Why Knoxville Matters - Sept. 2016

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why knoxville

matters 25 ways th tthis his h is city city h has as made m a de a difference d i ff ffe erence iin n its its 225 22 5 years ye a r s

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Why Knoxville Matters No. 1 | Tennessee’s First Newspaper No. 2 | Birth of a University No. 3 | The First Constitutional Convention No. 4 | The Dawn of Whiggery No. 5 | A New Sort of School No. 6 | Lanuching New American Literatures No. 7 | A Linchpin in America’s Rail System No. 8 | A

Significant Distraction No. 9 | A Controversial Journalist Turns Governor No. 10 | Electing Aftrican-Americans to Office No. 11 | A Little College Becomes a Big University No. 12 | A College for Blacks No. 13 | Roots of New Genre Take Hold No. 14 | Big Business Sets Up Shop No. 15 | Mail-Order Design No. 16 | Making Conservation a National Ideal No. 17 | Bringing Music to the People No. 18 | The Nation’s Most Popular Park is Created No. 19 | Forming a Souther Football Powerhouse No. 20 | A New Kind of Government No. 21 | Revolutionizing Waste Management No. 22 | A Knoxville Judge and a Landmark Order No. 23 | A New Paradigm in Women’s Athletics No. 24 | Throwing a Colorful Party No. 25 | A Fresh Take on Television What’s Next


Written by Jack Neely

Art Direction by Tricia Bateman Edited by Coury Turczyn

Photo Research Assistance by Josh Witt Sales Direction by Charlie Vogel

Sales by Scott Hamstead, Stacey Pastor, Michael Tremoulis Copyright 2016 by the Knoxville History Project and the Knoxville Mercury Advertise with us: sales@knoxmercury.com, 865-313-2048

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Continuing to Serve the People of the Valley tva.com









Why Knoxville Matters


25 ways this city has made a difference in its 225 years


noxville’s 225 years old. There are older cities in America, but many more newer ones. Knoxville’s older than Chicago, Toronto, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Austin, Atlanta. But so what? What do we have to show for it? For the 225th, we were interested in looking for several reasons why Knoxville matters to American history. There have been moments when Knoxville has made a difference in the world beyond the Tennessee Valley, and this is our attempt to identify some of the important ones. We are, in short, considering the question of why the world should care there’s a place called Knoxville. We have polled the public at large and corresponded with several professors and authors, and have compiled a list of 25 significant developments where Knoxville made history. These are Knoxville events. Lots of people from Knoxville have made a big difference in the world at large, but this is an occasion to emphasize splashes in Knoxville that made waves elsewhere. These are not necessarily the most important developments in the development of the Knoxville we know today, though several of them played a major role in that regard. And it’s a subjective list, for which we sought some variety. But they’re 25 reasons why people should have heard of us. Also, for this purpose we’re not covering former Knoxvillians who changed the world after they left, and there’s been a wide variety of those, ranging from newspaperman Adolph Ochs to bluesman Brownie McGhee. They got a good start here, but made their mark elsewhere. We might begin by mentioning the Native Americans, and the Treaty of the Holston, which occurred within the boundaries now considered Knoxville. But the July 1791 treaty happened three months before the founding of Knoxville, whose birthday we’re celebrating this fall. It was mainly a truce between multiple factions of the Cherokee and President Washington’s U.S. government, with multiple provisos, including the prohibition of whites from settling or hunting in Cherokee territories. Within a couple of years, it would be ignored by members of both groups. —Jack Neely, executive director, Knoxville History Project


No. 1

Tennessee’s First Newspaper


George Roulstone and the Knoxville Gazette


eorge Roulstone was born in Boston in 1767, at a dramatic time and place in world history. He was a toddler at the time of the Boston Massacre, 6 at the time of the Boston Tea Party. As a school kid, he could probably hear the gunfire that announced the Battle of Bunker Hill, and a new war for independence. The war ended before he was old enough to fight, but Roulstone was only 18 when he started a newspaper in Salem, Mass. It lasted all of five months, but maybe he learned a few things. He came south, and found work in printing in Fayetteville, N.C. Then William Blount, who had recently represented North Carolina in the U.S. Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, suggested that there would be need for

C ou r et s y o Ten f t he ne s s e e S t at e L ibr ar y a rch iv nd A es


a newspaper over the mountains. Roulstone was just 24 when he first arrived in a rough frontier settlement of a few hundred daring people living mostly in cabins on a river bluff. There were few stores and hardly any industry. There were no churches. There was no local government. There was no state of Tennessee. There weren’t even any frame houses. But it needed a newspaper. It needed a newspaper because Knoxville was to be the capital of the new Southwestern Territory, a huge swath of land from the Appalachian mountains to the Mississippi River, administered by President George Washington. The prospect of installing a press, a heavy piece of machinery, up on Knoxville’s bluff was daunting. Roulstone set up in the slightly older town of Rogersville, about 65 miles northeast of Knoxville near the Holston River. For its first 11 months, the Knoxville Gazette rolled off presses in Rogersville. The first newspaper published south of the Kentucky territory and west of the mountains, it was at first just a four-page paper, published every two weeks. Roulstone’s first priority was remarkable. He published, in serial

form, the entire book-length essay The Rights of Man by British author Thomas Paine—in the Knoxville Gazette. It was new to everybody in the world, and perhaps that year’s most internationally controversial publication. Roulstone doubled his newspaper’s frequency, from biweekly to weekly—and later two twice a week— reporting on treaties with native Americans and the actions of the territorial legislature, and in 1796 reported on the founding of a state. He became the state printer, and was a busy man, publishing the Gazette but also numerous law books, like The Laws of the State of Tennessee, for distribution to lawyers and judges across the state. He remained publisher until his untimely death, of unreported causes, at age 37 in 1804. His wife, Elizabeth, became the paper’s publisher, and thus became the first female journalist in Tennessee, keeping her position in charge of the Gazette until she remarried and moved away four years later. The Gazette lasted until 1818, by which time other papers were there to do the job. Since George Roulstone arrived in 1791, Knoxville and its region have always had a local newspaper.

The prospect of installing a press, a heavy piece of machinery, up on Knoxville’s bluff was daunting. So George Roulstone set up in the slightly older town of Rogersville, about 65 miles northeast of Knoxville near the Holston River.

No. 2

Birth of a University

1794 Blount Mansion 200 W. Hill Ave. Knoxville, TN 37902 865.525.2375 blountmansion.org

The Early Days of Blount College


t was a tiny school, and after only 15 years it closed. Whether we consider it the same thing as the University of Tennessee, thus giving UT a claim to be one of the oldest colleges in America, is a matter of opinion. But it was an institution of more than ordinary interest, in any case. Pennsylvania-born Samuel Carrick was a Presbyterian minister who founded a school he was careful to call non-sectarian. At the time, almost all colleges, even those of the Ivy League, were affiliated with a religious organization. Carrick asserted his school was not, thus allowing a later claim that it was the first non-sectarian college in U.S. history. Carrick’s profession may have been the reason for the phrasing, to put those of other denominations at ease, but his role as a pioneer Presbyterian minister also causes historians to question whether it was truly non-sectarian. After all, Carrick’s first school in Knox County had been called a “seminary.” Another mystery associated with its earliest days is the presence of five female students, which offers Blount College—and by association, UT—a tendril of a claim to be the first co-educational college. However, further examination proves the girls were very young, likely in a pre-collegiate curriculum. Records of what they were actually studying are scant. Carrick renamed his college East Tennessee College in 1807, but then the founder and primary faculty member died suddenly in 1809, the school closed, and remained closed for 11 years. It reopened under the same name in 1820. In 1828 it moved from downtown Knoxville to the Hill, the nucleus of UT’s current campus.

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James White’s Fort

Another mystery associated with its earliest days is the presence of five female students.

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Ramsey House

2614 Thorngrove Pk. Knoxville, TN 37914 865.546.0745 ramseyhouse.org


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No. 3


The First Constitutional Convention Founding the State of Tennessee


he reason Knoxville was founded as a city and not just a settlement was that it was, from its birth, the capital of a large federally administered region called the Southwestern Territory. In early 1796, there were only 15 states in the United States of America. “Tennessee” was a word people had heard, but just as an approximation of a Cherokee word, the name of a village that had been applied

Couretsy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives


to a very long river that flowed through little-known regions. Enough Americans lived in the territory between the Appalachian mountains and the Mississippi River to qualify it as a state, over 77,000 according to a 1795 census. The U.S. Constitution that Gov. William Blount had signed nine years earlier permitted the addition of new states, but did not describe a clear path. Those who lived in this long, narrow swath took a bold course. Here, without Congressional initiative or sanction, representatives from across the territory gathered in Knoxville and drew up a state constitution. This boldest of all statehood strategies is still called “The Tennessee Plan,” and today is cited by Puerto Ricans who favor statehood. The territory was divided into 11 counties, and each county sent five delegates to the convention. Most of these settlers had been born in the colonies, especially Virginia and North Carolina and distant Pennsylvania. A few delegates were immigrants from Ireland, including Knox County’s John Adair. It was one of the most esteemed gatherings in regional history. Among the 55 men who assembled on Gay Street that January were James Robertson, founder of Nashville; future President Andrew Jackson, then a young soldier-judge in his 20s; William C.C. Claiborne, the youngest delegate—he may have been no older than 20—who later became famous as the first English-speaking governor of Louisiana; future Tennessee Gov. Archibald Roane; and, of course Knoxville founder James White and Gov. William Blount, former North Carolina delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. Several delegates were so prominent in Tennessee history that they have counties named for them, some already mentioned. Others included John McNairy, Joseph McMinn, William Cocke, Joseph Anderson, John Rhea, and Landon Carter.

In the capacious offices of U.S. agent David Henley, at the southwest corner of Gay and Church, these 55 men argued daily for three weeks. Unlike some state constitutions, like that of North Carolina, the Knoxville constitution did not demand that office holders be Protestant Christians. “No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship,” it went. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State.” However, it added that “No person who denies the being of god, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of the State.” It would have permitted Muslims, but not atheists, to hold office. The Knoxville constitution did not differentiate between the rights of blacks and whites, and permitted free black men to vote and to bear arms. Most blacks in Tennessee were slaves, but during Tennessee’s first 38 years as a state, under the Knoxville constitution, free black men voted. (A second constitution written in Nashville in 1834 restricted blacks’ rights.) The Knoxville constitution was broad-reaching in some respects. The mouth of the Mississippi River was controlled by King Charles IV of Spain, and would soon be controlled by Napoleon’s France. The delegates gathered in Knoxville—400 miles away from the river—declared that “the free navigation of the Mississippi is one of the inherent rights of the citizens of this State; it cannot, therefore, be conceded to any prince, potentate, power, person or persons whatever.” On Feb. 6, 1796, these founders of Tennessee signed that finished document. Thomas Jefferson reportedly remarked that it was “the least imperfect and most republican” of the 16 state constitutions of that era.

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80 Years and Counting Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, Realtors celebrates 80 years in business this year. The year the company began, the average price of a home was $3,925. Today, according to the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors MLS data, the average price of a home is $200,000. To get a perspective on the length of time that has passed, east Tennesseans saw the completion of the Norris Dam, read the first issue of Life magazine, and the first plane landed at McGhee-Tyson Airport. So what keeps a company in business for 80 years? In the case of Wallace & Wallace, Inc., consistent growth and the pursuit of excellence is the answer. Jim Wallace says, “Reinvention is the key to surviving the roller coaster of the real estate market. We have to continually evaluate everything we do and stay flexible. Change is constant.”

Today, the Wallace brothers still lead the company and firmly believe in maintaining a high level of professionalism and integrity. George Wallace says, “At the end of the day, I want to know we made the right decisions for our clients, agents and staff. Trust and honesty are virtues on which we will not compromise.” Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, Realtors has 350 agents and offers residential sales, property management, relocation service, commercial real estate, and has an affiliation with New Penn Financial and Melrose Title Company.

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No. 4


The Dawn of Whiggery Hugh Lawson White’s Challenge to Presidential Power


Photo couretsy of the Library of Congress

ugh Lawson White would have had an impressive resume even if he never left Knoxville. The son of early settler James White, Hugh became a prominent state legislator, powerful judge, pioneer banker, and sometime farmer (his spread covered much of the area much later known as Fort Sanders)—all before, in 1825, the state Legislature selected White to replace Andrew Jackson in the U.S. Senate. When Jackson was elected president, White became one of the president’s most dependable allies in Washington. Although his gaunt appearance earned him the nickname “The Skeleton,” White was much


respected by his Senate colleagues, who compared him to the Roman senator, Cato. By 1833 his colleagues elected him president pro tempore of the nation’s most powerful body of legislators. During that critical few months, White played a role in settling South Carolina’s Nullification Crisis. He was at the time so famous that the fact that he lived in Knoxville was the former capital’s main claim to fame. In 1834, a committee of disaffected Democrats including Congressman Davy Crockett and John Bell—who many years later would be a third-par-

ty nominee for president himself— nominated White for the presidency. At the time, White was still a Democrat, and his likely opponent in 1836 would be fellow Democrat Martin Van Buren, the Jackson protégé whom the president chose to succeed himself. White became the first of the Jacksonian Democrats to become a leader of the anti-Jacksonian movement. In 1835, the White candidacy looked like a national movement, with strong support in the Midwest. Indiana liked him. That year, White County, Ark., was named for him. Young Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln’s support for White was likely

his first public political statement. (Lincoln’s interest in White was unrelated to either’s opinion about slavery. White was a slave-owner and if not a outspoken advocate of slavery, no opponent.) White is memorable not for his influence on slavery or other issues of the day, but his challenge to a sitting president. Early in Jackson’s second term, White became convinced that Jackson was becoming too powerful, seizing powers that rightfully belonged to the states and the people. The fact that Jackson’s fellow Tennessean and longtime ally suddenly opposed the president startled the nation. Although White never actively campaigned, Crockett wrote anti-Van Buren satires in support of his friend. His popularity may have emboldened other anti-Jackson figures around the country to join the fight, and they picked up some of White’s early momentum to become regional favorites. Intellectual Sen. Daniel Webster declared for president in Massachusetts, war hero William Henry Harrison in Ohio. By November 1836, there were four anti-Jackson candidates. Although White’s intentions were likely sincere, by 1836 it was clear the anti-Jackson factions were uniting to force the election into the House of Representatives by denying Van Buren a majority of the electoral votes. The unprecedented tactic failed, and Van Buren was elected, but White came in third in the five-man race, besting even the famous Daniel Webster in the popular vote, and carrying the president’s own state of Tennessee. The anti-Jacksonians survived Jackson’s presidency. Now known as the Whigs, named after the British party famous for opposing the king, they won the following presidential election. The Whigs were a dominant party for about 20 years, but the election of 1836 is sometimes seen as a watershed for American politics, and for better or worse, the beginning of our current two-party system. White didn’t live to see the end of the next election. Weakened when he came down with the plague that devastated Knoxville in 1838, he died in 1840, and is buried in First Presbyterian’s churchyard.



he Lincoln Memorial University-Duncan School of Law sits on land donated by merchant Calvin Morgan in 1844. Tennessee appropriated funds for the construction of what came to be known as the Tennessee School for the Deaf, which opened in 1848. The school was converted to a Civil War hospital in 1861, first serving Confederate forces and later Union troops. After the war, the school reopened and operated on the same site until 1924, when Knoxville acquired the land for its City Hall. The City used the location until 1980, when its offices were moved into the City-County Building.

The buildings are among the National Register of Historic Places as one of the few remaining examples of Greek Revival structures in East Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority and Knoxville Area Partnership each occupied the property for several years until LMU acquired the lease in 2008 and opened LMU Law in 2009.


arlier this year, in recognition of the need to provide high-quality legal services to those who otherwise could not afford to hire a lawyer, LMU, with the cooperation of the Old City Hall Knoxville Partnership and the City of Knoxville, agreed to fully renovate the Stair Building on the LMU Law site and lease it to Legal Aid of East Tennessee for $1 a year. LMU plans to invest over $1 million to restore and preserve the historic building, which is owned by the City of Knoxville.


LMU Law is provisionally approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-988-6738.


No. 5


A New Sort of School The Tennessee School for the Deaf


n the early 1840s, Knoxville didn’t have much going on. It had been more than 20 years since the town had been capital of anything. Travelers, more scarce than they’d been in the 1790s, remarked that the place seemed barely there. It had a tiny college on a hill just outside of city limits, but East Tennessee University had no statewide status and no national profile. It was not even of that much interest to locals. Families who could afford it sent their sons to Ivy League schools up north. In 1843, elderly State Sen. John Cocke of Grainger County had an unusual idea. Son of one of Tennessee’s founders, he’d been a state senator back when the Legislature met in Knoxville, decades earlier. In 1808 he had killed a Knoxville merchant in a duel. But the 70s are a more

The Stanley farm—and its ox-drawn wagon—in the late 1880s.

Our founder, Charles Stanley, built his first greenhouse in 1955, and also sold plants from the back of his truck on Market Square. Saturdays in October we will again sell plants on the square, so come by and see us!

Stanley's Greenhouse has been growing with Knoxville for the past 61 years. Thanks to our amazing customers for allowing us to help you keep Knoxville green!

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contemplative time, and he thought it high time that the deaf of Tennessee should have their own school. His bill passed, establishing in Knoxville a Deaf and Dumb Asylum, more aptly renamed later as Tennessee School for the Deaf. It was Knoxville’s first statewide institution since capital days. More importantly, it was the eighth school for the deaf ever established in America. Although never large—at the time of the Civil War it had only 55 students, who lived on campus—the school for the deaf built the city’s grandest building, on a hill in what was then the city’s northwestern corner, the same building we know today as Lincoln Memorial University’s School of Law. In the 19th century it was called the “Asylum”; back then,

the word had no psychological implication and only meant “sanctuary,” or “safe place.” The deaf school was a point of pride for a city that needed one, and a magnet for some interesting reformers who came from other parts of the country to teach. It also drew interesting speakers, whose talks were translated in sign language, among them Admiral George Dewey, hero of Manila Bay, in 1899— and a few decades later, Louise Tracy, wife of actor Spencer Tracy, who had been an advocate for the deaf since the infancy of her deaf son, for whom she founded the John Tracy Clinic. TSD’s history gets a little extra kick in that it’s what drew the Ijams family to Knoxville. Thomas Ijams, an Iowan who’d been teaching at the National Deaf-Mute College in

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

Washington, came to be the school’s first postwar superintendent in 1866 and was one of TSD’s most influential chiefs. His son, Harry, founded what we now know as Ijams Nature Center, whose proximity to the modern TSD is coincidental. When Ijams was in charge, the school was downtown. Like almost all schools in America at the time, it was intended for whites. In 1879, a separate, privately funded Negro School for the Deaf opened, under the leadership of former slave and Knoxville policeman, James Mason, who helped obtain state funding for his school. It operated on Dandridge Avenue for several decades until 1965, when TSD was integrated. In 1921, Dr. Ethel Poore was chosen to be the new superintendent of TSD. She was the first female superintendent of an American school for the deaf—and, in fact, the first female chief of a state institution in Tennessee. She served for 30 years, during which time the school moved from its original downtown campus to the much roomier space in Island Home.

deaf and dumb asylum

Sunday, October 2 6 p.m. Join us for a service of Choral Evensong featuring the combined choirs of Church Street UMC, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, and St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. This free event begins at 6 p.m. at Church Street UMC, located at the corner of Henley and Main. www.churchstreetumc.org 524-3048

Saving Knoxville history one historic place at a time. Join Knox Heritage today to experience our Behind the Scenes Tour of the Farragut Hotel during renovation. October 21! www.knoxheritage.org


No. 6 historic buildings, including one of the South’s oldest libraries


on fresh local dishes and classic British favorites for antiques, art, and crafts from Appalachian artisans

Launching New American Literatures George Washington Harris and Frances Hodgson Burnett


trails that lead into a national park and state natural area

noxville has some reputation for literature, but not much for literature written here. James Agee, for example, hardly ever wrote for publication in his hometown. In two early cases, however, Knoxville is where two nationally influential authors did much of their early work. In all other respects, these two mid-19th century writers are opposites. George Washington Harris (1814-1869) was a sometime jeweler, sometime steamboat pilot, sometime postmaster, who in 1854 began writing short stories in Knoxville about an untamed, irreverent country character named Sut Lovingood. Published in both local papers and in high-circulation national magazines, the Sut stories became nationally popular, eventually collected in a book, Sut Lovingood’s Yarns. Harris’ stories are believed to have influenced the much-younger writer Mark Twain,

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Couretsy of the Library of Congress

frances hodgson burnett

whose Huck Finn can be seen as a more complex, endearing version of Sut. William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and others have acknowledged a debt to the author who lived on Gay Street when he began writing for publication. Some credit Harris with creating the Southern Gothic, or, perhaps more aptly, the “Southern Grotesque,” but also sometimes with doing something more: blazing new trails for an American vernacular, popularizing a new informal, native style of writing that didn’t depend on European models of discretion and carefully composed paragraphs. Harris left his home town during the Civil War, not long before his opposite arrived. Frances Hodgson began writing in Knoxville, published her first short story in 1868, at age 19, when she lived in a small house on a hill that would, just a few years later, become the campus of Knoxville College. With the addition of a new last name—that of her East Tennessee husband, Dr. Swan Burnett—she became known as Frances Hodgson Burnett, and had some currency as a magazine writer while she lived in Knoxville. She moved away in her late 20s, and as author of about 30 novels, she was one of the most successful female novelists of the Victorian era. Most of her books, aimed at both adults and children, aren’t well known, like an obscure one called In Connection with the DeWilloughby Claim, set in a thinly disguised Knoxville—but Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess (sometimes known as Sara Crewe) are classics that have inspired more than a dozen motion pictures. Harris wrote mostly about the remote countryside; Burnett wrote mostly about England. Both were born elsewhere, and both eventually moved away. But both launched their careers in Knoxville.

No. 7

A Linchpin in America’s Rail System



oday, Knoxville is one of a few American cities its size that lack any sort of passenger rail service. However, Knoxville was once notable for its rail connections. Beginning in 1858, when the new East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad met the 3-yearold East Tennessee and Georgia in downtown Knoxville, the city became a linchpin to a regionally and sometimes nationally important rail system. The East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia, as it was known after 1869, served East Tennessee, but also linked the Northeast with the gulf states, moving dozens of trains daily, carrying both passengers and freight. The ETV&G was one of the South’s major lines. For a quarter century, its headquarters was in downtown Knoxville. For passengers, it was an amenity

that suddenly rendered the Eastern cities so accessible that New York hotels advertised in Knoxville papers. But the railroad had a bigger practical impact on industry. Knoxville had always had certain resources, like marble, coal, iron, and lumber, but they were never available for largescale development until the ETV&G made it possible to move them around the country in massive quantities. Big packing houses like Armour set up shop along the rail lines. Raw materials could also be shipped in, for processing in Knoxville. It also enabled wholesale houses, like McClung & Co., to bloom into significant regional and even national presences. The ETV&G improved transportation throughout much of the industri-

alizing South, allowing manufacturing to flourish in suddenly industrial cities like Chattanooga and Birmingham, which grew rapidly during this period. Driven by the railroad-fueled economy, Knoxville quadrupled in population in the 30 years after the Civil War, developing baseball, streetcars, opera festivals, the amenities of a modern American city. In 1894, the ETV&G became a central part of J.P. Morgan’s newly formed Southern Railway, headquartered in Virginia, but the city retained an important status as a hub for the system, and as Southern’s primary railroad-car repair center—the Coster Shops, named for one of Morgan’s New York associates, were located in Knoxville for almost a century.

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

The East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad

first through train from louisville

1043 Craigland Court Knoxville, TN 37919

''Craiglen'' considered to be ''the most elaborate & beautifully detailed of all the Barber homes'' was built to withstand the test of time with marble walls, columns, ceilings & floors and all masonry construction. This Charles Barber design is reminiscent of a 15th century Tuscan villa with interiors patterned after the Palazzo Davanzati in Florence, Italy. Craiglen was commissioned in 1926, by John F. Craig to showcase the highest quality marbles quarried and imported by his firm, the Candoro Marble Co. A gracious entrance Courtyard is surrounded by two wings of the home and connected by a loggia with six sets of Palladian doors. Terraces afford views of the two acres of Gardens & Woodlands with ponds, exedra, herbs, and swaths of lawn suitable for a pool. All in the heart of Bearden for quick easy access to everywhere you need to be. You must come see for yourself. Shown by appointment only, to qualified buyers. Pass thru Private Road sign to view. $1,850,000. (865) 250-5522 • (865) 584-4000 bapking@coldwellbanker.com

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140 Major Reynolds Place, Bearden Hill

Broker, CRS, GRI

Each Office is Independently Owned and Operated


No. 8


A Significant Distraction The Siege of Knoxville

T Couretsy of the Library of Congress

‘assault on ft. sanders’ byKurz & Allison

his one is not as obvious a contender as it might seem. The Battle of Knoxville, a weeks-long siege culminating in a 20-minute battle, was a successful Union defense against a disorganized and desperate Confederate siege. It was a battle of will between two battle-tested generals who were by then known by name throughout the North and the South: the Union’s Ambrose Burnside and the Confederacy’s James Longstreet. However, it’s often left out of short-book summations of the war (not to mention Ken Burns’ documentary) because its significance is not obvious. It did not result in any significant advancement of the war’s narrative. At least, not in itself. Its significance might lie primarily in the fact

that it distracted Longstreet and his 15,000 experienced troops long enough for Grant and Sherman to fi rm up the Union occupation of Chatt anooga which, weeks earlier, was anything but assured. The capture of Chatt anooga was one of the fi nal deadly blows to the Confederacy, but somehow the war lurched along for another year and a half. When Gen. Sherman arrived in Knoxville just after the battle, misinformed that the Union troops were suffering from hunger, he remarked that it was the best-fortified city he’d ever seen, surrounded by 17 large and small forts, as well as trenchwork and other imaginative defenses, much of it designed by Union Capt. Orlando Poe.

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HAPPY 225TH BIRTHDAY KNOXVILLE “We’re a family owned business, and the whole business is family. We take care of our employees and treat them fairly, so our employees are dedicated to the company. You don’t find that alot anymore.” Donna Johnston, president of Engert Plumbing & Heating Inc.

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No. 9


A Controversial Journalist Turns Governor Parson Brownlow’s Tale

W Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

parson brownlow

illiam Gannaway Brownlow (1805-1877) was forever known as Parson Brownlow, even though his national fame came as an editor and political figure, years after his youthful adventures as a circuit-riding Methodist parson. The Virginia-born editor moved his newspaper, the Whig, from Jonesborough to Knoxville in 1849, and by 1861 was perhaps the South’s most famous native Unionist, a colorfully anti-secession pundit. Although his Knoxville-based newspaper was small, his irreverent, often outlandish humor was quoted as far away as New England, while he was burned in effigy as far away as Texas. For months after the Confederate occupation, Brownlow was boldly

flying the U.S. flag high above his Cumberland Avenue home. Eventually arrested, he left Knoxville during the war and returned reborn as an abolitionist—although you may not have to be a cynic to gather that what fueled his sudden interest in civil rights was his passion for annoying Confederates. By a turn of events that seems, in retrospect, bizarre, the scathing, unpredictable journalist became the Reconstruction governor of Tennessee. In that role the harshly partisan Brownlow throttled and lashed the recently Confederate state back into the Union much faster than any other, in so doing granting full suff rage to black men, even before black men were allowed to vote in most Northern states. Brownlow was

ruthless and mowed over his opponents, and may have been a provoking factor in the formation of a radical reaction called the Ku Klux Klan, which regarded Brownlow among its primary enemies. But with his actions, along with his enemy President Andrew Johnson’s orders, Tennessee avoided the era of military reconstruction inflicted on most of the South. As one of East Tennessee’s first Republicans, Brownlow helped to establish that party’s unusual stronghold in the Knoxville area. Throughout this time, and later as a U.S. senator, Brownlow and his wife, Eliza, maintained their home on East Cumberland Avenue, near downtown Knoxville.

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No. 10


Electing African-Americans to Office David Brown and Isaac Gammon Win Seats on City Council


n 1869, Knoxville elected two black men, David Brown and Isaac Gammon, to its Board of Aldermen. Gammon was a former slave, known to some wags as “One-Eye Ike.” They formed two of 19 members of the Board of Aldermen. The city was about 43 percent black. If representative were proportional to the population, about eight of those 19 aldermen should have been black. But considering most Knoxvillians, and in fact most white Americans, were not used to blacks being regarded as equals, it was revolutionary. Gammon and Brown, who reported to work when the Board of Aldermen met in the original City Hall building, on the north end of Market Square—about where the stage is

today—were among the first blacks elected to public office in the South. Newspapers make it clear that life was not easy for them, and they had to endure some taunting. Gammon served just one term in office, Brown was re-elected for a second term. Attorney W.F. Yardley, who later ran for governor, followed. A few years later, slave-turned-entrepreneur Cal Johnson took his turn on the board. Knoxville had some black representation on City Council for most of the next 40 years, with once as many as three aldermen. However, early in the early 20th century, when City Council got much smaller, with only five members, it lost its minority representation. Black City Council members would have to wait until the second civil-rights era, the

time of desegregation, to return to Knoxville’s main governing board. Meanwhile, a related development was at least as pioneering. In the 19th century, few Northern cities hired black policemen. In early 1870, months after Knoxville’s first black alderman, Knoxville hired its first black cop—the first of several temporary policemen— until black policemen became a permanent part of the force in 1882 when Moses Smith became the first to hold that position as a permanent job. As late as 1910, Knoxville was the only city in the Southeast with black policemen—though as was the case elsewhere in the early days, they were discouraged from arresting whites. Black policemen have been part of the Knoxville Police Department ever since.

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No. 11

A Little College Becomes a Big University


The Morrill Act, and the Knoxville Exception


about the Republican initiative and Knoxville’s new advantage. Resentful legislators insisted that the federal largesse should be shared or surrendered altogether. A bill to scuttle ETU’s federal good luck passed the state Legislature, but was vetoed by the governor on legal grounds. The Morrill Act also introduced, for the first time, wording insisting “no citizen of this State…shall be excluded from the privileges of said University by reason of his race or color.” ETU’s leadership considered that order, which if obeyed would have made it extraordinarily unusual in either the North or the South, but finally opted to subsidize black applicants’ education at Nashville’s private black college, Fisk. Our local college’s Morrill status gave Knoxville’s university a major advantage that almost tripled its enrollment. It was arguably the single biggest factor in finally establishing Knoxville’s little college as the University of Tennessee, the state’s flagship public university, in 1879. It may be the reason that everything interesting that has happened at UT, academic and otherwise—which would call for another list—happened in Knoxville. university of tennessee

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

hen Civil War trenchwork still marred East Tennessee University’s Hill, and the few academic buildings on top still more the scars of shelling, some wondered whether the old college, which had recently enrolled only 120 students anyway, would even survive. However, it was just then that the college leapt ahead of several dozen peers to become something more than a modest community college. The U.S. government’s Morrill Act, first proposed in the 1850s and finally passed in 1862, intended to offer federal aid to colleges in the practical studies of agricultural, engineering, and military science, through grants of federal land, was a major boost to higher education. However, because the act finally passed during the Civil War, it credited only colleges in Unionist states. Most former Confederate state colleges would not be recipients of Morrill funds until the 1890s, and then with emphasis on colleges that offered instruction to minorities. Thanks to Republican maneuvering that made a case that Knoxville’s little university wasn’t just another secessionist school, ETU got Morrill land-grant status just as if it were a Northern school, by a special act of Congress in 1867. It was a big deal, putting Knoxville’s previously regional community college head and shoulders ahead of its peers. It was so significant that UT named a series of three successive campus buildings “Morrill Hall,” indirectly in honor of Vermont congressman Justin Smith Morrill, co-founder of the anti-slavery Republican Party, who sponsored the Morrill Act. ETU’s unusual designation came about as former Confederates across the state were recovering the right to vote, suspended in the years just after the war—and many of them in Middle and West Tennessee weren’t happy


No. 12


A College for Blacks The Origins of Knoxville College

knoxville college


ounded by the United Presbyterian Church, Knoxville College became part of the first generation of colleges for blacks. Most of its original students were former slaves. In the early days, it was a “Normal School,” an academy for training teachers without bestowing collegiate degrees. It was the only school of its nature in the region, and black students traveled hundreds of miles, from other states, to attend Knoxville College. As years went by, KC evolved into a respected liberal-arts college for blacks. By the 1940, KC claimed to have graduates in nearly every American city. Among them were many prominent civic leaders, like attorney Henry G. Marsh, who became the first black mayor of Saginaw, Mich.—one of the nation’s first black mayors. KC’s national importance is obvious in the caliber of black leaders who came there to speak: Frederick Douglass came twice, Booker T. Washington at least three times, as well as W.E.B. Dubois, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver. Athletes Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson spoke there, as did sometimes controversial comedian Dick Gregory. The biggest crowd in KC’s history, however, was in 1960, when Martin Luther King spoke outside there, his only public visit to Knoxville. By that time, KC students were already taking a leading role in desegregating the lunch counters of downtown Knoxville.

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YOU HAVE NOT BEEN DOWNTOWN UNLESS YOU HAVE BEEN TO SCRUFFY CITY The Market House which stood on historic market square since 1854, when the first farmer's market opened. Flames destroyed the Market House Dec. 6, 1959


No. 13


Roots of New Genre Take Hold The Knoxville Music Festival of 1883, and a Surprise


noxville’s classical-music reputation emerged just after the Civil War, driven by immigrants who missed good orchestral music. One was Gustavus Knabe, from Leipzig, Germany. A former member of Mendelssohn’s orchestra—and a friend of Robert and Clara Schumann—Knabe had come to the German-immigrant community of Wartburg before migrating to Knoxville, where he founded the Knoxville Philharmonic Society, rendering a small orchestra for special occasions. Swiss immigrant Peter Staub had been a planner of another rural immigrant community, Gruetli, but came to Knoxville when that didn’t work out,

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Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


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and set about to build an opera house, at the southeast corner of Gay Street and Cumberland Avenue. These classical-music initiatives met a demand in the rapidly growing city. By 1883, Herr Knabe and others were convinced Knoxville was ready for a large opera festival, as a few other American cities, like Cincinnati, enjoyed. The first Knoxville Music Festival, in May 1883, drew several major stars of the day, including Viennese soprano Emma Juch. And, held both at Staub’s Opera House and at Chilhowee Park, it drew thousands of visitors—some of whom came mainly to see the associated jousting tournament. Future festivals would draw other major performers and even composers, like Victor Herbert. That first festival ended with an unscheduled surprise that may have had a bigger long-term impact than the major stars’ arias did. At Staub’s Opera House, some older men, disgruntled with the opera festival in general, took to the stage, and began sawing away on fiddles, “songs from before the War,” they said—the Civil War, of course. Some of the opera crowd remained seated, amused by the unexpected prank, and curious about what would happen next. What they witnessed was a fiddling contest, and what may have been the first country-music concert in history. Although the songs were old, it was extraordinarily unusual—maybe unprecedented—to listen to folk music in a formal auditorium setting. It stirred more comment than any other event of that year’s festival. The impromptu show was likely the spark that generated an annual fiddling contest that emerged on Market Square about that time, known as the “Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention.” Organized for years by “Squire” Frank Murphy, it overlapped with the early radio era, and gave Knoxville a head start in the country-music game.


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No. 14


Big Business Sets Up Shop White Lily, Brookside Mills, C.M. McClung


Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

white lilly flour

n the mid-1880s, thanks to the area’s natural resources, a large and growing labor force, and constantly improving railroad connections, major local industries were suddenly building factories in Knoxville. J. Allen Smith flour company, later to be known as White Lily, and Brookside Mills, a major textile weaving mill about a mile north of downtown, popped up along the tracks on the north side of town almost simultaneously. The C.M. McClung Co. was a major wholesale company that did much of its business by mail order, becoming in effect a Sears, Roebuck for a multi-state region. Soon, C.B. Atkin was claiming to be the world’s largest producer of hardwood mantels. These were major employers, and that was important enough for Knoxville. But what boosts them beyond, to the realm of broader significance, is that they were industries whose products developed a reputation well beyond the region. Numerous other factories sprang up about the same time, including marble mills, which by the late 19th century bestowed Knoxville with a nickname: the Marble City. Knoxville had always had a few mills, but by the 1880s, it was a city of heavy industry that employed tens of thousands of men, women and children in as many as 40 factories at once.

brookside mills 26



years of a scruffy little city

Did you know?

The Bistro is a modern restaurant in the oldest restaurant space in Knoxville. Meals were being served in the old hotel building that stands at the corner of Gay Street and Cumberland Avenue since 1817, but by the 1850s, this big room was known as the Lamar House Saloon and Restaurant. The Lamar House was proud of its selection of whiskeys, brandies, wines, and beers, as well as ice, shipped in daily on trains from the north, and among its early bartenders was John Hodgson, brother iof author Frances Hodgson Burnett. But they also served food, as the Bistro does today. In 1869 proprietor John Scherf also declared his saloon included “a Restaurant equal to any in the state.”

▲ Market Square circa 1900’s

▲ Gay Street circa 1800’s Gay Street today c

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Mail-Order Design George Barber’s Architecture Flourishes


george barber

eorge Barber was a talented young architect based in DeKalb, Ill., near Chicago, and already becoming known for his imaginative designs of Victorian homes, when he got some surprising advice. At age 34, he moved south for his health. Barber established his practice in Knoxville in 1888. Here he worked harder than ever, designing scores of local houses, elaborating imaginatively on the latest Queen Anne styles. Although Knoxville already had successful and accomplished architects, notably the Baumann Brothers, Barber was Knoxville’s fi rst architect to develop a national reputation, He sold his distinctly identifiable designs to a national clientele by way of a mail-order catalogue. Today, Barber houses are cherished across the nation, even on the West Coast, in states Barber himself never visited. Knoxville, not surprisingly, boast more of Barber’s work than any other city. The neighborhood Parkridge, where the Barber family lived, has more Barber houses than any other neighborhood. George Barber died in 1915, just as his talented son, Charles Barber, was getting a solid start with the establishment of his own firm, BarberMcMurry, which thrives today as Knoxville’s oldest active architectural firm. barber ad Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


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No. 16


Making Conservation a National Ideal The National Conservation Exposition


bandstand conservation. It has been claimed to be the world’s first exposition that was oriented more toward the future than the past, but it was certainly the first one with an environmental theme, even if it was mostly pragmatic

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

Liberal arts building

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


noxville hosted a couple of big Appalachian Expositions in 1910 and 1911, with lots of amenities, and an electric streetcar to Chilhowee Park, where there were new white exposition buildings, inspired by the ones a few years before in Chicago. Among them was a Negro Building, designed and built by folks from Knoxville College. A “Fine Arts” pavilion attracted art from the great American impressionists. And there were rides and shows, and some pretty serious business from the big industries. Knoxville had an idea that it was pretty good at hosting expositions. In 1913, the preservation and wise use of natural resources was still a new idea. But Knoxville threw a party that fall dedicated to those ideals. Over a period of two months, the city welcomed more than a million visitors to Chilhowee Park, where people ate hot tamales, watched motorcycle races, danced to an Italian band, and maybe learned something about

in that regard. Its chairman was the famous conservationist Gifford Pinchot, who advocated sustainable forestry. It seemed an issue of urgent and practical concern. For decades, to feed the national market for lumber and furniture, the Smoky Mountains and other areas had been clear-cut by lumber companies, with an eye for profit but not for the future. By 1913, even Knoxville’s own lumber barons were starting to lose sleep about what they’d done, and how long they could keep doing it. They made common cause with lovers of art and music and walks in the woods, and others concerned about pollution of various sorts, and reformers inspired by speeches by Booker T. Washington, Helen Keller, and William Jennings Bryan. All of them found things of interest at the NCE. Coming as it did just before World War I, the exposition was as quickly forgotten as any dream. We can only speculate about its impact, the fruit of connections made there, and what it may have inspired. But several of its participants banded together again a decade later to help found a famous national park.

In The Garden Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum opened its Visitors Center on Aug. 14, 2015. Located off the beaten path, at 2743 Wimpole Avenue in East Knoxville, the 47-acre refuge is the largest publicly accessible garden in the city’s history. Founded in 2001, when the Aslan Foundation made the original purchase of the property, it looks much older. That’s because it’s actually the old campus of Howell Nurseries, the sprawling plant store which traced its origins to the 1700s. (The mysterious round stone buildings aren’t as old as they look, though; mainly ornamental, they were built in the 1940s.)

America’s most famous landscape designer was Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), who designed Central Park in New York and the grounds at Biltmore near Asheville. In 1893, he was in Knoxville working on a project about which little is known to this day. He may have planned a clifftop park that was never completed, but there’s evidence he had some influence on Circle Park. Savage Garden, on Garden Drive near Fountain City, was the dream of English-born industrialist Arthur Savage (1872-1946). Built in 1917, it reflects the Asian motifs and art-nouveau stylings of its era. Since 1986, it has been subject of an ongoing restoration effort. It’s private property, but sometimes used by the next-door Montessori School.

Public gardens have been growing in popularity recently, but gardens have deep roots here. At The Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum the time of the Civil War, Knoxville used Old Gray PHOTO BY CHARLIE FINCH Cemetery as a public garden. Founded in 1850 and In the 1920s, newspaper publisher Alfred planted with flowers and shrubbery, it was part of Sanford (1875-1946) hired Olmsted’s sons, the an international garden-cemetery movement, and Olmsted Brothers, to design an ambitious a site for afternoon strolls and even Sunday afternoon picnics. arboretum stretching from Kingston Pike to the river, just east of Cherokee Boulevard. Sanford’s goal was to have one example of every tree indigenous to The novel The Secret Garden is set in England, but its author, Frances Tennessee. It thrived for only 20 years. After Sanford’s death, the land was Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) lived in and near Knoxville for several years in subdivided into lots, but a few original trees remain. her youth. Her memoir about a secluded place she called the Bower, in the vicinity of what became Knoxville College, suggests it may have been an In the late 1920s, idealists with the City Planning Commission proposed inspiration for the secluded formal garden imagined in the book. terraced gardens downtown from Main Street down to the river. The Depression, combined with a revolt against city taxes, scuttled the idea. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, several of Knoxville’s wealthiest established elaborate formal gardens that were used for parties and wedBulgarian-born industrialist Ivan Racheff believed industrial sites, even dings. Several of them, built on the city’s steep hills, were terraced. Little steel mills, should be beautiful. He became president of the Knoxville Iron remains of most of them. The building at the corner of White Avenue and Works, and in 1947 established Racheff Gardens, a walled garden that is still 16th Street is believed to have been the 1870s home of English gardener well-kept in Lonsdale and often open to the public. Michael Hoey, who tended the gardens of the huge Cowan mansion on Cumberland Avenue. Nothing remains of the mansion or its gardens, just Beginning in 1983, UT transformed its Agriculture Experiment Station, the gardener’s cottage. Danish-born landscape architect Jens Jensen which had been of interest mostly to agriculture students, into UT Trial (1860-1951) came to Knoxville in the 1920s to design gardens here. BaltiGardens, now known simply as UT Gardens, which has developed into an more-born Garafilia Van Deventer, who was married to cement tycoon Hugh eye-catching and well-used public attraction. Van Deventer, hired Jensen to make a garden of distinctive design off Lyons Bend. Few old gardens are maintained as originally planned. Meanwhile, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Aboretum frequently hosts receptions, outdoor musical performances, and afternoon strolls.

Source: Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection

The Knoxville History Project, a new nonprofit organization devoted to the promotion of and education about the history of Knoxville, presents this page each week to raise awareness of the themes, personalities, and stories of our unique city. Learn more on www.facebook.com/knoxvillehistoryproject • email jack@knoxhistoryproject.org 31

No. 17


Bringing Music to the People


t the time they planned their tall, new headquarters on Gay Street in 1924, Sterchi Brothers Furniture claimed to be the largest furniture company in the world. That claim is hard to prove, but it’s not outlandish. Sterchi’s was a big chain, with 60 stores mainly in the South, and they sold a whole lot of furniture, broadly defined, including pianos, kitchen appliances, and an especially interesting piece of furniture called the phonograph. They’d been around, but because wealthy people owned them, early records were marketed to a wealthy audience: opera, hymns, symphony music, patriotic brass-band marches. As phonographs got cheaper, Sterchi’s was keen to expand the market, and figured working people would get interested in phonographs if there were working people’s recordings available. In 1924 Sterchi’s began sponsoring folk musicians’ trips to New York, where (a quarter century before Nashville had any recording reputation) the best


crazy tennesseans recording studios were located. Sterchi’s sponsored some hillbilly musicians who’d soon be famous, like Uncle Dave Macon, the banjoist from Middle Tennessee, but also talent closer at hand: previously obscure

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

sterchi brothers furniture

Couretsy of the Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The National Promotion of Country and Other Popular Music

downtown Knoxville buskers like Charlie Oaks, George Reneau, and the singing duo Mac and Bob, blind guys who performed for nickels on the downtown Knoxville sidewalks. So before Bristol’s “Big Bang of Country Music” in 1927, Sterchi’s created at least a muffled boom. Several of those who made records enjoyed a brief vogue, but then returned to the streets. Sterchi’s remained interested in this newly available working man’s music, and was intimately involved in the planning and promotion of Vocalion’s St. James Hotel sessions of 1929 and 1930, recently released in an interpretive box set as The Knoxville Sessions. On it, thanks to an old 78 found in Australia, we hear the voice of J.G. Sterchi himself, telling his story. A second wave of national influence came on the air waves. By the mid-1920s, Knoxville stations WNOX and WROL were broadcasting live music. Most of that music was orchestral dance music, jazz, and popular music, including Hawaiian music, which was all the rage. It was an era that loved novelty. There was

orthopHonic victrola only a little in the way of country. By 1931, Cas Walker, the ambitious young grocer from Sevier County, sponsored Walker’s Jug Band, just half an hour on Friday evenings on WROL. In the mid-1930s, country gained a head of steam, throttled forward by a newcomer from Chicago. On WNOX Lowell Blanchard started a daily variety show called the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, at about the same time a local fiddler named Roy Acuff, who had formed a large, charismatic band called The Crazy Tennesseans, was bringing in crowds too big for their venues. Over the next 25 years, Walker and Blanchard enjoyed an unlikely rivalry, the hard-nosed scrapper from the hills and the plump show-biz impresario from Chicago, trying to beat each other to the next big thing. Blanchard’s show, which came on every day, tended toward the mainstream, often offering pop, jazz, classical, and lots of comedy. Walker offered politics and groceries and, eventually, bluegrass—a new form in the mid-1940s, untested and not for everybody. Between the two of them, they made Knoxville a conduit for live music, launching several careers toward the big time, under a wide umbrella of styles. Among their alumni were Chet Atkins, who often preferred to think of his improvisational guitar as jazz, and the Everly Brothers, who in Knoxville began leaning hard toward rock ’n’ roll, and finally Dolly Parton, who never minded being called country.

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No. 18


The Nation’s Most Popular Park Is Created The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Movement


David chapman and hikers on Mt. Chapman sections that had been turned into stumps, and making safe trails. Together, Chapman, the Davises, and hundreds of others marshaled a combination of state funding, local donations, and a major grant from the Rockefeller family to establish a park open to the public in 1930, but not

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

mt. l Econte

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


he story goes that it started when Annie Davis, a Knoxville socialite, got back from a trip out west in 1923 and thought the National Park model would be a perfect fit for the embattled Great Smokies. The idea of making a park in the Smokies was a good deal older, but the Bryn Mawr alum made so much progress on the idea it seems just to let her own the concept. Wife of iron and coal company executive Willis Davis, she befriended other lovers of the Smokies, like pharmaceutical executive David Chapman and members of the Knoxville Automobile Club, some of whom owned automobiles just so they could go to the Smokies. Running mainly on that issue, Davis—who wouldn’t have been able to vote a few years earlier— was elected to the state Legislature in 1925, Knox County’s first female elected official. There she pushed the park project, including a bill eventually signed by Gov. Austin Peay calling for a major state purchase of land in the mountains. Meanwhile, a generation of idealists turned their attentions to the park, raising money, mapping the region, volunteering to replant the

formally dedicated by President Roosevelt, standing on the podium at Newfound Gap with David Chapman, until 1940. It became the nation’s most popular national park. For a generation, Knoxville neglected itself to help birth an astonishing new gift to the world. The Smokies spurred the city to build the Henley Street Bridge, connecting to brand-new Chapman Highway, named for the Father of the Smokies, David Chapman. Knoxville established its airport near the Smokies. For several years, Knoxville advertised itself as the Gateway to the Smokies; Knoxville was where America stayed when it was in the mood for a day trip up there. City business profited, for a while, as restaurants prospered and Smokies souvenir shops popped up downtown. But by the 1960s, there were thousands of hotel rooms in Blount and Sevier Counties, closer to the park. It became easiest to drive to the Smokies on the highways, without coming through Knoxville business districts at all. The city’s connection to the Smokies became mainly historical.

No. 19

Forming a Southern Football Powerhouse


Birth of the SEC


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36 points, total, on the Vols. Most opponents didn’t score at all. As the regular season closed, the giant Southern Intercollegiate Conference held a fateful convention at the home of one of their more talked-about members, in downtown Knoxville. The conference at the Farragut Hotel in early December was attended by scores of big shots in Southern sports: university presidents, athletic directors, and coaches from all 23 institutions in the conference. It had become obvious that the conference was a big, unwieldy thing, and in a given season any member team was unlikely to face as many as half of the other members. After some emotional arguments, flares of temper, and, if we can believe the reports, tears, they agreed to create a new, nimbler

conference of just 13 schools, called the Southeastern Conference. Since then, the SEC has been one of America’s most dependably exciting conferences, breeding, in recent years, more national champion teams than any other. Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


t’s hard to determine whether a successful run of football seasons is ever “historic.” Every game, somebody wins. There are hundreds of football programs in America, and about half of them win more than they lose. Several teams have won more national championships than the Vols have. But you can’t deny the size of that stadium and the willingness of people to pack it. If the University of Tennessee’s program ever stood out, in a way that might inspire a sportswriter to use the phrase “Tennessee football” to describe a particular style of play, it was during the reign of the guy the stadium is named for. By age 40, Maj. Robert Neyland was becoming famous for his defensive strategies. During the 1932 season, 10 other teams combined had scored only

UT football practice 1935

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No. 20


A New Kind of Government TVA Comes to Town


Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection


norris dam

Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

houses flooded by lake norris

f course, the Tennessee Valley Authority was a development largely imposed from outside of Knoxville: conceived by a senator from Nebraska, ordained by a president from New York, implemented by a chairman from Ohio. It happened to coalesce in Knoxville partly because it was the closest city to the agency’s first dam project, Norris. But the general idea had local champions even before the New Deal (notably via eccentric attorney John R. Neal)—and one of TVA’s three original directors, Harcourt Morgan, was a longtime Knoxvillian, as were hundreds of the agency’s original staffers. It also became instantly one of Knoxville’s biggest employers, roughly 3,000 white-collar staffers, most of them downtown. TVA brought cheap hydroelectric power to the valley, and probably more importantly, ended the flooding that regularly ran people out of their homes, even in Knoxville, and caused ruinous erosion that had left thousands of acres of East Tennessee barren. It intended to be even more than that for the valley, offering resources for farmers, from new fertilizers to insect control, and even providing frameworks for urban and industrial planning, creating the town of Norris as a model for what all towns could be. (Its pedestrian-oriented town-center design might be called “new urbanist” today.) For intellectuals of a certain stripe, it also made Knoxville one of the most exciting places in the world. Benton MacKaye, the founder of the Appalachian Trail, moved to Knoxville to work for TVA and found Knoxville one of the most “stimulating” places he’d ever lived. Most of the people he found so fascinating were other people who’d come here to work for TVA, but there were others, like local attorney Harvey Broome, who (along with some TVA folks here) founded the Wilderness Society, one of the most influential radical

organizations of the 20th century. Several remarkable people came here to work. David Lilienthal, attorney from Wisconsin who later became the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, came here to be a TVA director. A few years later, so did James Pope, a former mayor of Boise, recently U.S. Senator from Idaho, who must have startled his constituents when he moved to Knoxville in 1939 to work for TVA. TVA itself seemed radical in its early days, controversial among Republicans (Eisenhower famously called it “creeping socialism,” and, as Ronald Reagan was launching his career as a conservative politician in the early ’60s, he demanded that it be sold to private interests). But to idealists it was a way to introduce large-scale planning within a democratic framework, almost an experiment in a new kind of government for a new era. Especially during its dynamic early years when it was famous around the globe, TVA drew an astonishing variety of intellectuals—philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, architect le Corbusier, Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru—just to witness it in action. Travel author John Gunther, who infamously called Knoxville “the ugliest city…in America” in 1947, was awed by TVA. And the presence of TVA, a government-controlled energy source, was a major reason for the location of an unprecedented weapons effort. During the war that broke out when TVA was only eight years old, the Knoxville area drew the Clinton Engineer Works, later known as Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They needed lots and lots of dependable power for the urgent Manhattan Project. TVA became something like an enormous utility, still America’s largest—albeit one with extraordinary flood-control capacities, creating reservoirs that become recreational lakes, in a region that never had lakes before. Inevitably perhaps, TVA left its ambitious world-changing idealism behind, but it put its mark on an idealistic generation.



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No. 21

Revolutionizing Waste Management


The Dempster Dumpster

M Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

dempster equipment co.

ake fun of it, go ahead, but hardly anything has changed the world for the better more so than the Dempster Dumpster, first introduced in Knoxville. People use the term the world over without thinking about it, but the Dumpster was named for George Dempster (1887-1964), industrialist, inventor, and civic leader who served Knoxville as city manager in the late 1920s and 1930s, leading massive projects like the Henley Street Bridge and McGhee Tyson Airport. He became mayor in the 1950s. Son of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, he studied law with the legendary John R. Neal, and with his brother Tom went to work on the new Panama Canal, developing an appreciation for moving massive

amounts of material fast. He and his brothers formed Dempster Brothers, Inc., a machinery company. Dempster held 25 patents, but none as famous as the Dumpster, which for decades was manufactured in the Dempster plant in North Knoxville. When Dempster set out four Dumpsters behind buildings along Gay Street between Church and Union in November 1936, it was an “experiment.” The word “Dumpster” had never previously existed. It was first described in the media as “a patented bucket contrivance for hauling garbage, gravel, sand, and other materials.” The original Dumpsters were much smaller than the modern ones, but operated by the same principle, with trucks equipped to

pick them up and dump them. It may be a case of a major liability leading to an asset: visitors to Knoxville in the ’30s remarked about how filthy the city was, with both soot and out-of-control trash heaps. Knoxville was also a natural for equipment like that, which was useful in the rock-quarry industry. The experiment apparently worked. Within three months, representatives from Nashville, Louisville, and Washington were making trips to Knoxville to behold this new wonder. And within a year, there were 60 Dempster Dumpsters in Knoxville alone, as state government contemplated a major purchase. The world followed, and it has been a tidier place ever since.


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No. 22


A Knoxville Judge, and a Landmark Order The South’s First Public School to Desegregate, Clinton High

B Couretsy of the Library of Congress

clinton high school

orn at the end of the 19th century, Judge Robert Love Taylor— named for his uncle, a popular Victorian-era politician—was a white Southerner on the far side of middle age. Taylor had no reputation as liberal, or as a civil-rights activist. He was a Democrat, at a time when Southern Democrats predictably stood for segregation. He’d spent most of his life in Johnson City, and moved to Knoxville in 1949 only when President Truman offered him a promotion, a recess appointment to be the chief federal judge for Tennessee’s Eastern District. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a permanent appointment the following year. His office was in the big marble federal build-

ing on Main Street, above the main post office. Judge Taylor was in office at the time the U.S. Supreme Court passed down the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, declaring that the time-honored principle of “separate but equal,” the rule in Tennessee and other states since before Judge Taylor was born, was unconstitutional. When a challenge came from black students in neighboring Clinton, Judge Taylor read their complaint. It wasn’t fair, they said, to have to ride a bus all the way to the closest all-black school in Knoxville, Austin High, when there was a public high school right in their own neighborhood. And Taylor reread the Supreme Court’s recent


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time in jail, Kasper became involved in the leadership American Nazi Party, before lapsing into obscurity.

Perhaps ironically, Knoxville, where the inconveniences of segregation were not as dramatic—historically black schools were close by—remained segregated for several more years. The city’s desegregation began in early 1960, with a series of nonviolent actions led by local black activists, especially clergymen like William T. Crutcher and students at Knoxville College, coinciding with an extremely well-attended visit on KC’s campus by Dr. Martin Luther King. Robert Booker, student-government president at Knoxville College, was among those who demonstrated and were arrested. The demonstrations, mostly at lunch counters and movie theaters in downtown Knoxville, became the subject of a book, Diary of a Sit-In by Merrill Proudfoot. The same year, UT

admitted its first black undergraduate student, Theotis Robinson, who had been one of the downtown demonstrators. As it developed, among the leaders were UT student Avon Rollins, who would later become known throughout the South for his activism in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and KC grad Booker, a scholar of black history who was later elected Knoxville’s first black state legislator. By 1963, most public facilities, including movie theaters, desegregated. Knoxville’s public schools, allowed (by Judge Taylor) to let the process proceed gradually, did not announce the full desegregation of its own schools until late 1964, eight years after Clinton High, and didn’t satisfy federal guidelines until 1972. Knoxville contributed a key figure to the Black Power movement in the person of Nikki Giovanni, a scathing critic of white America who surprised some by writing with warm nostalgia about the Knoxville of her youth in poetry and essays.

Couretsy of the Library of Congress

decision. He said well, they were right. All-white Clinton High would have to desegregate and allow black students to attend classes alongside whites. Clinton High became the South’s first public school to desegregate, and for that reason it got national attention. Taylor’s decision was alarming to segregationists across the nation, many of whom converged on Knoxville, Clinton, and Oak Ridge for demonstrations and, sometimes, violence. A Louis Armstrong show at Chilhowee Park in 1957 was bombed. In 1958, Clinton High itself was destroyed with dynamite. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. And it was just the building. The still-desegregated high school was rebuilt. John Kasper, an oddball segregationist insurgent from New York, faced federal charges for obstructing a court order in the same building where the decision to desegregate Clinton High was made, and under the gavel of Judge Taylor. After some

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No. 23


A New Paradigm in Women’s Athletics Pat Summitt Exalts the Game


t’s tempting to leave the world of college sports out of a municipal history. Most cities have teams. They win some years, lose others. The people who care are mainly the fans. As appalling as it might seem to fans, but there are thick histories of college football in America that hardly mention the University of Tennessee. That will never be the case with women’s basketball. Knoxville events in that realm have made a huge difference in women’s


Couretsy of the UT Athletics

pat summitt

athletics as a whole. It’s not just that Pat Summitt won eight NCAA championships; another coach has won more. Or that she coached a team to win the gold medal in the 1984 Olympic Games; somebody always wins the gold. It’s not that she has won more games than any other coach; someday, even that record will be broken. The reason Pat Summitt will be remembered as historic is that she began making a national popular phenomenon of women’s basketball. In fact, she may have done more than any individual in bringing any women’s team sports to national attention, as something to pay attention to, something that can’t be missed. It’s been enough to prompt the construction of an institution the world might not have foreseen the need for, before Pat: a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. More than that, she may have helped change America’s image of the female psyche. Even during the women’s liberation era, the average American, if he or she were honest enough to admit it, had a perception of women as smart, capable, dependable, but emotionally vulnerable, and certainly not aggressive or up to challenges of endurance or competitive stress. However, repeatedly, on live national television, Pat Summitt created a new paradigm for women that may go beyond sports. She was loud, aggressive, goal-oriented, sometimes merciless. She demanded perfection and often got exactly what she wanted. People who had never known a woman like that saw it, and marveled. Some of them were little girls who are now adults. You don’t always have to be like Pat Summitt to succeed. But it’s now an option. Summitt widened the lens of how the successful modern woman is perceived.

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No. 24


throwing a Colorful Party The 1982 World’s Fair If you want to see How history Is being made In Tennessee You’ve got to be there! The 1982 World’s Fair!


o went the familiar jingle in TV ads broadcast nationally. In 1973, the Arab Oil Embargo sent the United States into a tailspin known as the Energy Crisis. Knoxville responded a few years later with the biggest party in its history. The city made a strong case that between TVA, ORNL, and UT, it was positioned to help the world solve its energy problems. And it was also a great place for a world’s fair. It sounded absurd at first. Knoxville was the second smallest American city ever to presume such an endeavor. Its population stagnant, Knoxville needed a shot in the arm and some way to fix that drab old railroad yard between downtown and Fort Sanders. There were disappointments. The Soviet Union in a grand tit for tat related to Afghanistan and the 1980

Olympics. But it worked out in ways that couldn’t have been predicted by its planners. The 1982 World’s Fair became famous for the fact that mainland China, still a mysterious place to most Americans in the years just after Nixon’s attempts to connect, chose to participate for the first time since that famous fair in St. Louis in 1904. For much of America, Knoxville became a place to see China, its mysterious terra-cotta warriors, bricks from the Great Wall, and an impressive variety of artisans at work. Some of the amazing new inventions of the fair were duds— milk that doesn’t require refrigeration and consequently tastes very weird—chocolate Coke, and the Kodak Disk camera. But those who paid close attention at the U.S. Pavilion tours got to see a touchscreen computer a decade and a half before it became a common consumer item. The World’s Fair was also where many Americans first heard of the European Union, then called the European Economic Community. Long


Couretsy of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

world’s fair artwork by Jerry Weintz

before the Euro, the EEC hosted, for the first time at any world’s fair, a whole pavilion alongside other international pavilions. Patiently they tried to explain their complicated long-term plan. Visitors found our fair remarkable in another respect, too, in that it was a rare world’s fair held in a downtown area, using multiple historic buildings, from the 1905 L&N train station to several 1890s Victorian houses for modern purposes. Unfortunately for the short attention spans of humans, by 1982 people weren’t worried much about energy anymore, the ostensible theme and motive for the big fair. But after the confusions of Vietnam and Watergate and disco, about 11 million were ready for a party. It drew Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Hope, Slim Whitman, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Jimmy “Dyn-o-Mite” Walker, Imelda Marcos, Leon Redbone, Presidents Carter and Reagan, and, in a rare American appearance, Japan’s Kabuki Theater. It was a very strange dream. Perhaps it didn’t do much for America’s dependence on fossil fuels—in the years after the fair, in fact, per-capita consumption of oil actually rose—but it caused a stir. And though no one predicted it at the time, it may have been the second to last—the penultimate—world’s fair in U.S. history. Was history made in Tennessee? Perhaps not exactly the history intended. When the banking empires of Jake and C.H. Butcher collapsed three months after the fair, it was then called one of the biggest bank collapses in history. Those who weren’t affected by it were quietly proud that Knoxville had enough of a bank to collapse so grandly. In years to come, the fair was described in an interesting book by Chinese author Liu Zongren called Two Years in the Melting Pot. Today, it’s the site of the Knoxville Convention Center, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial, and the STEM Academy.



No. 25


A Fresh Take on Television Scripps Networks, Jupiter, and Knoxville’s other show-business companies find a place


ken Lowe


to Ken Lowe, an executive at Cincinnati-based media company, Scripps. Led by Lowe, a Chapel Hill grad who came here in 1994 to launch HGTV, Scripps bought Cinetel, creating a television division based in Knoxville. Soon, the Knoxville-based subsidiary acquired the Food Network. the Travel Channel, DIY, the Cooking Channel, and others. By 2000, Bagwell’s Cinetel became known as Scripps Productions, eventually Scripps Networks Interactive, and a major player on the national cable-television market. Meanwhile, one talented and ambitious Bagwell employee, Knoxville-raised Stephen Land, spun off on his own to create Jupiter Entertainment, an independent production company less interested in how-to shows than in narrative storytelling, creating long-running shows like City Confidential and Snapped that proved more durable than most network hits. Other companies sprouted to meet other demands: Atmosphere Pictures, North South Productions, Lusid Media, and RIVR Media. Meanwhile, this coincided with a

Couretsy of Scripps Networks Interactive

scripps network interactive campus

ore than half a century ago, heartened when one director or another found Knoxville useful for a shoot in a usually obscure movie, Knoxville tried deliberately to court show business, building a permanent modern sound stage to lure moviemakers to the city. It became an ROTC training center connected to West High. Just as Knoxville had thoroughly forgotten the heady days when it dreamed of becoming a mini-Hollywood, the city developed as one of the nation’s leading television-production centers. No one saw it coming. No one, perhaps, with one exception. By all accounts it started with Ross Bagwell Sr., a cameraman from Monroe County who’d worked on TV in Hollywood and New York—he thought he had what it took to produce his own shows, back home in East Tennessee. In the early 1980s, his Knoxville-based production company, Cinetel, scored an early success with an early madefor-cable series, I-40 Paradise, a truck-stop sitcom with country music. His work in Knoxville was impressive

few other extremely unusual national video projects in town, like Whittle Communications’ Channel One, a national educational television network distributed to schools on a closed circuit; and Cyberflix, a pioneering CD-ROM video game company experimenting with interactive video narratives. Both ended their Knoxville presence by the late ’90s, but may have played a part in raising the city’s profile in the fast-changing video business at a critical time. And all of this was happening while a New Tazewell grocer started small and slowly built an empire. Based in Knoxville by 1993, Regal Cinemas was one of the world’s largest movie-theater chains by 1999. If it had nothing to do with the TV-production empire that rose simultaneously, it makes for an interesting coincidence. At present, Ross Bagwell, who once worked for Jack Paar and is now well beyond a typical retirement age, is still at it, involved in other endeavors in recent years, including RIVR Media, of which his daughter, Dee Haslam, is in charge. Their large studio center in Bearden witnessed work on a recent feature film. Something, Anything (2014), shot in Knoxville and directed by Paul Harrill via the associated company Nest Features, earned national critical acclaim despite its limited release. None of it’s exactly like anything else out there. Knoxville’s array of No-Coast projects renders the claim that the city is the nation’s fourth-biggest—or, by some estimates, even third-biggest—television-production center, credible. At this point, some believe Knoxville’s influence is discernible on the cable-TV landscape. Jupiter’s Land says Knoxville work profits from its closer connection to America’s heartland, and the local show-biz community’s perspective offers a “fresh point of view” often lacking in products from the big cities, where formulas often rule.

Things To Come

What’s Next?




hese aren’t the only reasons Knoxville matters, of course. So what’s number 26? Maybe it has already happened, or maybe it’s still happening. Appraising recent events presents a challenge. Some developments on this list, seemed little more than oddities when they were emerging. Even when it was on the radio every day, few journalists paid much attention to the emergence of popular country music as it was happening. Architect George Barber is more famous by name today than he was when he was during the 75 years after his death. History requires the perspective that comes with distance. Today Knoxville is proud of its downtown, even as we’re aware that most downtowns are reviving in one way or another. Knoxville’s seems different, and is in some ways, lacking quite as much of a comprehensive plan from a government or corporation or philanthropy, it’s been organic, and to a greater extent than we deserve, maybe, serendipitous. Still, maybe it will be remembered as presenting America with a slightly different paradigm. We might consider Big Ears, AC Entertainment’s music festival held more springs than not since 2009. Little if anything in Knoxville history has drawn such immediate international acclaim. It is, by some critics’ assessments, the best assemblage of interesting new music in America. It’s just hard to tell, seven years in, how much influence it has, or will have. These days, technological advances often involved multiple developments in multiple places. Will university advances in green technology result in a clean car or a clean building? Will it have something to do with the promise of proton therapy to cancer patients? Will the loyal sympathies for Pat Summitt’s struggles result in the first effective treatment for Alzheimer’s? That would be something else to be proud of. If the past is any guide, though, chances are it’ll be something we’re not expecting at all.

Beauford Delaney (Knoxville 1901-1979 Paris), Scattered Light, 1964. Oil on canvas, 36 5/8 x 28 3/4 inches, Knoxville Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the Rachael Patterson Young Art Acquisition Reserve, 2015. © Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

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