Sunday, October 28, 2007

At Bethel A.M.E Zion: Celebrating The Work Of Love"


It was "Saturday Night Live" at the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church in Kingsport on Saturday, October 27, 2007.


The Church Celebrated The Work of Love, with a program of spiritual singing provided by two musical groups, spiritual dances, and memories of down-home churching in comedic style, by Kingsport's own Tim Hall.

The program was called "100 Men In Black," and although 100 men in black were not present, you would not have known it, for the voices that were lifted to God's Praise Saturday night, more than made up for it.

Sister Vivian Releford was the Mistress of Ceremony, with musical interludes by Dawnella Ellis. The night began with the Praise Dancers from the Hale's Chapel United Methodist Church. These graceful young women used their talents to the maximum, and their elegant moves stirred the audience with religious favorites put to music.. a fitting introduction to the upcoming songs. Later, the dancers took their motions of praise to the audience, and there wasn't a dry eye in the House of the Lord.

Wallace Ross, Junior read a poem that he wrote 40 years ago while a soldier in Vietnam. The poem was a moving tribute to fellow soldiers trying to do their country's bidding, during a war that nobody cared for.

The New Beginnings Quartet from Gate City and Pennington Gap, Virginia started the singing, with an audience favorite "Cooling Waters." This is a song that perhaps your grandmama sang in the church of old, picturing the cool baptismal water that welcomed them into church membership. That song was followed up by "Let It Rain." Many an audience member paused to remember that the rain that flows from Heaven, is a healing rain of comfort and tranquility in a world of desparity. Members of New Beginnings are Marshall Long, Bob Payne, James Wood and Ronnie Carson. To contact the group, call James at 1-276-386-6693 or Ronnie at 1-276-546-5144, or email the group at

Next, the We Five Quintet took the audience on a spiritual journey with "This Is Your House (Come and Dwell.") Then, a good ole gospel rendition of "There's Something 'Bout The Name Jesus" brought many in the audience to their feet. That was followed by a song many a church member has sung "I Made It." We Five members are Melvin Conley, Johnny Russaw, James Whiteside, Alfred Greenlee and Pastor V. Dial.

Then, Kingsport's own Tim Hall delighted the audience with comedic memories of church, and how black folk conduct services. Tim is a gifted comedian (we hear he can sing, too) and a crowd favorite, because everybody identifies with the church members and situations he speaks of. Highlighted on this night.. the "uershers," those church guardians who spot the ONE child chewing gum in church with a quick finger point and a swifter "lemme have that." And let's not forget, he says, the church member he spots in a place church members are not supposed to be (he does note the fact that he's there, too). The audience was in stitches.

The entire program at Bethel was a truly inspirational event, and if you missed it, you really missed a premiere event. It really took the audience back home to good, ole-time gospel religion singing, the kind we were raised up with, and the kind you may not hear much of anymore. It was an evening well worth the time and efforts of the organizers.

"Letter To The Editor Responses"

Below are responses to the Letter To The Editor at the Kingsport Times-News from Thursday, October 25, 2007, noting that drug dealers have moved out of Riverview to another part of the city..
First the letter, then the responses:

Drug problem rampant in Highland

Illegal drugs are rampant in an area of Kingsport. Dealers work the streets with seeming impunity, often in plain sight of the high school. Their clients range from school kids to the upwardly mobile, middle-aged professionals.
Drug arrests are up by 30 percent over this time last year — not bad for a department that still does not have enough personnel. But these statistics do little to ease the fears and frustrations of citizens in the Highland area.
When residents are afraid to go out after dark because “they” are out there; when mothers have to walk their yards every morning to check for needles and other paraphernalia before allowing their children to go out; when those mothers worry all day that their children will be accosted on the way to and from school, we have a problem.
Increased police presence would obviously help suppress the problem, but that is hardly a solution.
Highland needs to take a lesson from Riverview. In the 15 years I patrolled the city, I was convinced that Riverview would never be any more than a hell hole. But then the citizens decided enough was enough. They and the police and city cooperated to bring it around. Overall crime went down, and the drug dealers hit the road.
It took someone to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” Somewhere in Highland there is someone willing to do just that, to work and organize and put together a cooperative effort with the police. They are more than willing to assist you, but you have to ask.
John Wayne Clark


Calvin: I think this writer makes a valid point for two reasons.

First, in my past law enforcement experience, when police attempt to eliminate a drug problem without citizen support, the cops are sometimes viewed as heavy handed gestapo that are part of the problem. If citizens aren't willing to "drop a dime" on the drug dealers, the cops can't eliminate a crime as insidious as drug distribution. Dopers--be they black or white, young or old, have to suffer tough consequences when they are nabbed.

Secondly, I'm glad the writer didn't turn the Highland problem into a race issue. The folks in Highland need to start "dropping dimes." I wasn't offended by the Riverview comment. In fact, I hope the writer is correct. If the drug problem on our side of town was virtually eliminated because the citizens said "enough is enough," I say "Right on."

Don Hickman

Wow, at least we know what the city was really thinking about and calling Riverview, or maybe that was his view only.
A Hell Hole?????
To think that Riverview was considered a hell hole in any way...... That's disgusting.

Bert Lanauze

Dear Calvin, Thank you for the letter concerning about the drugs in Highland. It take a community to stand together and a city as well. Who is willing to start the ball rolling in Highland? It only takes one person. If the police dept. knows what is going on, then they need to step up the work, hire more officers, and then what about undercover agents (Smile). That would really do the job.

Mary Caty Pride

Clark was a member of the Kingsport police department. In the early days of heavy drug trafficing, Clark was instrumental in bridging the gap between the police and the citizens of Riverview. I understand that a lot of citizens trusted Clark.

Virginia Hankins
As someone who grew up in Riverview and returning to Kingsport after years away I am glad that the Riverview community is finally taking a stand and getting rid of the drugs and everything else that infected the community. My question is why did it take so long, for years these problems have been there, many young people were injured or killed, our senior citizens were afraid to leave their homes, strangers walked the streets and and enter our clubs as tho they owned them. This has gone on for many many years. I am glad that " a change has come".
It is good to hear from Mr. Clark and I am sure he knows more than written in his letter as a former police officer.

Charlotte Young Peters-Maxwell
I saw this letter too. In fact, Mama and I commented on it. As we already knew, Highland has always had problems. But to make reference to Riverview, I don't know what to say. Everybody has a pre-conceived idea of Riverview and we have lived there or around there and made it. But anyway, it will be good to see what others had to say about the reference.

Dawnella Ellis

It is unfortunate to read this type of negative report about a section of my
city. I am, on the other had proud to note that my old neighborhood is help
up as a success story. I might add that Riverview's future is still is still
in the process of being rewritten in a very positive way. I would suggest that
the John Wayne Clark check out the South Central area in the next 3 to 5
years. It will be a model for similar blighted areas of other cities. ...Perhaps
the same history will be reported for the Highland area.

Ed Horton

John Clark's assessment of Riverview was probably right on target. Any infestation of corruption is UGLY. Action taken by concerned citizens confirmed what we have long thought to be a truth - There is strength in numbers united in reaching a specific goal.

Doris C

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Description: Children in group picture somewhere in the Riverview neighborhood. The The kids are (from left to right): unknown but possibly a Cunningham, Sherman Cunningham, Janice Cunningham, Carlton Johnson, Anita Briscoe, and Herman Cunningham. Carlton was visiting from Baltimore, Maryland according to Helen Bunting.


Monday, October 22, 2007

1955 Bethel A.M.E. Zion Nursery School

This is the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church Nursery School, Kingsport, Tennessee.
The year is 1955. This picture is provided by the Reverend Tony Horton.
How many of these nursery schoolers can you identify?
FIRST ROW, TOP: Donna V. Norwood, Deborah Campbell, Tony Horton, Doris Rogers, Tim Finch.
SECOND ROW: Loretta Williams, Linda Etter, Wanda Tarter, Louise "Pitty Pat" Jackson, Stewart Griffin.
THIRD ROW: Greg Gilmore, Robert "Sparky" Hale, Jr., Jerry Nash, Roxy Lyons, Denise Campbell, Tommy Norwood.
FOURTH ROW: Jackie Wood, Patricia Lollar, Hazel Gilmore, Kathy Norwood, unknown,
Trudy Turner (Teacher).
FIFTH ROW, BOTTOM: Valerie Tarter, Dianne Simpson, Sheron Griffin, Jonathan "Snooky" Lynch, Gloria "Gee Gee" Hord, Carl "Twig" Hale, Margaret Stacy (Teacher).


Friday, October 19, 2007

Needed: Old Pictures of Central Baptist Church, circa the 1940's and 1950's

Please help me with a very special sound and video project I'm working on, for the Douglass website.

I am looking for any OLD photos of Central Baptist Church, its choirs, pastors, and church members, BUT ESPECIALLY any youth, children and young people church activities from the 1940's and 1950's.

I already have the 75th anniversary booklet, but I need more pictures like the ones that are in it.

If you have some old pictures of Central Baptist, again, especially the youth, children and young people's activities from the 40's and 50's, please contact me at

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Correction To Mama Ellis' Birthday Party!

The birthday celebration for Jill "Mama" Ellis begins at 6 PM on Friday, November 23rd.

Again, the event will be held at the Americourt Suites (formerly the Ramada Inn) on Friday, November 23, 2007 and the celebration begins at 6 PM.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Riverview-South Central Kingsport Says NO WAY to Scammers!

Many of our Douglass Alumni spend time traveling around the country, even around the world, on vacations, on business trips, a few even serving in the military.

So, it didn't seem too out of the ordinary, to receive a Yahoo email from Virginia (Jenny) Hankins recently, that began with her talking about being in the United Arab Emirates country of Dubai, for a program entitled "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV-AIDS, Poverty, and Lack of Education." The program is taking place in Malaysia, Oman and Dubai, the email read.

But then, the message takes a shocking turn.

"I am really stranded in Dubai because I forgot my little bag in the Taxi where my money, passport, documents and other valuable things were kept on my way to the Hotel where I am staying. I am now owning a hotel bill of $1500 and they wanted me to pay the bill soon else they will have to seize my bag and hand me over to the Hotel Management."

And then.. the real reason for the email:

"Help me get back home, I need you to help me with the hotel bill and i will also need $1500 to feed and help myself back home so please can you help me with a sum of $3000 to sort out my problems here?"

There's just one LITTLE problem with that.

"I have never been to Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. I have no intentions of EVER going there."

Those words from Virginia Hankins, within moments of this reporter telling about the email her friends are getting, supposedly from her. She was at home in South Central Kingsport.

Someone has apparently gotten her Yahoo email address book, and sent the above message to everybody listed.

"This is a typical phishing scheme to get money from someone," says Jim Winsett of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "These scammers are typically in some foreign country themselves, probably Nigeria or another African nation, in a cramped boiler room surrounded by other scammers all logged onto the Internet, using information from mailing lists, that has been sold to them by still other thieves, who have stolen the information OFF the Internet.

"The first thing that labels this a scam, is the misspelled words," says Mr. Winsett, after looking at the email supposedly from Ms. Hankins. "I'm sure Ms. Hankins knows how to spell the word 'owing.' (It's spelled "o-w-n-i-n-g" in the email). "She also probably knows how to make complete sentences with punctuation, like the words "soon" and "else". Obviously, the correct way to word that part of the sentence would be "soon, or else," not "soon else."

"Spammers are not known to be good spellers," Mr. Winsett says, "and most of them have no command of the English language, so any misspelled or non-coordinated words and lack of punctuation, are always a dead giveaway to a scam."

"But the fact that they're also using a familiar email server like Yahoo, is supposed to make you feel more comfortable in responding," he says.

"The best advice we can give, is to never respond to an email like that without FIRST, checking with the familiar person it's from. Then, report it to the proper authorities, like the Federal Trade Commission (that website is

"Yahoo is where I collect all of my junk mail," says Ms. Hankins. "I don't know if there's anyway to prevent this from happening again, but everybody who gets an email with my name on it supposedly from Dubai, just needs to trash it. It's definitely not from me. I don't even know how the spammer got my email address book in the first place."

"There are so many people out there who have so much computer knowledge and so much time on their hands," she says, "and they are constantly looking for ways to cause mayhem for us casual computer users."

"Again, I have no intentions of ever going to the United Arab Emirates, or Dubai," she says.

"I will only continue to visit those places on the Evening News."

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Vision Youth Trunk or Treat set for Oct. 31

• The Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department and New Vision Youth and Community Friends present Trunk or Treat, a safe way to trick or treat, Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 6 p.m. in the V.O. Dobbins Community Center parking lot, 301 Louis St. Members of the community are invited to bring their cars and participate. For more information, call Johnnie Mae Swagerty, New Vision Youth director at 246-6623.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weed (Out the Bad) & Seed (In the Good)!


Above picture, Jack Pierce directs some junior litter collectors to start at Carver & Lincoln. Bottom picture, one of the New Vision Youth makes a pick-up in the Douglass School parking lot.

If you noticed your friends and neighbors on the streets of Riverview and South Central Kingsport recently, you saw people with a purpose!

The Riverview Weed & Seed program held its semi-annual neighborhood clean-up project on Saturday, October 13, 2007, with volunteer litter collectors fanning out through the streets and alleys.

Several clean-up crews started on Dale Street, and quickly moved into the Maple, Oak and East Sevier Avenue areas, and the alleys behind them. Other crews started working in Riverview on Lincoln, and others began on Dunbar and worked towards each other.


"Litter pick-up is one of the events that's mandated by the grant we receive from the government, and we do it in the fall and the spring," says Jeannie Hodges of the Weed & Seed Steering Committee. "If we show pride in our neighborhood, it's easy for the government to help us with programs that benefit the residents."

The volunteer trash collectors came from all ages and walks of life, from older citizens to members of the New Visions Youth ministry. The Kingsport Public Works Department collected the garbage bags that were filled with everything from scraps from paper to, unfortunately, beer bottles that had been discarded.


The $200,000 Weed & Seed grant awarded to Kingsport by the U.S. Justice Department also paid for several security cameras, that are posted around the Riverview Apartments, and at other public housing complexes in the city. Those cameras give the Kingsport Police Department clear access to illegal activity going on around our homes, are credited with driving out drug dealers and drug transactions, by watching suspected dealers' every move.

"Johnson City has just applied for a Weed & Seed grant," says Jeannie. "They had plenty of questions for us, on how our program works. They have the same problems we are working to weed out, and some of their people came over to see how the program has benefited Riverview and South Central."

Weed & Seed also funds free programs in the neighborhood, like Underage Drinking Prevention, computer classes, income tax preparation, health fairs, back-to-school events, and programs for kids to take part in, during school vacation days. A special program coming up will be holiday dinners for our sick and shut-in.

Your "Mama" Ellis Birthday Invitation!

Please make plans to celebrate the birthday of our favorite Leap Baby!

Virgealis Ellis, a.k.a. "Jill" Ellis, but best known as "Mama Ellis" will be officially 20 years young, but since February 29, 1928 was a Leap Year, the day only reappeared every four years. She will be officially 80 years young this coming February 29th, but during this upcoming season of Thanksgiving, the Ellis family, would to extend an invitation for you to join in the pre-80th birthday celebration for Mama Ellis the day after Thanksgiving.

The event will be held at the Americourt Suites (formerly the Ramada Inn) on Friday, November 23, 2007 and the celebration begins at 6 PM.

If you would like to submit your favorite "Jill" Ellis story and/or contribute a monetary gift of any amount for the "Money Tree," please do so by Friday, November 2, so that you can be acknowledged and recognized before the events.

Please RSVP to Ms. Dawnella Ellis at 423-914-6124 or at

100 Men in Black Event in Kingsport Scheduled

You're invited to 100 Men in Black, "Celebrating the Work of Love" that's coming up!

It's a Saturday Night Live concert, at the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church on Mapleoak Street in Kingsport.

The event will be held on Saturday night, October 27, 2007 at 6 PM.

Men's groups from the Thankful Baptist Church, New Beginnings, St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church, Tates Chapel for Greeneville, Wallace Ross & Tim Hall and We Five, will all perform that night.

Please make plans to attend!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Part Five: And Then The Earth Stood Still.. The Day After Eastman Blew Up

The presses were really wound up the day after Tennessee Eastman's Aniline Plant blew up.


As well, they should be. Up until that time, the Eastman Explosion was the worst disaster caused by Man in terms of lives lost (15 final total), workers injured (at least 60, and many more with cuts and bruises) and property damage (both on-site and off-site), in the history of the state.

The Kingsport News was the area's morning newspaper, and the Kingsport Times was the afternoon/evening paper. They merged in 1980 to form the Kingsport Times-News. Up until then, they were bitter competitors, each determined to cover every angle of the explosion story, and often having the same pictures.

As you'll note, back in 1960, there was practically no general coverage of Kingsport's African-American community; hence, in the articles, there was no mention of the physical damage to the Riverview neighborhood in the aftermath of the Eastman Explosion. There were also not many published eyewitness accounts of what blacks experienced, even though they were the closest to the aniline plant. The only mention found was in one article, where it was written "at the Medical Center, an elderly Negro woman questioned a plant employee as to the safety of her husband. When told the man was safe, the woman seemed near collapse and hysteria."

In another article titled "City Cleans Up After Tragedy," it was noted that windows were knocked out in downtown Kingsport (although Riverview was between the explosion site and downtown), on Garden Drive and Greenfield Avenue (both north of the explosion), and Kenwood Road, Oakwood Drive and Konnarock Road (all northeast of the explosion site).

There is no mention of Riverview in any day-after articles, nor in any subsequent stories on the explosion, even though its citizens were equally as devastated as other Kingsport citizens.

Kingsport's Black Community was devastated by the explosion.. being the closest off-site to it, our African-American lives were changed forever. It is unfortunate that the prevailing social winds at the time 47 years ago, did not include pictures from the one neighborhood that was the hardest hit, and interviews from eyewitnesses whom, as you've noted in previous articles on this website, would have provided a meaningful and soulful perspective of what happened that fateful day.

In a way, it's good that we can remember that time. As philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who do not study and learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

FORTUNATELY, with the Grace of God, we have come a long way towards bridging our social gaps, but UNFORTUNATELY.. there are many MORE miles to go.

---Calvin Sneed

Success With The Videos!

The "Riverview Remembers the Eastman Explosion" videos are now posted in the PHOTO GALLERY. Please click on that link. You'll need the Adobe Flash Player installed (most computers have that anyway).

SPECIAL NOTE: To see older articles, please click on "OLDER POSTS" at the bottom of this page and then, each previous page.

Also, one more correction.. that was Mr. JEROME Pierce interviewed, not Mr. Jack Pierce. Mr. Jack and I had talked about it, but I didn't get to interview him. Thanks to my proofreaders!


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Part Four: The Big BOOM From Eastman.. Exclusive Video Remembrances From Riverview Residents

"It was a scary time.. people in Riverview who weren't hollering, were just walking around, dazed."


Although the October 4, 1960 explosion at Tennessee Eastman's Aniline plant brought death and destruction to the plant, employees and their families, it also left the neighborhood closest to it, scarred as well.

"I was watching the Douglass football players practicing on the ball field," remembers Mrs. Ethel Ruth Russell, who was living in the Riverview Apartments at that time. "All of a sudden, there was a big BOOM, and all the players fell to the ground." Then we saw all the smoke and just knew the Eastman had blown up. Parents came out and began hollering and gathering up their children."

"My husband Nathan had just left for work at Eastman," remembers Mrs. Alma Bly, "and after we saw where the explosion was, we didn't have time to grab anything, no money or nothing, we just took off out the door, tried to get out of the area."

"Everybody was so scared," says Mrs. Lilly Smith of Dunbar Street. "The big boom blew out my big picture window, and I got my kids and left as quick as I could."

One photograph in the newspaper of the emergency room entrance at the then-Holston Valley Community Hospital was of an ambulance, dropping off injured workers. The light-colored ambulance you see to the far left in the picture to the left, belonged to Curry's Mortuary.

"We were the first ambulances there," remembers Mr. Horace V. Curry, then-owner of Curry's Mortuary on Lincoln Street. "We had a man on a cot and they told us to get out, and right after we moved him, where we had been standing, exploded and threw the man off the cot. The cot got knocked about 30, 40 feet away, and we just put him back on it."

"Coty Deering had just stopped by the house after school," says Mrs. Nora Mae Taylor Alexander of Dunbar Street, "and we were having tea when there was this big boom. We both looked at each other, and Coty said 'what was that?"

"It was the first time I ever saw my father cry," remembers Mr. Wallace Ross, Junior. "We felt the rumbling all the way over in Gate City, and when my father got home from Eastman that night, we could tell in his face that something was terribly wrong."

"After I heard the rumblings and saw all the smoke," says Mrs. Willie Kate Bradford on Dunbar, "Sister Sneed came over from across the street, and we worried and prayed together because my husband and her husband Brother Sneed were both out there. When my husband came home, he didn't say much about it."

"We made several trips to the hospital with patients four and five people deep," remembers Horace Curry. "Although we were the first to get there and carried many injured to the hospital, the city of Kingsport refused to pay us for our services. For a while, we were the only ambulances equipped with oxygen at the scene, and we went through many tanks. Back then, you didn't wait to be called out, you just went because of your dedication to the business. Back then, the City of Kingsport did not want to pay us for our services, and I felt it was because we were black," he says. "We finally had to sue to get paid, and we won our case."

"Sister Sneed decided to stay at home to wait to hear from Brother Sneed," says Mrs. Bradford, "and when I left Riverview in Mrs. Goodson's car from across the street, I saw all the people marching along through the Underpath, almost single file, just like Pharoah's Army."

"I was working on the store window at the Diana Shop downtown," says Mrs. Pinkie Horton
(in the picture at right, the Diana Shop on Broad Street is to the left near the top of the picture). "When the blast hit, all the windows in the other stores around me, just shattered, broke. The window in the Diana Shop where I was, started bowing in and out, but did not break. I believe The Lord had favor with me, because if that window had broke, it would have cut me to pieces."

"The blast hit, and the roll-out windows in my apartment in the Riverview Apartments all slammed shut," says Mrs. Louetta Hall. "I looked out one window towards the Eastman, and I saw a steel beam falling back to the ground from where it apparently, had been blown up to. It was red-hot and smoking, like a fireplace poker."

"I had three Douglass teachers in my house after the explosion," remembers Mrs. Virgealis "Jill" Ellis of East Sevier Avenue. "The Hendricks family, the Webb family and Mrs. Josephine Bowers. Their children were all crying, but were comforting each other, while we tried to account for all the other teachers. We were finally able to find out, everybody had gotten to safe shelter with friends and family."

"It turns out.. we were all family that night," she says.

15 people dead.. 60 people injuried seriously enough to require a hospital visit, including our own William Evans, left severely injured for life by the blast. Dozens of other people, like the unidentified man in the picture to the right, with cuts and bruises.

And an entire neighborhood emotionally scarred for life.

"Every once in a while nowadays, we hear unusual loud sounds coming from Eastman," says Mrs. Cookie Harris, whose house on Dunbar Street is within site of the former Aniline plant. "And each time, we hear those strange noises, I wonder.. oh my.. is it going to blow up again?"

"I had been through plenty of explosions during World War Two," says Mr. Jerome Pierce of Carver Street, "and this one felt no different."

"But this one was close to home. I just hope we never have to go through it again."

TOMORROW: News media outlets were buzzing the day after the Eastman Explosion,
reporters and photographers trying to cover the blast from all angles.
In their reports, they talked to dozens of people, except folks in
Riverview, the neighborhood closest to the blast.
In this column tomorrow, relive how the city of Kingsport pulled
together to take care of its dead and wounded, and what the world read
about the explosion, although Riverview residents were a little closer to
the disaster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Part Three: The Tennessee Eastman Explosion.. I Worked Inside The Plant That Blew Up!



Perhaps it was your father working there.. maybe, it was your husband. It could have also been your brother, sister, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew. Maybe, it was just a good friend of yours. In my case, it was Papa Sneed.. his job as a General Foreman took him all over the plant.

In Riverview, everybody knew somebody that was working at Eastman the day it blew up.

Most of those African-American workers are long gone, but the memories they told us about, live on.

The following recollection is from Harold Manis, Dobyns-Bennett Class of 1950, who sent an account of the fateful day of the Tennessee Eastman Explosion to the "D-B Newsletter" in December of 2005. It is that publication that we credit Mr. Manis' following account:

"The (Tennessee Eastman) Aniline Plant was built more than three years before that explosion," he wrote. "As an instrument tech, I happened to have been in the project from its beginning.
I was told that Dr. (Paul) Von Bramer would not allow this plant to be built while he was in charge. He knew the (chemical) process was dangerous. I was also told that hot nitric acid, mixed with benzene went through a molecular struction that was very close to nitroglycerine.
The initial plant start up three years earlier, lasted only about a week. Suddenly, there were leaks everywhere, which caused an immediate shutdown (of the plant). We took the valves apart, and their insides looked like porous balsa wood (although they had been made of stainless steel). At that time, the (Eastman) machine shop remade the valve bodies, stems, seats, pump bodies all out of titanium.
Until that fateful day, October 4, 1960, the plant had always been started at night, when the least number of workers would be present. THAT day, it was started at 11 A.M., the first time for a daytime start up.
With other shutdowns, everything had been rushed, but on this particular shutdown, everything was checked and tested. Around 3 P.M., we were asked to check on a liquid level instrument. We found it to be O.K.
It was about 4:15 P.M. when I asked Usif Haney, who was in charge of the building, if he needed us to stay over after hours. His answer was 'everything looks good, go on home.. if I need you, I will call you.' I can still see him leaning against one of the handrails when he said that.
I was sitting at a traffic light at the intersection of Center Street and East Sullivan Street, looking at the drug store on the corner when the explosion occured. A lady was walking out of the door, and had only taken a couple of steps, when the large plate glass window blew out just behind her. My car also shook.
I turned the car around and drove back to the hill overlooking Eastman from Borden Mills. It only confirmed what I already knew in my mind.
It was the Aniline Plant.
A friend of mine had just purchased fog lights for his car and had bent down to put them under the passenger's seat when the blast came. Had he been sitting upright, a piece of pipe about a foot long, came through the passenger window and would have hit him in the head.
A co-worker of a friend of mine, had just came out of the building. He was in the open and was killed.
Another friend was also caught out in the open, and was killed by flying debris.
A pickup truck was pinned to the ground by an H-beam near the Long Island bridge.. a 300-gallon tank wound up UNDER the Long Island bridge.
Overhead pipelines running next to the building had been broken and caught on fire. They threw out a flame for about 25 to 30 yards. It looked like a gigantic blow torch. This was the hydrogen from the storage tanks.
The Aniline Plant was never rebuilt, and the question still remains "WHAT HAPPENED?" The only people who could probably answer that question were the two men that were inside the building when it blew up. It's possible that they THEMSELVES never knew."

On November 10th, a brief story in the Kingport News included a news release from Tennessee Eastman, stating the blast may have been caused by "the detonation of a mixture of nitro-benzene, nitric acid and water."

****TOMORROW: "After the big BOOM, parents came out of their homes, calling for
their children, and quickly gathering them up..."
"The people slowly marching out of Riverview after the explosion was
like Pharoh's Army..."
"It was the first time I ever saw my father cry..."

In this column tomorrow, hear first-hand what the people of Riverview
felt, after the Earth shook from the Eastman Explosion.
Then, go to the PHOTO GALLERY and click on "Riverview Remembers the
Eastman Explosion" icons to hear all their testimonies in person!

Funeral Services For Mrs. Agnes Hamilton

Alma Agnes Hamilton

KINGSPORT — Alma Agnes Paris Hamilton, 85, formerly of Dunbar Street, Kingsport, went to be with the Lord Friday (Sept. 28, 2007) at Brookhaven Health Care.
She was born in Hamilton County, Tenn. and had lived in Kingsport for many years. She was a member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Brice Hamilton in 2005; parents, William and Sally Weatherton Paris.
She was the last one of 10 siblings.
She is survived by three special nieces, Meika, Shelia and Joyce, all of Compton, Calif.; a host of other nieces and nephews.
Calling hours are from 11 a.m. to 12 noon Wednesday at the Saint Mark United Methodist Church. Services will be conducted at 12 noon Wednesday at the church with the Rev. Rae Mullins and the Rev. Giles McClintock officiating. Entombment service will follow at Tri-Cities Memory Gardens. Pallbearers will be family and friends. Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting
Carter-Trent Funeral Home, Kingsport is serving the Hamilton family.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Part Two: October 4, 1960.. The Day Riverview's Next Door Neighbor Blew Up

It was the day the ground shook in Riverview for about 3 seconds.

And then.. the earth stood still.

The blast shattered our ears, the concussion a half-second later knocked us to our feet, windows broke, bricks flew, some residents ran outside screaming for their children, others walked away silently through the Underpath as one Riverview observer noted, "like Pharoh's Army," and all eyes looked toward the Eastman.

47 years ago on October 4th, 1960, one plant at Tennessee Eastman exactly halfway between Wilcox Boulevard and Eastman Road blew up, and it forever changed the way one neighborhood looked at its nearest neighbor.

That neighborhood was Riverview.

Riverview is the Kingsport neighborhood that was nearest to that formidable Eastman plant, formerly located less than 1,000 feet from the intersection of Wilcox Boulevard and Industry Drive, along the Holston River. Riverview was the neighborhood that sustained the most property damage off-site, and also the neighborhood whose residents remember the most about the chaos that resulted from the explosion.

Their emotions are recounted in several exclusive video interviews to be posted on October 4th in the PHOTO GALLERY, under "Riverview Remembers the Eastman Explosion." Experience the fear in their voices, minds straining to remember the day, the hour, the moment the earth shook beneath their feet. These interviews will move you, as our people take a trip back, to a time many of them would like to forget.

Our Riverview folks were evacuated at first, then, were not permitted to leave the neighborhood in their cars, because of all the emergency vehicles blocking the roads.

So what caused this catastrophy, this tremendous loss of life, this dramatic altering of our every day lives?

The answer is simple.


By its very definition, Aniline dye is dangerous. In doing research for this article, I found out, to make Aniline dye industrially as Tennessee Eastman did, it's made in two steps from the chemical BENZENE.

BENZENE is heated to 140 degrees F, with a mixture of NITRIC ACID and SULFURIC ACID. The resulting reaction produces NITROBENZENE. The gaseous vapors from that reaction are mixed with hydrogen gas and heated to 1,100 degrees with a nickel catalyst to enhance the reaction. The result is ANILINE, from which red dyes and blue dyes are made from. It is a highly acrid oily poison, smelling like rotten fish. It ignites easily and burns with a smoky flame. It is toxic to inhale, absorb through the skin, or swallow. It causes headache, drowsiness, cyanosis, mental confusion, and convulsions (this information from

That being said, Aniline dye was produced by Tennessee Eastman for the production of DYESTUFFS. Remembering that Riverview itself was built on the former site of the Federal DYESTUFF and Chemical Corporation and the resulting chemical dumpsite.. is it any coincidence that ANOTHER dyestuff plant was within a stone's throw of Riverview?

Nonetheless, Tennessee Eastman's Aniline Plant violently exploded shortly before 4:45 on the late sunny afternoon of October 4th, 1960. The blast killed 15 Eastman employees, severely injured 60 others, slightly injured dozens of other workers, and instantly became one of the deadliest and ugliest explosions in the history of the State of Tennessee.





TOMORROW: Many Riverview husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles were working at Eastman when the Aniline plant blew up.
Most are gone now, and the few that experienced the actual explosion, don't like to talk about it.

In this column tomorrow, you'll hear from a chemical technician who knew exactly what chemical reactions were going on inside the Aniline Building.

On his way home, he felt the Earth shake, and later found out the Eastman had exploded. He immediately got a sinking feeling in his

Nobody had to tell him.. he knew it was the Aniline Plant.

Part One: The Day The Eastman Blew Up.. This Week, Its Nearest Neighbor Remembers

4:30 PM on Tuesday, October 4, 1960.. a warm, early fall afternoon in Riverview.

Birds were singing, but after several cool mornings, the squirrels were already looking for nuts and berries, getting ready for what would seem like an early winter. Like the people of Riverview, the outside animals had long since gotten used to the distant hum of nearby industry.

After a rather routine day of book-learning, Douglass School had just let out its students for the day, and it wasn't long before the backyards and streets of the Riverview Neighborhood, kids were playing outside, glad to put the books down for regular kids activities. Inside almost every home, moms were inside fixing dinner, and husbands were either at home or at work, many of them at nearby Eastman.

It was, by all accounts, a normal, quiet, peaceful afternoon.

First.. a huge concussion. A split second later, an ear-shattering explosion.
Kids outside playing were immediately knocked to the ground. Windows in homes shattered, cupboards were emptied, furniture and appliances jumped away from walls, and parents rushed outside to hear several smaller explosions.

All eyes instinctively looked toward the Eastman. Black plumes of smoke billowed over the trees in the direction of the old drive-in on Wilcox Boulevard.

Fear automatically took over, because everybody knew.

The Eastman had blown up.

It was the day the ground shook in Riverview, Eastman's next-door neighbor, the homes nearest to the blast.

In less than 10 seconds, the initial Eastman Explosion had done to Riverview:

1. ..loosened bricks in the old Roundhouse behind Dunbar Street, rendering
the building unstable. It would later be torn down because of that,
according to Eastman.

2. ..broke out windows and loosened many of the steam pipes inside the nearby
Douglass High School. The late school custodian Harrison Gray said it
also moved the foundation of the building slightly, at the rear of the
cafeteria, causing several roof leaks that were never completely repaired
until the second floor was extended over the cafeteria two years later.

3. ..broke out Mrs. Lilly Smith's huge picture window in her living room on
Dunbar Street.

4. ..altered the stormwater runoff drains under the streets of Riverview.
Former public works employees said, for years, drains at Carver and
Douglass, Louis and Douglass, and Louis and Lincoln would clog up and
flood those intersections during hard rains.

5. ..caused certain sections of ground underneath the asphalted Dunbar Street
and the concreted Lincoln Street to settle and resettle. For years, the
city would continually have to fill in the resulting sinkholes that sunk
the asphalt and concrete and formed gaping holes in the middle of those

6. ..shifted the foundations of houses on Louis Street so severely, that some
doors and windows in those homes would no longer open and close properly.

7. ..caused pet dogs and cats in the neighborhood, especially Dewey Long's
hunting hounds, and Milton Ruffin's caged rabbits to shutter and shrink
away every time they heard a single loud noise. Dewey Long once said his
dogs were never good hunting dogs after that.

The explosion that killed 15 Eastman workers and injured dozens more, had a lasting impact on its nearest neighbor.

Every day for the next five days, we'll go back 47 years ago, through articles that were published in both the Kingsport Times and the Kingsport News, plus, other accounts from Eastman employees on the scene during and after the explosions.

Our commemoration of the anniversary includes on October 4th, the 47th anniversary, exclusive video interviews with some of our Riverview seniors, who were there the day Eastman exploded, and remember vividly the chaos that followed. Each one of our Riverview neighbors remembers something different about that day. It's a fascinating look back, and a series of first-person interviews you don't want to miss.

TOMORROW: Ask any resident of Riverview "Do you know what aniline dye is?"
You'll get a blank stare.
Little did they know.
The chemical Aniline changed their lives and the lives of others in
Kingsport forever.
In this column tomorrow, find out exactly what aniline dye is, and the
deadly combination of its elements, that sent fear into the streets of
Riverview on October 4, 1960, and led to one of the largest industrial
catastrophies in Tennessee history.