Blog Posts

Vols program is worse off than most think, and Phillip Fulmer deserves more credit for that than most give

I’ll warn you at the outset that I am a recovering Tennessee football fanatic. I haven’t burned by Vols gear, and don’t intend to. You aren’t going to hear me saying heretic things like, “I’m rooting for Alabama.” You can still find me plugged in to ESPN on fall Saturday afternoons. But I’m recovering in the sense that I no longer have the passion for Tennessee football that I once had. It’s a passion that began when I was a

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The history of Garrett: Tracing the lineage from medieval Europe to Tennessee

From left to right are Lewis Alexander Garrett (1868-1932), his father John Perry Garrett (1836-1912), and his great-grandfather Elijah "Caleb" Garrett Sr. (1777-1855).

The descendants of Lewis Alexander Garrett (1868-1932) — which include Maude A. Garrett, Warren Omar Garrett, Elza Oral Garrett, Henry Clayton Garrett, Serina Bell Garrett, William Theodore Garrett, Denver Elmer Garrett, Myrtle Alice Garrett Voiles, Velma Ann Garrett Duncan, Lloyd Albert Garrett, Herman Alexander Garrett and Virgie Leo Garrett — are an unmistakably Appalachian clan. They’re deeply entrenched along the remote northern Cumberland Plateau and they are mostly un-wealthy. It seems odd that such an Appalachian family would have direct

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Tennessee, king of the buyout, is paying Phillip Fulmer $1.4 million to fire him

Phillip Fulmer is in his third year as the University of Tennessee's athletics director.

Life is good if you’re Phillip Fulmer. I mean, it’s not $900,000-per-year good. But it’s $450,000-per-year good. And that’s pretty good when you’re sitting around doing nothing. It was revealed Wednesday that the University of Tennessee and Fulmer are nearing an agreement on Fulmer’s “separation package” as he prepares to retire from his post as the Vols’ athletics director. The terms: 50% of his current salary for the duration of his contract. That’s $450,000 per year for the next three

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Revisiting one of Scott County’s most notorious murders

Brenda Lawson was scared. It was late in the night of May 29, 1970. She and her husband, Robert, were sitting in their 1965 Pontiac Tempest, in a darkened Norma driveway. Not just any driveway; they were at the home of Dr. D.T. Chambers. The elderly doctor was one of Norma’s most prominent citizens, and his two-story brick home with stately white columns was the most prominent residence in the fading lumber community. Brenda and Robert didn’t want to be

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The mystery of Huckleberry Ridge

Orphan girl Angeline Moore was the first person to be buried at Chimney Rocks Cemetery — a.k.a. Slaven Cemetery — in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

Across the southeastern United States in the winter of 1872, newspapers gave accounts of a brutal murder in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee, with details that seemed more likely pulled from the script of a modern-day TV crime drama than from a remote, mostly law-abiding community in rural America: A teenaged orphan girl, her body beaten and mutilated, found dead in the woods … her surrogate mother suspected in her death. That was the mystery of Huckleberry Ridge, and

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How Santa Claus became Father Christmas

In modern America, Santa Claus is the most central figure for Christmas — moreso, even, than the very man whose birth Christmas celebrates, Jesus Christ. That chafes Christians, of course; after all, Christmas is a deeply religious holiday with deep religious roots. And, yet, Christians celebrate Santa just as they do the baby Jesus, helping to elevate the jolly old elf to front and center of Christmas traditions. There are those who would argue — perhaps in an effort to

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A Christmas Encounter

It was unusually cold, even for late December in those days — and late Decembers in Tennessee were colder back then than late Decembers in Tennessee today. White Christmases weren’t terribly uncommon. But this was beyond white-Christmas-cold. The holiday was still five days off, but temperature highs had dropped into the low 20s during the day. Nighttime temperatures were in the single digits, with even some subzero temperatures recorded. Yes, it was cold for a Tennessee late December. That 1952

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2020’s ‘Christmas star’ vs. the original Christmas star

On December 21, a rare phenomenon will occur: if weather conditions cooperate, a “Christmas star” will be visible in the night sky. It won’t really be a star at all; rather, it will be the planets Jupiter and Saturn so close together that they appear to the naked eye as one (even though they’ll actually still be millions of miles apart), creating the illusion of one bright star in the night sky. The last time they were this close together

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Faith in the Appalachians: Baptist roots

Did you ever wonder how and why Baptists came to be the predominant religion in the Appalachians (in general) and the Cumberland Plateau (in particular)? It’s a history that we (the Independent Herald) have been examining for our monthly religious focus series. In this part of the world, Baptist churches out-number all other denominations by overwhelming margins. In my home county on the northern Cumberland Plateau, for example, there is one Catholic congregation, one Presbyterian church, two Methodist churches, one

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Victims of a shocking double-murder buried on a forgotten mountainside

A view of the valley at Bull Creek from the edge of the most recent logging operation. Clear-cutting has left extensive scars along the mountainsides, and these operations result in New River (and the Big South Fork further downstream) being muddy much of the summer months, but the valley floor beneath the clear cuts is beautiful.

The older I get, the more of a fan I become of old cemeteries. Not the well-kept and often-visited cemeteries so much as the forgotten cemeteries that have become lost in the forest. “Forgotten cemeteries” is a bit of a misnomer, of course. These cemeteries usually aren’t forgotten at all. But they’re neglected, left to return to nature, and as the years go by fewer and fewer people know where they exist. Someday, if their stories aren’t told and preserved,

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The mountains are calling: Climbing to the top of Scott County, Tenn.

A panoramic view from an unnamed mountain peak that is the sixth-highest point in Scott County.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” Well over 100 years since John Muir’s death, that famous quote by the great American conservationist still rings true. For all who have the mountains in their blood, the mystique of these towering landforms still draws us. The mountains have been calling me for a while, but it’s been nearly impossible to get away from work. On Wednesday, I decided, I would make time to get away. So after finishing up some

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