What makes Tennessee special? Many things, and Tennessee Alumnus has found that the University of Tennessee makes its mark on most of them. Through time (more than 200 years) and space (from the northeastern tip all the way to the Mississippi River), UT and its people are interwoven in the tradition, history, pageantry, and promise that is Tennessee.
Settle in and enjoy our virtual tour of the Volunteer state.
Like the map?
Special thanks to illustrator Danny Wilson (Knoxville ’84), who generously produced the map for Tennessee Alumnus. Prints can be purchased directly from dannywilson.com.
Tennessee earned its nickname, “the Volunteer state,” with the large-scale participation of Tennesseans in the War of 1812. In Volunteer Moments, his collection of historical vignettes, the late UT Knoxville history professor Dr. Milton Klein also links the nickname to the Spanish–American War: “University students had participated in the war to such an extent that no football team could be fielded in 1898.” Klein says a university athletic team was first called “Volunteers” in 1902, and by 1905 the name was commonly used.
From the mountains of East Tennessee . . .
Bristol Motor Speedway is a famed NASCAR track. In 2005 the speedway’s owner, Bruton Smith, offered $20 million each to UT and Virginia Tech to play a football game at the storied racetrack in front of a potential 160,000-person crowd. He made a similar bid in 1999, but nothing ever came of the two proposals.
David Crockett, born in 1786 in Greene County in northeast Tennessee, later moved to West Tennessee and was elected to Congress. Known as a frontiersman, Crockett died in 1836 at the Alamo while helping Texas fight for independence from Mexico. UT Knoxville English professor Michael Lofaro is an expert on Crockett, and the “Volunteer” mascot at Vol athletic events wears buckskin and a coonskin cap like the Crockett character many people know from Fess Parker’s TV portrayal in the 1950s.
Andrew Johnson Home
The 17th U.S. president, Andrew Johnson, lived in Greeneville, Tennessee, and his home is a National Historic Site. Johnson’s papers reside in the Special Collections Library at UT Knoxville. The 16-volume Papers of Andrew Johnson was published by the University of Tennessee Press. UT Knoxville professors Paul Bergeron, LeRoy Graf, and Ralph Haskins edited the Papers.
Roan Mountain, home to some of the showiest rhododendrons in the country, has been the site of many research projects by members of the UT Knoxville faculty and staff.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S., attracting about 9 million visitors a year. UT alumni were instrumental in the park’s founding, and university involvement continues through research into the park’s wildlife, plants, climate, and water quality. The UT Knoxville library is home to the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, a comprehensive collection of materials about the park, and the University of Tennessee Press has published a number of books pertaining to the park. The Smoky Mountain Field School, a project of UT Outreach and GSMNP, has offered hikes and adventures for more than 30 years.
“Rocky Top” is a song to most Tennesseans, but it’s also a peak in the Smokies, accessible by trail from Townsend, Tennessee, and Cades Cove. Rocky Top, at about 5,400 feet, is the lowest peak on Thunderhead Mountain, but it is renowned for offering some of the best views in the Smokies.
East Tennessee is recognized as the birthplace of country music. Recently, Tennessee Alumnus featured UT Knoxville graduate student Molly Erickson’s research with bluegrass and country musicians to determine their therapeutic and training needs.
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg nurtures the finest in traditional mountain crafts, as well as in contemporary art. Established as a settlement school in 1912 by Pi Beta Phi, Arrowmont evolved toward its present status in the mid-1940s when UT and Pi Phi began craft workshops. UT professor Marian Heard was a mainstay of the school.
UT Knoxville, the capstone institution of the UT system, had its beginnings in 1794. Today the university enrolls more than 26,000 students and ranks in the top tier of U.S. public research universities. Nationally ranked academic programs, a thriving research enterprise, and extension programs that serve thousands of Tennesseans make UT Knoxville the best known of the state’s public universities.
One of the largest stadiums in the country, Neyland Stadium is home to the UT Volunteers. The football team began playing at the site, which became known as Shields–Watkins Field in honor of UT trustee Col. W. S. Shields and his wife, Alice Watkins Shields, in 1921. As the stands were built around the field, the stadium was enlarged several times and was officially named in honor of longtime coach General Robert Neyland in 1962. Due to military service, Neyland served three separate terms as coach for an overall 21 seasons. He led the Vols to the 1951 national championship and remains UT’s all-time winning football coach.
UT’s Forensic Anthropology Center is best known as “the Body Farm,” thanks to Patricia Cornwell’s 2004 novel of that name, which she researched at the UT facility. Researchers at the Body Farm study decomposition of the human body, using donated corpses. The National Forensic Academy, sponsored by the UT Institute for Public Service, uses the center as it trains crime scene investigators from throughout the U.S.
The Tennessee Valley Authority and UT have had many cooperative relationships since TVA’s founding in 1933. Early areas of common interest included community development, fertilizer use, food-freezing technology, and rural electrification. TVA also cooperated with UT to do archeological studies of Native American sites along the Tennessee River before the areas were flooded by TVA reservoirs. UTK’s McClung Museum and Department of Anthropology maintain a research collection of several million artifacts collected during those excavations.
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame honors the sport at all levels. Fittingly, the facility is located in Knoxville, where UT’s Pat Summitt and her Lady Vol teams have amassed an unequalled eight NCAA championships.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, founded in 1943 to develop an atomic bomb, is the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science and energy lab. Early on, UT and ORNL developed cooperative relationships and a graduate school of biomedical sciences. Since 2000 UT–Battelle has managed ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy. The university and the national lab share numerous joint staff appointments and programs. ORNL houses UT’s Kraken supercomputer, the fastest university-managed supercomputer in the world.
The pilot-scale biorefinery in Vonore, Tennessee, will produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and corncobs. The facility is a major component of the UT Biofuels Initiative, a farm-to-fuel business plan created by UT Institute of Agriculture researchers.
Ocoee Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater rafting down the Ocoee River in southeast Tennessee is a popular pastime for both novices and professionals. The river was the site of the 1996 Olympic canoe and kayak slalom competitions. The Ocoee Whitewater Center in Copperhill was built for the Olympics and designed by Chattanooga architect Vance Travis, who earned his degree at UT Knoxville.
The UT College of Veterinary Medicine has been part of an effort by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to reintroduce elk to a five-county region of the Cumberland Plateau. The first elk were released at Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area in Campbell County in 2000; a total of more than 200 have been released in Tennessee with the hope of establishing a population of 1,400 to 2,000 over 30 years. UT Professor Lisa Muller does research focusing on elk restoration.
The tulip poplar is Tennessee’s state tree. The University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge features a tulip poplar trail. The species was selected to be the state tree because it grows throughout Tennessee and was used by the pioneers to build houses and barns.
The melodic mockingbird is Tennessee’s state bird. Led by wildlife-science professor David Buehler and his students, UT has conducted a research project on mockingbirds on campus and at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge for several years.
To Chattanooga and Nashville . . .
Interstate 40 & Time Change
Funny how time slips away. Most of Tennessee is on Central time, but when orange-clad eastbound travelers on I-40, Tennessee’s principal east–west roadway, cross the Cumberland Plateau, they enter the Eastern time zone. Kickoff at Neyland Stadium draws an hour closer. I-40 has been named the nation’s -number-one highway three years in a row by Overdrive Magazine.
Ridges, ravines, and forests grace the Cumberland Plateau between East and Middle Tennessee. The plateau is home to one of 10 research and education centers of UT AgResearch. The plateau center is renowned for its contributions to fruit and vegetable research.
The 1925 Scopes Trial at Dayton, Tennessee, reaffirmed Tennessee’s law banning the teaching of evolution. UT law professor John R. Neal, a quixotic figure in Knoxville, aided the defense team. In later years, the UT Board of Trustees worked informally to repeal the anti-evolution law, and in 1967 the university supported legislation that in essence killed the 1925 act.
UT Chattanooga, formerly the private University of Chattanooga, joined the UT system in 1969. Its enrollment is more than 10,000. The institution is one of a growing number of “metropolitan” universities that dedicate themselves to meeting the educational needs of local residents, strong community involvement and leadership, and emphases on applied research and public service.
Moon Pies are the official dessert of the UT Alumni Association Big Orange Tailgate Tour. The tasty treats are produced by Chattanooga Bakery, an official Alumni Association partner.
When UTC faculty members and students want to get their hands wet for freshwater research, the Tennessee Aquarium is the place. UTC and the aquarium have shared a successful partnership for many years. Members of the UTC faculty have served as consultants on exhibits, and biologists from the aquarium collaborate with professors on research projects. One study of the turtle populations along the -Tennessee River tracked the effects of heavy metals and other pollutants on the river and on the animals—including humans—that depend on it for life. Students from biology and environmental sciences have gained valuable experience through internships that take them behind the scenes to care for the aquarium’s wildlife.
In one of the biggest news announcements in Chattanooga history, the German automaker said in July 2008 it would build its new production facility in the Scenic City, a venture pouring $1 billion into the economy. The city was chosen over sites in Alabama and Michigan. UT Chattanooga and UT Knoxville are among Volkswagen’s “Partners in Education,” a program providing aid and enrichment to faculty members and students.
Actually a plateau, Lookout Mountain extends from Chattanooga into northern Georgia and Alabama. Lookout Mountain is known for its tourist and historical attractions—among which are Rock City, Ruby Falls, the Incline, and Point Park—but it is also where UTC professor J. Hill Craddock has conducted research as part of an effort to restore the American chestnut tree to the Southern Appalachians and Cumberland Plateau. Hybrid chestnuts have been planted on the Lula Lake Land Trust property since 1998. (Note: Lula Lake is actually on the Georgia side of the mountain.)
The iris, Tennessee’s state flower, is among the hundreds of plants grown as part of the plant trials at the UT Institute of Agriculture gardens in Jackson and Knoxville. Many types of iris are cataloged in the UT Knoxville Herbarium of the College of Arts and Sciences.
UT Space Institute
UTSI alumnus and Murfreesboro native Captain Barry Wilmore is one of eight UTSI alumni astronauts. Wilmore piloted space shuttle Discovery’s October 2009 mission, slated to be the final crew rotation flight to or from the International Space Station.
Featuring the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Phish, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester is one of the most famous festivals in the nation. Ashley Capps (Knoxville ’79) is a founder and producer of Bonnaroo, which last year attracted more than 75,000 fans.
Bedford County is home to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. For years, a walking horse appeared before the start of every Vol home football game. The practice was discontinued, but the world grand national champion appeared before the 2009 Homecoming game.
Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg produces world-famous Tennessee whiskey. UT researchers have been involved in “barrel chemistry,” which affects the color and taste of the spirits during the aging process. UT forester Scott Schlarbaum works with the distillery on tree cultivation on surrounding lands.
The raccoon is Tennessee’s official wild animal, but unfortunately it is also the predominant wildlife carrier of rabies in the U.S. UT Knoxville researcher Lou Gross uses mathematical models to project raccoon movements so wildlife officers will know where to leave anti-rabies bait for the nocturnal masked creatures.
James K. Polk Home
Located in Columbia, Tennessee, the James K. Polk home is where the 11th president of the United States lived with his family from 1818 to 1824, between his graduation from college and his marriage. He began his political career when he was elected to the state legislature while residing here. Researchers at UT Knoxville are working on publishing his letters and other documents through the James K. Polk Correspondence Project.
State government, headquartered in Nashville, shares close relationships with UT. The university receives a substantial portion of its annual operating funds from the state. Several UT graduates have served as governor, and about 40 members of the General Assembly are UT alumni.
The Parthenon in Nashville stands as a lasting vestige of Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition of 1897. The University of Tennessee displayed an exhibit at the event and won a gold medal.
Nashville is known as Music City USA and for good reason: the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Music Row are all part of the local scene. Big stars like Hank Williams, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Dolly Parton got their breaks in Nashville. In May 2009, Parton was awarded an honorary doctorate at UT Knoxville.
The Tennessee Titans pro football team calls Nashville’s LP Field home. Former Vols have played for the Titans, and UT Knoxville grad Jenneen Kaufman is vice-president and chief financial officer of the Titans administration.
The Hermitage in Nashville was home to Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the U.S. The University of Tennessee Press is publishing Jackson’s papers, and the Andrew Jackson Project is housed at UT Knoxville under the leadership of Jacksonian scholar Dr. Daniel Feller.
Fort Campbell, located on the -Tennessee–Kentucky state line, is home to the army’s 101st Airborne Division. UT Extension personnel help servicemen, servicewomen, and their families with issues like relocation and finance.
On to the Mississippi
UT Martin is West Tennessee’s only public four-year college outside Memphis. Established in 1900 as Hall Moody Institute, it became UT Junior College in 1927. The school achieved “senior college” status as the University of Tennessee Martin Branch in 1951, and in 1967 it became a full-fledged campus of UT.
The UT Martin rodeo team is the only collegiate rodeo team in Tennessee. The team finished ninth in the 2009 College National Finals Rodeo and has finished among the top 10 teams in the nation three out of the past four years.
The Tennessee Soybean Festival in Weakley County offers annual entertainment, community events, and recognition of the leading role soybeans and soybean producers play in the economy. UT Martin is heavily involved in many of the events.
Reelfoot Lake, created by earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, is the subject of much local lore. Retired UT Martin professor Dr. Wintfred Smith collected hundreds of items pertaining to the lake and donated them to UT Martin’s Paul Meek Library.
More than 100 miles of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway lie in Tennessee. The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, published online by UT Press, says the parkway “commemorates the historical significance of the Old Natchez Trace, which served as a frontier road linking Nashville through the wilderness to Natchez, Mississippi.”
Shiloh National Military Park
The Civil War battle of Shiloh occurred Sunday, April 6, 1862, along the western bank of the Tennessee River near Savannah, Tennessee. “The carnage at Manassas, Wilson’s Creek, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge—the ‘big’ battles thus far in the war—would pale into relative insignificance when contrasted with the bloodletting at Shiloh. The killed and wounded of all those battles put together would fall far short of the number of killed and wounded at [Shiloh] the ‘place of peace.’ ” — James Lee McDonough, Shiloh—in Hell before Night, published by UT Press
Ames Plantation, a research and education center of the UT Institute of Agriculture, is home to the National Field Trial Championships for Bird Dogs. Ames Plantation, which is privately owned, encompasses 18,400 acres of land in Fayette and Hardeman counties.
As part of the UT Biofuels Initiative, 38 farmers in 9 Tennessee counties last year were growing switchgrass on 1,900 acres. More than 2,600 acres are enrolled in the growing program, and UT expects to enroll about 3,000 more acres this spring.
The West Tennessee Solar Farm is part of the Volunteer State Solar Initiative. UT will oversee the 20-acre 5-megawatt power generation facility in Haywood County. The site will be one of the largest solar installations in the Southeast and serve as a demonstration site for various commercially available solar technologies.
Tennessee is where the beef is—it’s Tennessee’s leading agricultural industry. UT expertise contributes in many ways, including training more than 7,000 producers over the past six years through the Master Beef Producer Program.
More than 300,000 Tennessee youth are members of 4-H, the youth development program of UT Ag Extension. In the last 20 years alone, nearly 5 million youngsters participated.
UT Health Science Center/Memphis Biotech
Memphis is a biotech research center, and the UT Health Science Center is at its nucleus as the research hub. Adjacent to the Memphis campus is the UT–Baptist Research Park, home to the new College of Pharmacy building and the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory. The Health Science Center was formed in Memphis when the university’s medical and dental departments were moved there from Nashville in 1911. The six UTHSC colleges enroll about 2,600 students.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital seeks cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. On average, 5,700 active patients visit the hospital each year, and UT Health Science Center physicians and graduate students collaborate with those at St. Jude to find cures for today’s illnesses.
The Memphis music scene showcases both blues and rock-and-roll, symbolized by Beale Street and Graceland. In the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, published online by UT Press, historian Carroll Van West (Knoxville ’78) cites the seminal influence of African American gospel and blues, Sun Records, Stax Records, and megastar Elvis Presley.
Hotel Peabody Ducks
The Hotel Peabody is widely known for its daily duck march. With tourists looking on, five mallards parade into the hotel lobby each morning, swim in the marble fountain, and exit in the late afternoon to return to their quarters on the hotel roof. Duck is not served in any of the hotel restaurants. Wild, not domesticated, waterfowl are the subject of UT research; Extension recommends that farmers flood certain fields in the winter to attract and feed migrating ducks.
The Mississippi River is the mighty mid-America thoroughfare known for shipping and recreation, as well as for its cultural and historic contributions to the western counties of Tennessee. As such, the Mississippi permeates University of Tennessee scholarship in such widely varying fields as agricultural economics, geology, geography, and history.
The state butterfly is the zebra swallowtail, a black and white specimen with “tails” on its hind wings. The females lay their eggs on pawpaw trees. If you don’t have pawpaws but would like to attract butterflies to your garden, UT can help. Bloomsdays, held in June at the UT Gardens in Knoxville, features a workshop explaining how to do just that.