The Tennessee Alumnus asked readers to nominate their favorite small towns in Tennessee. Winchester received the most nominations, but we’ve included several other favorites you can read about.
I’m pretty biased to my hometown of Winchester, and it sure helped that your picture in the Fall 2011 edition was from the square in Winchester facing that famous shopping emporium of Hammers!
— Hank Henderson (Knoxville ’81)
I would like to nominate Athens, Tennessee, my hometown. Athens, more commonly known as the “Friendly City” truly lives up to its nickname. A town is no better than its people and I would not hesitate to say that Athens has the some of the best people in our great state. The town square is quite impressive with beautiful old buildings and a stately courthouse in the center. President Ronald Reagan was so impressed with Athens and its town center he actually chose it to give a speech early on his presidency. The citizens of Athens have worked hard to keep the town vibrant over the years. Citizens have organized such events as Pumpkin Town, Christmas on the Square and most importantly, “Moo Fest” in honor of the Athens favorite, Mayfield Dairy Farms! In addition to all of the positives listed above, Athens has a great education system, beautiful old homes and many wonderful small town businesses. To top it off, Athens is situated on the map right between two of Tennessee’s largest cities, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Being so close to each, you will always find lots of Vols and Mocs supporters. People from Athens keep I-75 hot, supporting their favorite teams in both cities.
— Tyler Forrest (Chattanooga ’10)
Bell Buckle is the best small town. It has the arts, it has excellent education, it has farmers and professionals meeting together over coffee at the Cafe. It has bluegrass music, festivals, rural scenery, and a railroad town that spruces up for every holiday. And importantly, it has lots of UT alums!
— Lisa A. White (Knoxville ’93, ’96, Law ’07)
Best small town in Tennessee is Centerville, TN in Hickman County. The town is located approximately 60+/- miles southwest of Nashville off I-40. Many fellow Alumnus are from Centerville including your very own Charley Deal! Facts about Centerville: Minnie Pearl was from Hickman County and Grinder’s Switch is also located in Hickman County. The town square was recently restored and we now have at least one traffic light!!! The town is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Tennessee with all the rolling hills and bluffs. My father, the late Ralph Loveless was mayor after retiring from Meriwhether Lewis Electric Co-op. My great-grandfather, Lem Allen was also mayor. Y’all come back now, ya hear!
— Jody Loveless-Travis (Martin ’97)
My favorite small town is Church Hill in northeast Tennessee. My grandmother and great aunt still live in the house their father built for his bride in the 1910s. Sadly theirs is the probably the oldest house in their vicinity — their road was widened several years ago and many houses were torn down. Luckily Church Hill, even in the midst of modern improvements such as these, has never lost the sense of community that drew my ancestors to the area in the early 1800s!
— Sarah Latanyshyn (Knoxville ’05)
I was born in Columbia and graduated from Columbia Central High School and then from the University of Tennessee. I remember my first grade teacher, Miss Roberts, my second grade teacher, Miss Sowell, and my favorite teacher, my high school math teacher, Coach Farris, and many more. I recall clearly the twilight games of “kick the can” in the Riverside neighborhood and our “tricks” on Halloween. My church membership was in the Riverside neighborhood. I knew most of the people in my neighborhood, and they knew me. I also knew almost all of my over 200 member graduating class. Columbia was a place of neighborhoods, of friendships, of respect for each other, and of churches. I was not in the band, but I loved watching it perform. Our football team rarely won, but we were all there in Pillow Park to support the players. The gym was full when the basketball teams played. Columbia was home. I now live in a city numbering over 500,000. It is home, and has been for 27 years but never in the way that Columbia was home.
— Paula Richardson Ball (Knoxville ’63)
I would like to nominate Elizabethton as my favorite small town. It is my hometown and I was fortunate to be able to come back and live/work here after graduating from UT in 1977. Like most towns, it is not perfect and we’ve struggled with the loss of industry/jobs over the past few years. However, it is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. It has wonderful people, excellent schools and educational opportunities, holds a special place in American history, and, like all of Northeast Tennessee, has a nice climate with beautiful mountain lakes and scenery.
— Joe Alexander (Knoxville ’77)
My favorite small town in Tennessee is Harriman, where I was born in 1968. Founded in 1889 on the banks of the Emory River at the base of Walden’s Ridge, the town was planned from scratch as a model town for manufacturing. Harriman was also the “town that temperance built,” outlawing saloons and alcohol. Harriman exhibits beautiful Queen Anne-style homes on a hill overlooking the main commercial street, retaining Romanesque-style stores and City Hall as well as neoclassical-style civic landmarks such as a U.S. Post Office and Carnegie Public Library. Other landmarks include the Art Deco-style Princess Theater, which recently underwent a $2 million restoration – this where I saw my first movie Star Wars in 1977 and a bakery that’s been around for decades. In recent years, city leaders have been attempting to restore many of the historic buildings that had been vacated and fallen into disrepair. Scenes from the movie “October Sky” were filmed on the block with the Carnegie Library, which continues to be used as a library. Much of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’m proud to call Harriman my hometown!
— Robbie D. Jones (Knoxville ’92)
I grew up in Limestone on a farm and at that time Jonesboro was how it was spelled. Now it is even better with cute shops, a great bistro, antique stores to browse in, bed and breakfast places if you need a place to stay, and a wonderful ice cream shop. My dad was the property assessor for over 20 years and worked at the courthouse and absolutely loved to visit with everyone on the square. Both he and I have the gift of gab and never met a stranger. Storytelling is also big there now but my dad told some of the best stories which were all true and he told them using the different voices of the real people. He died in 2002 and Mom still lives on the farm. My husband and I just moved back here to be closer to her and live in Knoxville but when we go to visit, I always try to fit in browsing about Jonesborough.
— Janet Brobeck (Knoxville ’73)
Linden is now a tourist destination. It recently completed a beautiful, functional large scale town makeover. All utility lines are now underground. Sidewalks are wide and feature planting pockets with professional landscaping including Linden trees, evergreen shrubs and perennial flowers. Benches are strategically located in the elevated courthouse yard and along the adjacent sidewalks. Stately light poles bear colorful seasonal or festival banners. The recently remodeled 1939 Commodore Hotel and Restaurant offers live music on week-ends. In summer months, free live music on the square is performed on alternate Saturday evenings by selected artists. Arts and crafts are featured and exhibited throughout the town. The arts center is a remodeled 19th century former bank. A craft center presents its creations at a main street store. Armstrong pies are baked and packaged on Mill Street. The award winning Buffalo River Review newspaper is edited by Middle Tennessee University English professor, Dr. Randy Mackin. The Chamber of Commerce office along Main Street assists tourists with maps and information. The state of Tennessee certified Linden and Perry County as Three-Star Communities for excellence in economic development.
— Dr. Thomas R. Duncan (HSC ’58)
My favorite small town is a place where I spent most of my childhood summers feeding baby calves as the sun peeked through the rolling hills, swimming in the creeks to escape the July heat and at the end of the day my grandmother’s old wooden swing was the best place to have a big bowl of peach ice cream to reminse about the adventures we had. The place I hold so dear is Lynchburg, Tennessee. It’s not just home to Mr.Jack Daniels, it is home to a lot of memories for me that can never be replaced. My hopes are to one day raise my own family there and create new memories they can have for a lifetime to come.
— Kayla White (Knoxville ’09)
It is my hometown and my wife Pam’s, too, but I think it is special. Our downtown and courthouse have been completely renovated as part of a master plan that includes a 6-mile loop that travels through the retail district, by our hospital, city park, state-of-the-art Family Fitness Center and our UT Martin Ripley Center, which offers four-year degrees right here at home. It’s called the City of Hospitality and hosts the famous Ripley Tomato Festival every year in July.
— State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (Knoxville ’72, Law ’75)
I would have to say that Selmer is my favorite small West Tennessee town. Maybe because I live, work, worship, raised kids, etc. But there are many other reasons. One that may interest UT folks is a satellite campus is here. We have one of the most active arts communities in West Tennessee. Lovers of rockabilly music have us on their map with our Rockabilly Revival every June. The Three-Star program celebrated its 30th anniversary after beginning in 1980 as the “Three-Star Award for Successful Completion of the Community Economic Preparedness Program.” McNairy County, of which Selmer is the county seat, is the only county in Tennessee to win the award for the entirety of the program.
— Ron Bell (Martin ’73, HSC ’76)
My favorite small town in Tennessee is none other than my hometown: Sneedville! Nestled in the mountains of upper East Tennessee, it is one of the few places where you can still “get away.” The people are friendly, and there is an incredible sense of community. People rally around one another during hard times. In fact, one little girl’s struggle with cancer united the community in ways that bring tears to your eyes: there were community “singings” as fundraisers, prayer chains in the local churches were constant, a Facebook group was dedicated to her, and it was a topic of conversation at every event. Sneedville is still a town of farmers, and the beauty of those farms is evident as you cross the mountains into town. It is close enough to Knoxville that you will certainly encounter the power T around every corner, on cars, and on flags flying proudly from people’s houses. In Sneedville, everyone is a UT fan!
— Stephanie Reed Traband (Knoxville ’95)
My home town of Sweetwater is a beautiful little place nestled in the valley between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Downtown is known for it’s quaint antique shops and cozy little diners. The Historic District is full of amazing old homes surrounded by giant shade trees. On the outskirts of town is rolling countryside and one of the most picturesque farms (referred to by locals as Kilpatrick Springs) I’ve ever seen. Come on over and take a look. I’ll be happy to show you around!
— Terri Click Sloan (Chattanooga ’83)