Knoxville Police Department Integrated Since 1882
After the Civil War, the Knoxville Police Department made history. It hired the City's first African-American police officer in 1882 - and continued to recruit and hire black officers, even at a time when it was virtually unheard of to have minority representation in the uniformed ranks. Moses Smith was the first African-American police officer in Knoxville, says Civil Rights pioneer and historian Robert J. Booker. Smith served on the Knoxville police force for several years before being appointed as a federal marshal.
Listen to Knoxville Police Chief Rausch Talk About Integration in KPD
First African-American Volunteer Fire Department Formed in 1868
In 1854, the first volunteer fire department in Knoxville formed with 100 volunteers. Fourteen years later, in 1868, William F. Yardley and William Luttrell formed a separate African-American volunteer fire department - and Yardley served as its first fire chief. However, while African-Americans have been protecting lives and property from fires in Knoxville for 149 years, they weren't paid and professionally trained by the City until the 1950s. And the City maintained segregated fire halls for another decade.
Listen to Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp Talk About Integration in KFD
One of City's 1st African-American Firefighters Rose Through the Ranks
As a young man, Luther Bradley never envisioned how his life and career would unfold. Then in 1952, an opportunity at the Knoxville Fire Department presented itself. Mayor George Dempster decided to hire African-American firefighters for the first time. Bradley and 10 other African-American men were hired and trained for Fire Department duties. The firefighters, housed at the Engine Company No. 4 fire station in East Knoxville, started battling fires and protecting families on Aug. 6, 1952, after only about a month of training. “I never, in my early years, dreamed of becoming a fireman,” says Bradley, who made firefighting his career. He served as captain and later was assigned as the fire inspector for the Fire Prevention Bureau. Seven years after his promotion to fire inspector, he became assistant chief in charge of the bureau. Then in 1980, Luther Bradley was promoted to Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal.
Former Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Luther Bradley
African-American Political Engagement in Knoxville Dates Back to Mid-1800s
Knoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown has always embraced service - as a U.S. Army soldier in Vietnam in 1970, as a 22-year public servant with the U.S. Postal Service, and as an East Knoxville community leader. But on Jan. 10, 2011, he made Knoxville history. This was the day that Daniel Brown became Knoxville’s first African-American mayor. But while Brown was Knoxville's first African-American mayor, the City's black citizens have long been politically engaged. The first African-American aldermen were elected shortly after the Civil War, and in the early 20th century, Knoxville had a "Bronze Mayor," who was selected by votes cast through an African-American newspaper. Consider this context: In 1860, about one in four Tennesseans were living in slavery. Less than 3 percent of the 276,000 blacks in Tennessee were free. So how did African-Americans gain a foothold in politics in that era?
Listen to Knoxville's First African-American Mayor Daniel T. Brown
Cal Johnson, Knoxville’s First African-American Millionaire
A former Knoxville slave made rags-to-riches history in the early 1900s, becoming Knoxville’s first African-American millionaire. Caldonia “Cal” Fackler Johnson was born a slave on Oct. 14, 1844, in Knoxville’s Farragut Hotel. Both of Cal Johnson’s parents were born slaves, belonging to the McClung family at Campbell Station. Robert J. Booker, an African-American historian and founder of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, has researched and published articles on Cal Johnson’s life. Booker’s research indicates that Johnson’s mother, Harriet McClung Johnson, learned to read and write, as evidenced by the handwritten items in her Bible. She owned and operated a “hotel/restaurant/grocery” store on Willow Street in Knoxville.
Listen to Historian & Civil Rights Activist Robert J. Booker Talk About Cal Johnson
How Basketball Took Paul Hogue from Five Points to the NBA
For Knoxville native Paul Hogue, basketball proved to become his ticket for living "the American dream." Paul H. "Duke" Hogue was born April 28, 1940 in Knoxville, Tennessee to Otis Thomas Hogue and Melissa Mae Holland Hogue. Born and raised in a house on Wilson Avenue in the Five Points community, Hogue played basketball on courts in the park across the street, which was previously known as Union Square Park. He was a standout basketball player at Austin High School (where his father was principal) and Vine Junior High School. After graduating high school in 1958, Hogue went on to play for the University of Cincinnati, where he helped bring the basketball team to two NCAA National Championships (1961 and 1962). A 6'9" center, he averaged 16.8 points and 12.4 rebounds per game as a senior.
Literary ‘Roots’ Embodied in One of Knoxville’s Landmarks
One of Knoxville's iconic landmarks holds the title for the second tallest statue of an African-American in the nation. Second only behind the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C., the 13-foot-tall Alex Haley statue resides in Haley Heritage Square off of Dandridge Avenue and atop Morningside Park.
The bronze statue is sculpted in the likeness of Alex Haley (1921-1992), American author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: The Saga of an American Family
Haley spent some of his earliest years in Henning, Tennessee before returning to his birth town of Ithaca, New York, and lived his final years nearby in Clinton, Tennessee. Roots
was a Pulitzer prize winning 1976 novel said to help make societal breakthroughs for the African-American community by vividly depicting the experience of slavery in America beginning with capture in Africa.
From Tennessee Theatre Porter to Painter
W. James Taylor has always loved the smell of buttery popcorn and the soul-pleasing sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Tennessee Theatre - first as a teenager working as a porter in the 1960s, and now, as an accomplished musician and artist. In April 1963, Taylor was working when students from Knoxville College were protesting segregation of businesses on Gay Street. He'd never participated in any sit-ins or protests, but he was drawn to the demonstration outside the segregated theater. He quit his job and joined the protest.
Film Pays Tribute to Civil War Solders Interred in Odd Fellows Cemetery
Be sure and view this video, "The Cemetery of Life," by local filmmaker Siam J. Manuels with the Knoxville Re-Animation Coalition and others. The documentary tells the story of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Knoxville, the final resting place for 30 Civil War veterans who'd served in the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery unit.
Watch the Cemetery of Life Video