APRIL                                2019

Bristol Celebrates the 100th Birthday of Tennessee Ernie Ford
Notes from BHA President Sid Oakley
New Library Exhibit 
Highlights of March's BHA Program featuring Dr. Robin Feireabend
Save the Date for May's BHA Program
Ken Burns Kicks off National Publicity Tour in Bristol
Share Your Old Photos for Exciting New Book!
Renew Your Membership....Join BHA!

During the month of February, an exciting lineup of special events commemorated the 100th birthday of Bristol's most famous son, Ernest Jennings "Tennessee Ernie" Ford.   Ford, who was born in Bristol, Tennessee, on February 13, 1919, and went on to become an international TV, radio, and recording star in the 1950s.  Ford hosted his own TV variety show and earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Grammy Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  His song "Sixteen Tons" sold more than 20 million copies and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Congress National Recording Registry.
Along with the Birthplace of Country Music and the Bristol Historical Association, a committee led by former Bristol VA mayor Don Ashley worked tirelessly to put together  a variety of events that celebrated the life and legacy of "The Ol' Pea-Picker."
Score of "16 Tons"

Sculpture by Michael Bryant, Jr.  Click Here for Video Clip of "16 Tons"

Festivities began on February 10th, when Anderson Street United Methodist Church, the Ford family's home church, hosted a special service followed by tours of its Ford archives. Tours of The Birthplace of Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1223 Anderson Street, were held that afternoon from 2-5 p.m.

On February 12th, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum hosted the "Buck and Sid Show" in which Ernie's son, Buck Ford, reminisced about his father's career and life with long time Ford family friend Sid Oakley of the Bristol Historical Association. The program also included the screening of Ford family home movies.  If you would like to watch this event which BCM has archived on their Facebook site, just click here:  "Buck and Sid Show"

On February 13th, Ernie's actual birthday, the Bristol Post Office on 6th Street offered a special stamp and envelope cancellation marking Ford's birthday.   Buck and Murphy Ford were the guests of honor for special events that afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. at the Paramount Center for the Arts.  Episodes of Ford's TV shows and specials were shown, followed by a birthday celebration at 4 p.m. complete with birthday cake, courtesy of Food City. Local musicians performed Ford songs.
Click Here to Listen to Buck Ford's Birthday Message to Tennessee Ernie

Click Here for Video of Ernie Ford Stamps & Envelopes

During Radio Bristol's Farm and Fun Time on Thursday, February 14, from 7 - 9 pm, the "Heirloom Recipe" segment featured two of Tennessee Ernie's favorite recipes, "Betty Ford's Gumbo" and "Ernest Ford's Cornbread and Sausage Dressing" read aloud in grand style by Buck Ford. Bill and the Belles performed for the event. 

 Click Here to Watch this Farm & Fun Time Segment and Hear Buck Ford Reminisce about His Parents as he Reads the Recipes

In addition to the events listed above, a special month-long collection of Tennessee Ernie Ford memorabilia was on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in addition to their permanent Ernie Ford exhibit. 

Read more about this once in a lifetime celebration through these Bristol Herald Courier links:

Ernie's Bristol Church Family

Notes from BHA President 
Sid Oakley


A long time ago, Scottish poet Thomas Campbell wrote, "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."
Ernest Jennings Ford physically left this world on October 17, 1991, six months after his last visit to Bristol during which he starred in the reopening of the newly renovated Paramount Center for the Arts. But Ernie lives on in the hearts he left behind in Bristol and throughout the world. This was proven again when Bristol celebrated his 100th birthday (February 13th) during the week of February 10th of this year. We're too proud to let Ernie die!
The celebration of Ernie's birthday in February was quite a "happnin" event with special programs at the church where he spent much of his youth, at the home of his birth, at the Bristol Post Office, the Paramount Theater, and the Country Music Museum. It was again proven that Bristol can flat out throw a party.

Numerous people and organizations spent several months planning the activities for the week of February 10th. Every aspect of the celebration came off without a hitch, and it appeared that everyone had a good time. It was great to share memories and swap tales with Ernie's older son, Buck, on the stage of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. I was proud to be a part of that.

Can you imagine how you would feel if your Dad's home town threw a party in honor of his 100th birthday? That's how Buck Ford felt. We should be mighty proud to make anyone that happy.

Sunday evening, March 24th, Bristol's Paramount Theater was the first in the nation to preview Ken Burns' upcoming 16-1/2 hour documentary, "Country Music," which begins airing in segments on PBS Television on Sunday, September 15th, and it looks to be another first class Ken Burns production. According to the promotional flyer, Tennessee Ernie Ford will be a part of the Burns production. He'd be proud.

I have never heard such loud and long ovations at the Paramount! I'm sure we were all glad to welcome Ken Burns and his team and to watch the three segments of the production we saw, but I believe our excitement was more about us and about our town. 
I'm sure we're proud about that, too.

New BHA Library Exhibit

BHA's new exhibit at the Bristol Public Library highlights The National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century.
Established on July 15, 1915, The National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century is an organization of women, eighteen years of age or over, who are lineal descendants of an ancestor who lived and served prior to 1701 in one of the Original Colonies in the geographical area of the present United States of America and are devoted to preserving the memory of those that settled there prior to 1701.  This non-profit organization is headquartered in Washington D.C. in a building constructed in 1884. Its mission is to uphold and continue the values and ideals of their ancestors, and their work is dedicated to the preservation of historic sites and records, promotion of heraldry and coats of arms, and support of charitable projects and education. Through these and many other activities, members acknowledge and honor those individuals whose enduring legacy of virtue, courage and patriotism formed this great nation.
The Wilderness Trail Chapter Colonial Dames XVII Century was founded November 10, 1980, and its members come from across southwest Virginia.  The earliest origins of the Wilderness Trail for which this chapter is named were the trails created by the great herds of buffalo that once roamed the area; these trails were later used by Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and Shawnee. The exhibit features contributions from six private collections, Robin Bagnall, Barbara Reed, Joyce Kistner, Mary Patsy Burnette, Nancy Estes, and Emily Kausch.

BHA would love to feature YOUR collection!
If you have items that you would like to share for a future exhibit, or for more information about BHA's Library Exhibit program, please contact Special Exhibits Chair, Joyce Kistner, at  jkistner@bvunet.net.

Large Crowd Attends BHA Lecture,
The 1918 Flu Epidemic by Dr. Robin Feireabend 

On March 11th, the Bristol Historical Association featured a presentation by physician, Robin Feierabend, entitled, "The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918: Its Impact on Bristol and the Surrounding Region." 

The great Influenza pandemic of 1918 was felt world wide, and Dr. Feierabend explained that this most deadly disease was responsible for wiping out entire communities in the state of Alaska and other communities not too far from Bristol. World War I was in progress, and returning soldiers brought the virus home. At the time of World War I, Germany and other European countries were also experiencing the epidemic, but the governments and press of these countries played down the flu's significance in order to conceal how the epidemic might weaken the respective nations' ability to win the war.
In Bristol, too, the local media did not reveal the great loss of life, although it was finally necessary to close businesses, city offices, and schools. It is believed that over 750,000 persons died in the United States along with millions throughout the world. The highest death rates for the pandemic occurred in the very young and the very old. It is now estimated that the death total was probably a quarter of the world's population.
 Dr. Feierabend emphasized the importance of yearly flu shots for prevention of future outbreaks that could echo this deadly event.  

BHA May Program
Monday, May 13th, 6:30pm

Court Clerk and Genealogist to speak to Association

The May 13th meeting of the Bristol Historical Association will feature a presentation on family tree research by two experienced researchers. Dan Kegley, the current Deputy Clerk with the Smyth County Circuit Court, will begin with the presentation, entitled, "Finding Grandpa in the Vault". The second half of the program will be led by Diane Hayes on "Restoring the Past: Uncovering Black Gold." The meeting will begin at 6:30pm at the meeting room at the Bristol Public Library.

For 23 years, Dan Kegley worked at Smyth County News & Messenger and Washington County News in positions including reporter, editor, photographer/darkroom technician, and general manager. In 2012 he became a deputy clerk in Smyth County Circuit Court. He has been the records vault supervisor there since August 2015. He is the past president of the Archeological Society of Virginia and its Wolf Hills Chapter and has written about the 19th century flatboat enterprises on the North Fork of the Holston River.

Diane Hayes is from Southwest Virginia and attended Carnegie High School, an all-black school for grades 1 through 4 in Marion. After schools integrated, she attended the traditional Marion public schools. She was accepted and graduated from Ferrum College and took her first job with Franklin County Recreation Department's Young Adults Conservation Corps, and in 1979, she began working at the Franklin County Public Library. During her 33 years at the library, Diane compiled more than 50 family histories, 90 percent of which are African American. When local historian and genealogist Gertrude Mann passed away, Diane worked to compile Mann's research to create "The Gertrude Mann Collection."

This informative program is free to the public and is in partnership with the Bristol Public Library's mission of "Expanding Minds and Building Community".

Contact Tim Buchanan, program chairman, for details of this or other upcoming programs, buchanan03@bvu.net. Get more details on Facebook at BRISTOL HISTORY.

Ken Burns, 
Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker,
Kicks off Publicity Tour in Bristol for 
New Documentary about Country Music

Ken Burns and his Emmy Award-winning creative team came to Bristol on March 24th for a very special preview of Burns' upcoming documentary Country Music. After a brief talk by Burns before the sold-out crowd at Bristol's Paramount Theater, clips from the film were shown, then Wayne Winkler of WETS Radio held a Q&A session with Burns and his team.  The 1927 Bristol Sessions will be featured in the first episode of the series, which will air on PBS in September 2019.   Country Music is a sweeping, multi-episode series that follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th Century as it eventually emerged to become America's music. It is directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey-The Emmy-award winning creators of PBS's most-acclaimed and most-watched documentaries including The Civil War; Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery; The National Parks: America's Best Idea and many more.

Wayne Winkler of WETS Radio leads a Q&A Discussion with Ken Burns, writer Dayton Duncan, producer Julie Dunfey, and musician Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show

Check out these links for more details!
Documentary Maker Ken Burns Coming to Bristol 


The Bristol Historical Association is partnering with the Bristol Herald Courier and other area organizations to compile and publish a  hardcover coffee-table book, Mountain Empire Memories: A Photographic History of the Early Years.
This heirloom-quality book will feature a glimpse of life in Bristol, as well as the surrounding communities in Sullivan, Washington and Wise counties, from the early years to 1939. Historical photos from BHA's collections and other archives will be featured, but YOU, the public, will be what will make this book a unique historic retrospective of our community.  Bring in your old photos to be scanned for the book; they will be scanned professionally and then immediately returned to you!   Bristol's public scanning session will be Saturday, April 27th, from 10am until noon, at the Bristol Public Library. For other public scan dates and locations, please refer to the invitation below.

Submission Guidelines
  • Photos should be of general interest, such as commerce, industry, transportation, rural life, public service, etc.
  • Photos taken from the 1800s through 1939
  • Photos only - preferably original photos (no newspaper clippings or photocopies)
  • Photos taken in Bristol and the surrounding communities in Sullivan, Washington, and Wise counties
  • Limit 10 photos per family 
  • No appointment necessary
To read more about how to share your photos and to download your submission form in advance if you would like to do so (you may also fill the forms out at the event), click HERE

Want to read more about this exciting project?
Want to pre-order your copy at a $15 discount for a limited time?

Not a Member?
Need to Renew your Membership?

Why? As a member, you will enjoy participation in all BHA events and programs while supporting its vital mission of identifying, preserving, interpreting, and promoting the story of Bristol. As we embark into our 39th year, there is a renewed focus to be faithful to our founding principles and broaden our efforts to educate a new generation.
If you are not already a member of BHA, we strongly encourage you to 
join today and be part of our mission to identify, preserve, interpret, and promote Bristol's rich history. 
Members, please click on the link below to renew your annual membership. 
And remember, BHA memberships make great gifts!

Click the following link for a membership application and information about membership levels:


Newsletter Editor and Photographer, Amy Hopper
   Editor's Assistant, Carolyn Williams
Newsletter Designer, Susan Long
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