USA Famous People of Tennessee

Tennessee Biographies

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James Agee Writer, poet; born in Knoxville James Rufus Agee (November 27, 1909 – May 16, 1955) (pronounced /ˈeɪdʒi/ AY-jee) was an American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Highland Avenue and 15th Street (renamed James Agee Street in 1999) to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler. When Agee was six, his father died in an automobile accident. From the age of seven, he and his younger sister, Emma, were educated in boarding schools. The most influential of these was located near his mother's summer cottage two miles from Sewanee, Tennessee. Saint Andrews School for Mountain Boys was run by Episcopal monks affiliated with the Order of the Holy Cross, and it was there that Agee's lifelong friendship with an Episcopal priest, Father James Harold Flye, began in 1919. As Agee's close friend and spiritual confidant, Flye was the recipient of many of Agee's most revealing letters. • James Agee Books

Eddy Arnold singer, Henderson  Richard Edward Arnold (May 15, 1918 – May 8, 2008), known professionally as Eddy Arnold, was an American country music singer who performed for six decades. He created the Nashville sound in the late 1950s, and had 147 songs on the Billboard Magazine music charts, second only to George Jones. Though Jones had more individual hits, one authoritative study ranks Arnold as the all-time leader for hits and their time on the charts. Arnold sold more than 85 million records from 1943 to his death in 2008. Arnold transcended different musical tastes in country music. He served as a role model for future musicians with both his music and his scrupulously moral personal life. A member of the Grand Ole Opry (since 1943) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (since 1966), Arnold ranked 22nd on County Music Television's 2003 list of The 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.

Arnold was born on May 15, 1918 on a farm near Henderson, Tennessee. His father, a sharecropper, played the fiddle, while his mother played guitar. As a boy Arnold helped on the farm, which later gained him his nickname - the Tennessee Plowboy. Arnold attended Pinson High School in Pinson, Tennessee, where he played guitar at school functions and events. He dropped out before graduation to help with the farm work, but continued performing, often arriving on a mule with his guitar hung on his back. Arnold also worked part time as an assistant at a mortuary. • Eddy Arnold Discography • Eddy Arnold Books

Chet Atkins guitarist, Lutrell Chester Burton Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001), better known as Chet Atkins, was an American guitarist and record producer who created, along with Owen Bradley, the smoother country music style known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country's appeal to adult pop music fans as well.

His picking style, inspired by Merle Travis, Django Reinhardt, George Barnes and Les Paul, brought him admirers within and outside the country scene, both in the United States and internationally. Atkins produced records for Perry Como, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, Jerry Reed, Skeeter Davis, Connie Smith, Waylon Jennings and others.

Among many honors, Atkins received 14 Grammy Awards as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, nine Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year awards, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. • Chet Atkins Discography • Chet Atkins Books

Hattie Caraway first elected woman senator, Bakerville - Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway (February 1, 1878 – December 21, 1950) was the first woman elected to serve as a United States Senator. Senator Caraway represented Arkansas

Hattie Wyatt was born near Bakerville, Tennessee, in Humphreys County, the daughter of William Carroll Wyatt, a farmer and shopkeeper, and Lucy Mildred Burch. At the age of four she moved with her family to Hustburg, Tennessee. After briefly attending Ebenezer College in Hustburg, she transferred to Dickson (Tenn.) Normal College, where she received her B.A. degree in 1896. She taught school for a time before marrying in 1902 Thaddeus Horatius Caraway, whom she had met in college; they had three children, Paul, Forrest, and Robert. The couple moved with to Jonesboro, Arkansas where she cared for their children and home and her husband practiced law and started a political career. • Hattie Caraway Books

Jack Garnet Carter miniature golf, Sweetwater Who doesn't love miniature golf? But, who would suspect that this invention came from Tennessee? In 1927, Garnet Carter invented a game to draw more people to his hotel in Chattanooga. The game was called "Tom Thumb Golf", but would later be known as miniature golf.

Garnet Carter's idea was to develop a residential neighborhood on top of the mountain. It was to be named Fairyland because of his wife's interest in European folklore. One feature of Fairyland was going to be a golf course, but Garnet decided instead to build a miniature golf course because the original took too long to build. He later franchised his miniature golf concept as Tom Thumb Golf, now recognized as the nation's first mini-golf course. Fairyland was 700 acres (2.8 km2) and encompassed Rock City. Frieda Carter set out to develop the property into one big rock garden, taking string and marking a trail that wound its way around the giant rock formations, ending up at Lover's Leap. She also planted wildflowers and other plants along her trails. She imported German gnome statues and other famous fairytale characters, set up at spots throughout the trail. Garnet Carter realized that his wife had made an attraction that many people would be willing to pay for, and they made Rock City a public attraction in 1932. • No Books

Davy Crockett Frontiersman; born in Limestone. David Crockett (August 17, 1786 – March 6, 1836) was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician; referred to in popular culture as Davy Crockett and often by the epithet “King of the Wild Frontier.” He represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the Battle of the Alamo.

Crockett grew up in the hills and river valleys of East Tennessee, where he gained a reputation for hunting and storytelling. After rising to the rank of colonel in the Lawrence County, Tennessee militia, Crockett was elected to the Tennessee state legislature in 1821. In 1827, Crockett was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time. As a congressman, Crockett vehemently opposed many of the policies of President Andrew Jackson, most notably the Indian Removal Act. Crockett's opposition to Jackson's policies led to his defeat in the 1835 elections, prompting his angry departure to Texas shortly thereafter. In early 1836, Crockett joined the Texas Revolution and died at the Battle of the Alamo in March of the same year.

During his lifetime, Crockett became famous for larger-than-life exploits popularized by stage plays and almanacs. After his death he continued to be credited with brazen acts of mythical proportion, which continued into the 20th century with television and movie portrayals, and he grew to become one of the most well-known folk heroes in American history. • Davy Crockett Books

Jack Curtis screenwriter, Stony Creek • Jack Curtis Books •
Sam Davis confederate scout, Smyrna - Sam Davis (1842–1863) is called the Boy Hero of the Confederacy. He was born in Smyrna, Tennessee. He served in various combat roles in the Confederate army in 1861 through 1863 during the American Civil War. As a Confederate courier, he was captured on November 20, 1863, and upon suspicion of espionage was executed by the Union Army after a captivity of only seven days.

Davis was educated at the Western Military Institute, which he attended from 1860–1861. While there, he came under the influence of headmaster and future Confederate General Bushrod Johnson.

He was recruited by Confederate scout forces early in the Civil War. He signed up as a private in the First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry in 1861 and his regiment marched off to war first at Cheat Mountain, next in the Shenandoah Valley, then at Shiloh and Perryville.

Wounded slightly at Shiloh, Davis suffered a more severe wound at Perryville; after recovering from the latter casualty he took on very active service as a courier for Coleman's Scouts. • Sam Davis Books

David G. Farragut first American admiral, Knoxville - David Glasgow Farragut (July 5, 1801 – August 14, 1870) was a flag officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and full admiral of the Navy. He is remembered in popular culture for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay, usually paraphrased: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"  to U.S. Navy tradition.

Farragut was born to George Anthony and Elizabeth Shine Farragut at Lowe's Ferry on the Holston (now Tennessee) River a few miles south east of Campbell's Station, near Knoxville, Tennessee, where his family lived. His father operated the ferry and was a cavalry officer in the Tennessee militia. Jordi Farragut, a Spanish merchant captain from Minorca, son of Antoni Farragut and Joana Mesquida, had previously joined the American Revolutionary cause after arriving in America in 1776. Jordi Farragut married Elizabeth Shine (b.1765 - d.1808) from North Carolina and moved west to Tennessee after serving in the American Revolution. David's birth name was James, but it was changed in 1812, following his adoption by future naval Captain David Porter in 1808 (which made him the foster brother of future Civil War Admiral David Dixon Porter and Commodore William D. Porter). • David G. Farragut Books

Lester Flatt - Bluegrass musician; born in Overton County. Lester Raymond Flatt (born June 19, 1914 – died May 11, 1979) was a bluegrass musician and guitarist. - Flatt was born in Duncan's Chapel, Overton County, Tennessee to Nannie Mae Haney and Isaac Columbus Flatt. A singer and guitarist, he first came to prominence as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1945. In 1948 he started a band with fellow Monroe alumnus Earl Scruggs, and for the next twenty years Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys were one of the most successful bands in bluegrass. When they parted ways in 1969, Flatt formed a new group, the Nashville Grass, hiring most of the Foggy Mountain Boys. His role as lead singer and rhythm guitar player in each of these seminal ensembles helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music. He created a role in the Bluegrass Boys later filled by the likes of Jimmy Martin, Mac Wiseman, Peter Rowan and Del McCoury.

Lester Flatt memorial in Sparta, TennesseeHe is also remembered for his library of compositions. The Flatt songbook looms titanic for any student of American acoustic music. He continued to record and perform with that group until his death in 1979 of heart failure, after a prolonged period of ill health. Flatt was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985 with Scruggs. He was posthumously made an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991. His hometown of Sparta, Tennessee held a bluegrass festival in his honor for a number of years, before being discontinued a few years prior to the death of the traditional host, resident Everette Paul England; Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day is part of the annual Liberty Square Celebration held in Sparta. • Lester Flatt Discography • Lester Flatt Books

Tennessee Ernie Ford singer, Bristol - Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991), better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country and Western, pop, and gospel musical genres.

Born in Bristol, Tennessee, to Clarence Thomas Ford and Maud Long, Ford began his radio career as an announcer at WOPI-AM in Bristol, Virginia. In 1939, he left the station to pursue classical music and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. First Lieutenant Ford served in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan. After the war, Ford worked at radio stations in San Bernardino and Pasadena, California. In San Bernardino, Ford was hired as a radio announcer. He was assigned to host an early morning country music disc jockey program titled Bar Nothin' Ranch Time. To differentiate himself, he created the personality of "Tennessee Ernie," a wild, madcap exaggerated hillbilly. He became popular in the area and was soon hired away by Pasadena's KXLA radio. • Tennessee Ernie Ford Discography • Tennessee Ernie Ford Books • Tennessee Ernie Ford Films

Abe Fortas jurist, Memphis - Abraham Fortas (June 19, 1910–April 5, 1982) was a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice. He served in that role from October 4, 1965 until May 14, 1969, when he resigned under pressure.

Fortas was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He was the youngest of five children. His father, a native of Great Britain, was an Orthodox Jew who worked as a cabinetmaker. Abe Fortas acquired a life-long love for music from his father, who encouraged his playing the violin, and was known in Memphis as "Fiddlin' Abe Fortas". He attended public schools in Memphis, graduating from South Side High School in 1926. He then attended Southwestern at Memphis (now known as Rhodes College), graduating in 1930. Fortas left Memphis to enroll in Yale Law School. He graduated second in his class in 1933 (second only to another Memphian, Luke Finlay) and was Editor in Chief of the Yale Law Journal. One of his professors, William O. Douglas, was impressed with Fortas and arranged for him to stay at Yale and become an assistant professor.

Shortly thereafter, Douglas left Yale to run the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, DC. Fortas commuted between New Haven and Washington both teaching at Yale and advising the SEC. • Abe Fortas Books

Aretha Franklin - Gospel singer known as the "Queen of Soul;" born in Memphis Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American singer, songwriter and pianist commonly referred to as "The Queen of Soul". Although renowned for her soul recordings, Franklin is also adept at jazz, rock, blues, pop, R&B and Gospel music. In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Franklin #1 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time.

Franklin is one of the most honored artists by the Grammy Awards, with 18 Grammys to date, which include the Living Legend Grammy and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy. She has scored a total of 20 #1 singles on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart, one of which also became her first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100: "Respect" (1967). "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (1987), a duet with George Michael, became her second #1 on the latter chart. Since 1961, Franklin has scored a total of 45 "Top 40" hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Franklin was the only featured singer at the 2009 Presidential inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama. • Aretha Franklin Discography • Aretha Franklin Books • Aretha Franklin DVD's

Morgan Freeman - Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, film director, and narrator. He is noted for his reserved demeanor and authoritative speaking voice.

Freeman received Academy Award nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, and The Shawshank Redemption before winning in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby. He has also won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Mayme Edna (nιe Revere), and Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Sr., who died in 1961 from liver cirrhosis. He was sent as an infant to his paternal grandmother in Charleston, Mississippi. He has three older siblings. Freeman's family moved frequently during his childhood, living in Greenwood, Mississippi; Gary, Indiana; and finally Chicago, Illinois. Freeman made his acting debut at age nine, playing the lead role in a school play. He then attended Broad Street High School, currently Threadgill Elementary School, in Mississippi. 

Freeman has appeared in many other box office hits, including Unforgiven, Glory, Seven, Deep Impact, The Sum of All Fears, Bruce Almighty, Batman Begins, The Bucket List, Evan Almighty, Wanted, and The Dark Knight. Famous actor who has appeared in movies such as Driving Miss Daisy, Lean on Me Amistad and others.  Born in Memphis. • Morgan Freeman Books • Morgan Freeman Movies