveal the identity of Ms. Winfrey's father, which she shared with me in her home on July 30, 2007. If Ms. Esters agrees, I will write a personal letter to Oprah Winfrey and share with her all the information which Ms. Esters gave to me.
The facts, as supported by extensive notes from three days of in-person, on-the-record interviews with Ms. Esters in Kosciusko, as well as from subsequent phone interviews and correspondence, is that Ms. Esters was both forthcoming and candid in sharing with me her conflicted feelings about Oprah and in revealing to me the identity of Oprah's biological father, which I promised her I would not divulge in my book.
I first telephoned Ms. Esters from Jackson, Mississippi on July 29, 2007 and we had a long and enjoyable talk, during which I told her that I was writing a biography of Oprah and that I planned on visiting Kosciusko to see where Oprah was born and raised for the first six years of her life.
Over the course of the three following days (from July 30 through August 1, 2007), I interviewed Ms. Esters in person. Some of those interviews took place at Ms. Esters' home in Kosciusko, some took place in the presence of Ms. Esters' friend Jewette Battles (July 30, 2007), and some took place at Fresenius Medical Center of Kosciusko where Ms. Esters was undergoing dialysis treatment (August 1, 2007). Ms. Esters revealed to me the true identity of Oprah's biological father at her home on July 30, in the context of a discussion about her family tree.
On July 31, 2007, Ms. Esters gave me a copy of her own self-published memoir, Jay Bird Creek, which she inscribed, "To Katherine Kelley, an angel in disguise."
I conducted three additional phone interviews with Ms. Esters following the time she and I spent together in Kosciusko. Those phone interviews took place on August 7, 2007; October 4, 2007; and February 5th, 2008. Ms. Esters and I also maintained a written correspondence. On August 9, 2007, she sent me eighteen family snapshots with a personal note, written on a Winfrey family reunion program. Four of those photos are published in Oprah: A Biography with courtesy of Ms. Esters. On December 19 of that year, she sent me a warm Christmas card. In April 2008, I sent her a copy of a Maya Angelou book for her 80th birthday.
Crossposted from Kitty Kelley's blog.