Bill Landry

UT Chattanooga, ’72

Bill Landry

For more than 30 years, Bill Landry has given voice to a region—telling stories and capturing a history that otherwise might be lost.

Landry is an award-winning TV host and producer, an author, a playwright, an actor and —at his very heart—a storyteller. In 1984, he became host and producer of The Heartland Series, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and aired on WBIR-TV in Knoxville.

The Heartland Series was always a celebration of people and their land. We found the wonder in everyday, human existence. There are so many unassuming people who have amazing things to offer, and I think, on a larger scale, that’s true of this region, too,” says Landry.

Regular production on Heartland ended in 2009 after Landry and his team produced more than 1,900 short features and 150 specials, picking up two Emmy awards in the process.

In addition to the Emmys, Landry has received the Education in Appalachia Award from Carson-Newman University and an honorary doctorate in humanities from Lincoln Memorial University. In 2015, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus from UT Chattanooga. In recognition of his deep roots in Appalachia, Landry was appointed to the Tennessee Historical Commission in 2011.

But the mountains still had stories to tell, and Landry still needed to tell them. After the TV series, Landry authored three books about Appalachia, including Buddy: Dog of the Smoky Mountains, a children’s book. His first book, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures, is in its third printing.

“All great stories once told are told again,” says Landry. “We were putting faces with history… giving real living examples of history instead of people just reading about it in books.”

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus100 Distinguished Alumni feature.