Maybe the early Seventies weren’t the best of times to be a student at the University of Tennessee, but anybody with a functioning brain knew that the rattiest booth at the Roman Room was infinitely preferable to the accommodations at Fort Polk, Louisiana – AKA Fort Puke, next stop Vietnam. Protesters and self-proclaimed freaks faced off against YAFFers (Young Americans for Freedom) and the specter of war shadowed us everywhere.
Nevertheless, lots of students liked Andy Holt, even though many weren’t crazy about some of the UT president’s old-school, paternalistic ways, particularly the time he invited Billy Graham to preach in Neyland Stadium and bring noted theologian Richard Nixon along, too. A World War II veteran born in 1904 (which means he enlisted even though he was well past draft age), he’d lived through two world wars and had a different perspective on life than did most Boomers.
A couple of days before Chris Blue headed out to Los Angeles to take the next step toward his future, he stopped by Peace and Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church to say thank you. Nobody was there, but he stood in front of the church and posted a video to Facebook with the following message:
“Earlier today I had the privilege of going to where it all started when me and my family moved to Tennessee!! You’ll hear me say it till I can’t say it no more!!…. Thank you ALL SO much for all of your prayers Love and support!!!! GOD BLESS YOU ALL!! I love you!!!”
I heard from the cemetery woman again this week. This time she called me. Her English was better than my Spanish, but that didn’t get us anywhere, so she got my email address and sent me a bill. Best I can make out, if I don’t pay up, she’s going to dig up my grandmother.
My grandmother, my Mamita, lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her name was Luci Gonzales and she laughed a lot. She was deeply religious and was always making deals with God. Once, when my mother had diphtheria and almost died, Mamita told God she’d beg money and give it to the church in exchange for her baby’s life. Mama got well, and Mamita hit the streets with a tin cup. At a time and in a place when educating women wasn’t a big priority, she made sure her girls went to college. She saw ghosts in odd places, and once demanded to be moved to a different room in a Venezuelan hotel because there was a ghost under her bed. She sent me sparkly jewelry and big fancy dresses for my birthday and Christmas and Easter, and visited us in the winter because she loved to play in the snow (we’d go to the Smokies to find it).
Harry Brooks’ Opportunity Scholarship Pilot Program was drafted to provide private school scholarships to students in public school districts that have at least 30 schools performing in the state’s bottom 5 percent.
The map of Knoxville City Council’s sixth district looks like a cartoon drawing of a long-nosed, pointy-headed man stretched out on an east/west axis from Burlington to Lonsdale, nose pointed south. The district was drawn to encompass Knoxville’s African-American neighborhoods and business districts in 1969 with one clear objective in mind:
“So that a black person would stand a chance,” said Knoxville historian and longtime political activist Bob Booker, who, thanks to a similar redistricting in 1966, was serving in the state Legislature when the city redistricting took place.
Mayors and planners across the state are lining up to oppose a bill that would require local governments to pay developers for right-of-way acquisition.
“We need to maintain the ability to require developers to dedicate that right of way – their developments contribute to creating the need, and we want them to contribute an equitable share of the costs of making those improvements. This bill would make it very challenging for local governments to finance road improvements,” said Gerald Green, executive director of the local planning commission.
Frank Bowden’s funeral was over before I knew he was gone. I learned of his death when I saw his obituary in a stack of papers I’d set aside to read when I got the time, and although I knew him pretty well, there was a lot I didn’t know about Frank Bowden, because he really didn’t talk about himself much.
He would have turned 90 this year, which means he was one of the youngest of the Greatest Generation, having served in the U.S. Army in Germany and France. This would have placed him in some of the fiercest fighting of the war at age 18. When I knew him, some 50 years later, he was one of those “Stand me up at the gates of hell and I won’t back down” guys that Tom Petty sang about.
While some worry that the proposed middle school rezoning plan will undo years of desegregation efforts and land Knox County Schools in federal court, the two players most likely to be on opposite sides of the courtroom look at the issue from very different perspectives, but do not seem overly concerned about that possibility – for now.
“This (plan) is a good first step, as far as it goes,” said NAACP president John Butler, who filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after the agreement to build a new Gibbs Middle School was unveiled.