Recalling East Tennessee

Hope at Appalachia Alumni Association casts my mind back to East Tennessee.

My mother and all her people are from Knox and the surrounding counties. (Her mother was born in Sevierville; Dolly Parton was born there, too.) I’ve got Chapman Highway/Gay St. Bridge/family born and died at “the Baptist”/McKay’s cred. (If you have to ask . . . )

Three notes.

1. The song “Rocky Top” has been a teasing point in my family. Like Hope, my brother and I went to the University of Georgia. I well recall the Christmas when two aunts gave my brother (a diehard Georgia fan who often went to Knoxville for the Georgia-Tennessee game) a CD with many different versions of “Rocky Top.” He doesn’t like it, but I do, and like Hope know all the words.

2. [They] “get their corn from a jar.” So goes the song. I can brag that my great-grandfather was arrested for moonshining (in Knox County).

3. I’m a member in a rather Yank-ified denomination: even our Southern churches are loaded with snowbirds and transplants. The first time I felt validated in the Unitarian Universalist Association as a Southerner was at the Nashville General Assembly (annual convention) opening ceremony. There’s been a recent practice to feaure local music (they sometimes don’t get it quite right — Acadian music in Quebec City; bluegrass in Nashville; rock in Cleveland worked — but points for trying) and when “Rocky Top” started, I cried for joy.

The event reported at

See also South Knox Blog (hat tip to Hope for the link.)

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. When I read the following–

    [They] “get their corn from a jar.” So goes the song. I can brag that my great-grandfather was arrested for moonshining (in Knox County)

    I laughed out loud. We sometimes have too much in common. Besides be a Christian UU minister and a history graduate of UGA, I also share the dubious distinction that my great grandfather also was caught moonshining during prohibition.

    More remarkable was that his earnings from such a questionable economic venture eventually paid for my seminary education!

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