Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Terrell Leeper first Dobyns-Bennett student in ETSU Access program


Terrell Leeper signed into the two-year Access ETSU Tuesday morning at Dobyns-Bennett High School.  Shown from left to right are Shelia Leeper, grandmother of Terrell Leeper;  Bucky, the East Tennessee State University mascot;  Terrell Leeper;  and Terry Davis, Terrell's father.

KINGSPORT — Terrell Leeper will forever be a Dobyns-Bennett Indian, a faithful football fan of his alma mater, but he’s about to become an East Tennessee State University Buccaneer, too.

Leeper, who will turn 22 on July 29, this fall will be the first D-B student to become part of the Access ETSU program, which will in a way be a continuation of his time in a transition from a school-to-work program at D-B.

He’s a special education student who dreams of becoming a security guard or working in health care.

The ETSU program will give Leeper classes and experience in his chosen areas of study. He signed to attend ETSU during a ceremony Tuesday morning in the Nancy Pridemore Theatre with faculty, staff, former classmates, and current students. ETSU mascot Bucky; Leeper’s grandmother, Sheila Leeper; and father, Terry Davis, also attended.

“It feels good Dobyns-Bennett supports me,” Leeper said after the event.

“I’m very proud. I’m trying to accomplish my goal of going to college and getting one of my dream jobs,” Leeper said, adding that he would like to be a security guard or possibly a paramedic.

“When he graduated, they didn’t have this program,” Ben Robertson, head of the Transition School to Work Program at D-B, explained before the event got underway.

Dr. Dawn Rowe and Daniel Scherer-Edmunds of Access ETSU said the two-year program provides young adults with intellectual disabilities a college experience similar to their peers. Rowe, director of the program, said Leeper will have a combination of courses and internships at ETSU.

Access ETSU students participate in all typical campus academic and student life activities. They also engage in high quality and fully inclusive work-based learning experiences aligned with their career interests, strengths and needs. Rowe said the program has two students now but by the fall is to have 14, including two Volunteer High School students.

“I think he is excited,” Davis said of his son, who took a campus tour about two weeks ago. “He seemed to love it.”

Davis said he’ll drive his son to campus from their home until Leeper is comfortable enough to bicycle there. Leeper said he also might ride a bus sometimes.

“Everyone knows Terrell,” said Jimmy Burleson, a special education teacher who taught him at D-B.

“My hope is Terrell is the first of many D-B students who get to attend ETSU,” Burleson said, adding that Leeper has more friends than anybody else he knows.

Sonja Bennett is one of those friends. She, her husband, and family take Terrell to D-B games and other trips from time to time.

“I love him so I’m very emotional,” she said during the ceremony. “I think that God kind of knew I needed him in my life.”

Assistant D-B Principal Richard Brown, who oversees special education, said the transition to work program grew from students going to a couple of businesses to a program with two teachers, five job coaches and more than 10 participating businesses.

“His dad said earlier he’s a handful of joy,” Barrett said at the ceremony. “ETSU is never going to be the same.”

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Robert Estes "Sparky" Hale remembrance

Robert Estes “Sparky” Hale Jr. departed this life on April 7, 2021, after a brief illness. He was born on May 24, 1952, in Pennington Gap, Virginia, to the late Rebecca M. and Robert E. Hale Sr.

His life was full of excitement, laughter, and craftsmanship. He loved to spend time traveling, working, and sharing his gifts and talents with anyone he encountered. He was musically inclined (self-taught), learning to play the bass guitar, drums, piano, and other instruments he could get his hands on. He was also skilled with woodwork, but his life’s work as a Steamfitter helped fulfill his occupational goals as part of the Steam-Fitting Union.

Robert E. Hale Jr. was preceded in death by his late wife, Brenda Simpson Hale; father Robert E. Hale Sr; mother, Rebecca M. Hale; sisters, Delores Singleton and Linda Wade; and son Sean Cornett.

He leaves to mourn, his daughter Jaquetta Hale of Kingsport; sons, Jason Hale (Alicia Phillips-Hale) of Kingsport; DiMingo Hale (Sara Reynolds-Hale) of Kingsport; Kimario Hale (Tameisha Khahaila-Hale) of Fairburn, GA; stepchildren, Russel Cuberson (Glenikka Cuberson) of Atlanta, GA; and Shonda Cuberson of New York; brothers Reddie "Tank" Hale (Carolyn Dulaney Hale), Carl "Twig" Hale (Chynet Bond-Hale), William "Tarik Hassan" Hale; friend and neighbor "Bink"; and several grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and cherished friends.

Memorial services will be conducted Saturday, May 1st, 2021 at 1 PM at the Mt. Zion Church, 386 Dunbar Street, Kingsport, TN. The family will receive friends from 12:30 PM until the hour of service.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Barbara "Mama Jean" Lyons Clark remembrance

Barbara Jean Clark, 87, departed this life peacefully on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 and is now in the presence of the Lord.

A native of Bristol, Tennessee, Jean, affectionately known in the Riverview community as "Mama Jean", was Martin and Mary Lyons' daughter.

Jean was a Christian and a faithful member of the Central Baptist Church, Kingsport for more than 50 years, serving in many church ministries.  She retired from Sears, Roebuck and Company.  Jean was a devoted wife, mother, sister and friend.

In addition to her parents, Jean was preceded in death by her husband, James Henry Clark, Jr.;  daughter, Kimberly Jeanne Clark;  one sister, one brother, five sisters-in-law and six brothers-in-law.

She is survived by her daughter, Sylvia Ann Davis;  son, Sidney (Delia) Lyons;  six granddaughters, Angela Edwards, LaSonya (Jamie) Johnson, Kathy (Lenzie) Williams, Vickie (Bryan) Queen, Tonya Lyons, and Jeanna Davis Blanco;  three grandsons, Ricardo (Ricky) Lyons, Joey Razon, and Reginald E. (Roberta) Davis;  23 great-grandchildren;  numerous great-great-grandchildren; four sisters-in-law, Martha Davis, Frances Graves, Constance Clark and Barbara Ann Smith;  one brother-in-law, Steven (Peggy) Machen;  one Godchild, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and special friends.  

Services for Mrs. Barbara Clark will be conducted on Saturday, April 17th, 2021 at 1:30 PM from the Central Baptist Church in Kingsport.  

The family will receive friends from 12:30 PM until the hour of service.  Pastor Perry Stuckey will be officiating.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Elizabeth Maxwell remembrance


CHURCH HILL – Elizabeth Maxwell, 93, went to be in her Heavenly Home on Monday, April 12, 2021 at Holston Manor.

Elizabeth was a lifelong resident of Church Hill and was a member of the Lyons Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church.  She formerly held the positions in the church as the Mother of the Church, President of the Deaconess Board, member of the Missionary Society, secretary of the Church, a member of the Sunday School, an usher, and a very faithful member.

She was preceded in death by her father, William H. C. Gentry; mother, Dovie M. Gentry;  husband, Douglas V. Maxwell;  siblings, Bettie Flowers, Evelyn Cleveland, Barbara Turner, Joe L. Gentry, William H. Gentry, and Patricia Braden; grandson, Preston Peters.

Elizabeth is survived by son, Gary (Charlotte); granddaughter, Kimberley M. Wilson (Ali) of Trenton, NJ, and Stephanie E. Maxwell of Dallas, TX;  great granddaughters, Victoria, Ava, and Genevieve Wilson of Trenton, NJ;  great grandson, Malachi, Dominik, Giovanni, and Giancarlo Peters;  close friend, Zeola Leeper; one niece and several nephews.

A visitation will be held from 10:30 – 11:30 AM on Friday, April 16, 2021 at the Johnson-Arrowood Funeral Home, 320 Grandview Street in Church Hill, TN. 

A funeral service will be held at 11:30 AM with Rev. Joseph Commage and Rev. Pam Hoard, and Rev. James Whiteside. 

The funeral service will be live streamed at 11:15 AM. 

The burial will follow to Mountain Home National Cemetery in procession. The graveside service will be held at 2:00 PM.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the family requests no food or visits to the home and to please follow the CDC guidelines and to wear masks when visiting at the funeral home.

Pallbearers will be nephews, Ronnie Cox, and Bobby Cox. Honorary Pallbearers will be Randy Leeper and Anthony Leeper.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Lyons Chapel AME Zion Church; P.O. Box 1117, Church Hill, TN 37642

A special thank you to the staff of Holston Manor, nurses Daisy Phillips and Allison George and the staff at Smokey Mountain Hospice.

Robert Estes "Sparky" Hale remembrance


Robert Estes "Sparky" Hale of Kingsport departed this life on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 after a brief illness.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to DiMingo Hale at 1018 East Sullivan Street, Kingsport, TN.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Barbara Jean Clark passing


Barbara Jean L. Clark departed this life Thursday April 8, 2021 at NHC Kingsport.

Arrangements are incomplete. Online condolences may be sent to the family at or

Professional service and care of Mrs. Barbara Jean L. Clark and family are entrusted to Clark Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service Inc. (423) 245-4971

Saturday, April 10, 2021

William F. Johnson remembrance

SFC William F. Johnson of Kingsport, TN, passed away unexpectedly at his home after a brief illness.

William resided in Kingsport for most of his life, where he was employed by Ballad Health and often assisted with the Dobyns-Bennett track and field program. He was a war veteran with more than 20 years of active military service, including two tours in Afghanistan, before retiring.

William was an amazing person who will be sadly missed by all who knew and loved him. He will live on through the legacies of his child and grandchildren.

William was preceded in death by his brother, Wyman "Butch" Johnson, Jr; father, Wyman Johnson; mother Annette Johnson; sister, Suzette Beatty; brother, Stanley Davis; and both sets of his grandparents.

He is survived by his daughter, Brittany Johnson Vaughn and her husband Jay;  grandchildren, Cooper, Emmy, Jameson, and Lincoln;  sister, Gail Burr;  and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Graveside services for SFC William F. Johnson will be conducted Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11 AM at the VA National Cemetery, Mountain Home, TN.

The family will receive friends at the home of William's aunt, Dorothea Johnson.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church in Kingsport, TN.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Regular Douglass Alumni Meeting Canceled

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni board meeting is canceled for this Saturday, April 10th.

FYI... the board routinely schedules its regular meetings on the second Saturday of every month.

But again, the meeting this Saturday, April 10th is canceled.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Patricia Ann Leeper Calloway remembrance

Received this notice today about one of our beloved: 

It is with great sadness that we let you know the passing of one of our Douglass alumni.

Patricia Ann Leeper Calloway went to be with the Lord on Thursday, March 24, 2021.

We are told that the final arrangements will be a private memorial with just the family.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Kingsport and Riverview's Darwin Bond inducted into the DB Alumni Hall of Fame


KINGSPORT — What do a former Kingsport football player and coach, former quarterback, former city manager, astronomy professor, track runner and retired Eastman Chemical Company employee have in common? All six have been inducted into the Dobyns-Bennett High School Alumni Association’s 2020 Hall of Fame.

The inductees are:

Former quarterback Wally Bridwell, Class of 1960.....

Former track runner Darwin Bond, Class of 1970.... 

Former Johnson City and Kingsport City Manager John Campbell, Class of 1967.... 

Former football player and D-B coach Graham Clark, Class of 1973.... 

Former Eastman official D. Lynn Johnson, Class of 1958....

And the late Boston University astronomy and physics professor Dr. Theodore A. Fritz Ph.D., Class of 1957....  His wife Sally accepted the honor for him.

The 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held Saturday, March 20, 2021 at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center.  The regularly scheduled induction ceremony was postponed from October because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So many Dobyns-Bennett High School graduates have made and are making tremendous contributions to society; the Dobyns-Bennett Alumni Association proudly acknowledges and honors the accomplishments of outstanding Dobyns-Bennett graduates with their induction into the D-B Alumni Hall of Fame,” D-B Alumni Association President Chris Jenkins said. 

“I encourage everyone to learn more about this year’s (2020) six new Hall of Fame inductees and join us in honoring these impressive D-B alumni.”

The D-B Alumni Association Hall of Fame was established in 2009.

Press "play" in the video below to hear Tony Bond introduce his brother Darwin to the Hall of Fame gathering.

Press "play" in the video below to hear Darwin Bond accept his induction into the 2020 Dobyns-Bennett High School Alumni Hall of Fame.

Darwin Bond is now one of three African-Americans inducted into the Dobyns-Bennett High School Alumni Hall of Fame, all of them Douglass School graduates and products of the Riverview neighborhood.

Former DB, Wake Forest and NBA player Skip Brown was inducted into the DB Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011.

Retired television news broadcaster Calvin Sneed was inducted into the DB Alumni Hall of Fame in 2019.

Volunteers collect more than 1.3 tons of trash during 24th annual Riverview cleanup event


KINGSPORT — More than 80 volunteers converged on the Riverview neighborhood Saturday for the annual Riverview Trash Cleanup, the 24th year of trash collection in the neighborhood.

The volunteers included a group from the Brownies, New Vision Youth, Kingsport Public Works, area churches and members of the D-B Environmental Club.

The event is the first of several planned throughout the city as a part of Keep Kingsport Beautiful’s participation in the statewide “Trashercise” campaign.

The day began with some stretching exercises offered by Healthy Kingsport, including muscle stretching and toning,  Even though each volunteer was given a handy pick-up device that acts like a grabber, gloves, and trash bags, lifting all the garbage is a good workout.  They also wore reflective vests to protect while crossing the streets against motorists, and to identify themselves as they retrieved garbage from neighbor yards and lawns.

Once the calisthenics were completed"good and warmed up" volunteers fanned out in all directions picking up discarded paper and plastic items, even broken glass.

More than 1.3 tons of trash was collected and delivered to Kingsport Public Works trucks, compared to more than 2 tons from previous years. Among the garbage were brush and metal items, including an old discarded fire extinguisher.

Participants were treated to lunch after the trash collection.

Among the many discarded items retrieved by volunteers, included some dangerous items like broken glass and an old abandoned fire extinguisher.

The event was sponsored by the South Central Community Development Corporation, the New Vision Youth, Healthy Kingsport, Children of the Community, Girls Inc., 2 Do Better, S.H.O.U.T. and Kingsport Public Works.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Welcome to Your Douglass Alumni New Office: "We've done moved from the small house to the big house"

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association has a new office and a new address.

The move to the new office did not change the buildings, but the view (below) has improved quite a bit.

The new office is now on the 3rd floor of the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex tower.  Instead of the wonderfully expansive, big beautiful Eastman Corporate Headquarters parking lot, our new office now faces out over the Riverview neighborhood.

In the top view is the Riverview towards Dunbar Street, over the homes to Clay Hill and Bays Mountain to the left off in the distance.  In the bottom Riverview is the Brickyard, soon to have new housing and outdoor activities next door to "Riv-view."  Further out is Cement Hill to the left past Central Baptist Church, then downtown Kingsport, Domtar to the right, and way off in the background on the far horizon to the far right way past the new gym is Clinch Mountain outside Gate City, VA.

The new office is larger than the old office on the first floor.  Pictured above is the new secretary station, including computer, printer to copy off our Douglass alumni stationary, filing cabinets for administration paperwork, non-profit files, licenses, our records, public inspection files, community information, etc.

Pictured here above is the area where your Sons and Daughters of Douglass office administration is handled, including public relations, marketing, city department liasons, and website management.

The reason for the move is that our neighbors on the first floor, Mountain States Speech and Hearing, needed to expand their offices and we were in office space that they needed.

The new office space also includes a conference room, that is located right across the hall from our office.  

Please note the new address.  "The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni, Inc." is now located at 301 Louis Street, Ste. 304, Kingsport, TN 37660.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Get your Douglass High School face mask here!


Don't forget to get your Douglass High School face mask!

Sales are brisk and your alumni association appreciates you protecting yourself and helping us at the same time.

Each mask is $10.00, plus $1.00 for mailing.  Please make your check or money order for $11.00 payable to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni.  You can also pay cash to our secretary Charlotte Maxwell, but please don't send cash in the mail.  Also, no credit or debit cards (we cannot process those).

Mail your check, money order and your return address to:

Charlotte Maxwell

P.O. Box 2460

Kingsport, TN 37660-0240

Again, the total cost of each mask is $11.00.

If you have questions, call Charlotte at (423) 967-0536.  

Supplies are going quickly, so get your order in today!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni to Meet This Saturday

The Board and alumni of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association will hold their regular meeting this coming Saturday, March 13th.

The meeting will be held at 1 PM at the Association's office, 301 Louis Street, Ste. 304.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Central Baptist Church in Kingsport vaccinates against COVID-19

Central Baptist Church holds COVID-19 vaccination event

KINGSPORT — A Model City church is working to ensure its elderly members get a chance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Central Baptist partnered with the Sullivan County Regional Health Department to hold a vaccination event at the church Friday afternoon. The church has now hosted two vaccination events for its elderly members as well as for some members of other nearby churches.

“We’re the oldest African American church in the community, and a lot of our parishioners are elderly,” said Vicki Smith, parish nurse. “Quite a few of them don’t drive, so this way we’d be able to reach them, and they can get their vaccines and be comfortable.”

Nurses on Friday gave 15 people the first dose and 20 the second dose.

Smith said Central Baptist is one of the few churches, if not the only one, in Kingsport that has been able to offer a vaccination event for elderly members of its congregation.

“We needed our elderly to get their shots as soon as possible,” said church member Jerry Harrison. “So we felt if we could help, we would do it.”

Saturday, February 27, 2021

News of Our Douglass-Riverview Alumni, Friends & Neighbors: LaVonda Harris-Price & Jerry Machen


Kingsport master artists pass on their skills through state program

This story courtesy the Kingsport Times-News by Calvin Sneed/Newspaper Community Contributor, through the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website

“The key word is ‘traditionality.’ ”

Dr. Bradley Hanson is describing a relatively new state program that promotes the passing on of traditional crafts and abilities from older generations to young people. He’s the director of Folk Life at the Tennessee Arts Commission.

“The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program allows arts, crafts and skills passed down for hundreds of years to be taught to interested young people in an effort to keep those traditions alive,” he says. “In the five-year history of the program so far, we’ve had 53 teams of master artists and their apprentices.”

For the first time, two teams of a master artist and apprentice are coming from Upper East Tennessee, passing down the skills they have learned over the years to others eager to keep a legacy tradition alive.

Kingsport’s LaVonda Harris-Price was taught hairstyling born from an older generation. Years ago, Jerry Machen, also from the Model City, invented a new form of artwork, the results of which are now considered heirlooms. Today, they and their apprentices are keeping their inspirational traditions alive.


Harris-Price has always had an interest in styling the hair of African-American women. It started when she was 5 years old.

Pictured above is Harris-Price's mentor "Miss Tillie Trammell with an unidentified client in her hairdressing chair, circa 1960 (courtesy Dawn Trammell "Beeannie" Long)

“Our neighbor on Dunbar Street, Mrs. Tillie Trammell, ran a hair salon across the street. She was very good at hairdressing, always had lots of customers. On a personal level, ‘Miss Tillie’ as she was known in the Riverview neighborhood, said she’d keep me weekday afternoons until my mother got home from work. I could have been upstairs playing dolls with her daughter, but I would sit on the steps leading into Miss Tillie’s hair salon with my chin in my hands, watching how she’d style the waves and curls on the ladies that would come through. I was totally fascinated with it.”

Miss Tillie had been noticing the little girl watching her handiwork and knew she was picking it up.

“All of a sudden one day, she asked me if I wanted to try it,” Harris-Price says, “so she started showing me how to braid hair, how to plait it, and how to press and style it. And of course I just soaked it up. I would practice on my little doll heads and just loved it.”

Harris-Price says when she was older, Miss Tillie told her that she herself had been taught the art of braiding and styling African-American hair many years ago.

“That rang a bell with me that if I learned the method, one day I could pass it on, too,” she says.

After graduating from cosmetology school in Columbus, Ohio, in 1983, Harris-Price began doing hair professionally.

Lavonda Harris-Price styles the hair of Shelia Pinkston at her All About You Salon on Lynn Garden drive recently

Years passed by at one successful salon in Kingsport, and today she’s located at the All About You Salon on Lynn Garden Drive, still designing hairstyles for African-American women.

She calls herself an old-school stylist, proud of the heritage of styling African-American hair into works of art.

Harris-Price is on a mission to pass her ability on to the next generation.

Her apprentice is 15 year-old Zaniah Greene, a student at Dobyns-Bennett and a member of Kingsport’s New Vision Youth.

“Zaniah has told me different things that she’s doing with braiding that I’ve taught her, and she’s loving it,” Harris-Price says. “It’s a joy to take what I’ve learned from Miss Tillie and share that with someone younger who’s just as excited as I was at that age.”

Harris-Price remembers being surprised, but willing, when she got the call from the Tennessee Arts Commission about taking on an apprentice.

“It’s important that we share traditions, histories and legacies,” she says.

“In the end, who else but us?”


Machen began his career installing carpet in 1962 at a Johnson City furniture store.

“I had way too many carpet scraps just lying around the office and one day, I saw a picture in the newspaper. I’d been thinking a long time about branching out into artistic areas, and all of a sudden it hit me: ‘I’ll bet I can make a custom rug that looks like that picture with all these carpet scraps I’ve got around here.’

Machen made the first carpet sculpture on the floor of his Dunbar Street kitchen in 1972. He still has it today. If you look at it closely using your imagination, it looks like a view to the west at Kingsport’s Bays Mountain, with the sun about to set behind it.

“That one vision inspired me to make custom-made rug designs using scraps that probably would have been taken to the landfill,” he says. “Meanwhile, a person could just pick something out in their minds or what they’ve seen in a favorite picture, and I can design it and sew it together from these scraps. It’s carpet, so of course it can be cleaned like carpet.”

Eventually, Machen’s custom-made rugs moved from the floors to the walls. One of them was displayed as a calming influence in a familiar Kingsport establishment noted for trying to calm people’s nerves.

“For the Children’s Wing at Holston Valley Hospital,” he says, “I designed a 
carpet wall-hanging tapestry for the children’s playroom. It hung there for 
many years, covering an entire wall. The kids loved it. From that grew 
another wall-sized artwork: a bonsai tree overlooking a valley with 
mountains in the distance. They were both one-of-a-kind custom orders, 
where people told me what they wanted to depict and I sat down and
 designed it.  The result was magical artwork.”

That description was perfect for what the Arts Apprenticeship administrators

 were looking for.

“Jerry even speaks of himself as an artist,” notes Hansen.

Machen has had one noteworthy customer for his works of art, one with a familiar hankering for burgers, hot dogs and fries.

“Pal Barger called me up one day,” Machen remembers. “He’d heard about what I could do with carpet scraps, so he invited me to meet with him in his office. He said, ‘I’d like you to build me a rug with a Big Pal in the seat of a chair. On the back of the chair, I want a bag of Frenchie Fries. I know if anybody could do that, you can.’ ”

Machen went to the office and drew some designs from logo pictures Barger had given him. The two picked out the colors and the assembly began on the first one. Within a few weeks, the two finished products were a sight to behold.

“The expression on his face when he saw what I’d created was priceless,” Machen says.  “He saw it in his mind, and I put it into a carpet tapestry.... He absolutely loved it. His was the expression of a lifetime.  Those tapestries sat in the executive chairs behind his hot dog-shaped desk for a long time. When you saw the desk, you’d see the artwork.  I’m told that sometimes with visitors in the office, he would get up from his chair just so people would notice them. Even when he wasn’t there at the moment, you knew exactly whose office you were in.

“He said it was the most incredible thing he’d ever seen.”

When contacted by the folklife administrators at the Tennessee Arts Commission, Machen was surprised at first, as he admits most artists are.

“I took some convincing when they contacted me,” he admits. “Mine was not a talent that had been passed down to me, so I didn’t see how I would fit the legacy category.”

“Jerry’s talent does indeed fit a different pattern in the Arts Apprenticeship program,” says Hansen. “He didn’t learn to do his craft from an ancestor or anybody who’d done it prior to him. But the apprenticeship program also fits people who are self-taught in a particular area. In Jerry’s case, he takes old scraps of carpet bound for the trash heap and makes beautiful pieces of artwork with them. It’s easy to see how that would fit in the art world. ... That’s how it would fit into folk life, too. That type of talent can indeed be passed down to future generations.”

Stacy Kimble is Machen’s apprentice. He has a full-time job, but Machen says he kept asking him questions and needling him in a good way about custom rug tapestry.

“He likes to ask people what they’d like to see in a rug display, and I’ve been teaching him how to pick the right kinds of carpet for the tapestry and how to blend colors. Any color you can see in a picture, you’ll find in a carpet somewhere. The magic is when you size up what you need from the scraps, blend the colors into scenery or an object, trace the outlines and do the cutting. That’s the fun of it. Even if you make a mistake, you don’t throw away the mistake. What’s left might work in another design.”

Machen’s business, Agape Carpet and Rugs, is located on East Sullivan Street in Kingsport.


The Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folk Life Apprenticeship program provides incentives for participants as encouragement to follow through with the six-month program. Master artists receive an award of $2,000 and apprentices themselves receive $500. They also receive supplies and mileage. Administrators are always on the lookout for noteworthy occupations and pastimes that came from our ancestors that people are doing and need to be passed on.

“In the program this year, in addition to Jerry and LaVonda, we also have an African-American woman who designs and makes those lovely church hats for women to wear to Sunday services. It’s amazing that in the same year, we have one woman who designs hairstyles for African-American women and another who makes the beautiful hats that they wear to church. In another year, we had a shoe cobbler from Memphis and a man from Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, who designs and carves carousel animals.”

(It turns out that Bud Ellis’ handiwork is displayed at the Kingsport Carousel and at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga).

At the end of the program in June, masters and their apprentices are invited to display their talents at a gallery exhibition in Nashville.

“We didn’t have one last year because of COVID-19,” says Hansen, “but we are hoping to bring all of these talented people to the state capitol this year to celebrate their crafts. Part of the program is getting the word out about what they do in a public display. It also helps us to discover new legacies that have been quietly passed down.

“In the short term, the master artists and the apprentices get money, but the program is more than just that,” he says. “Long term, we want to select people that we think will have staying power and hopefully the legacies will live on forever.

“We have to keep the cycle going,” he says. “It’s important to Tennessee, it’s important to the master artists who are passing down what they themselves learned, and it’s extremely valuable to the apprentices continuing the legacy.”

In Kingsport and Upper East Tennessee, the passing of the torch continues.

“The program is pretty incredible,” Machen says. “It’s a great honor to even be considered a master artist with a talent to pass on.”

Harris-Price agrees. She’s proud to get the word out about both her and Jerry’s crafts during Black History Month. “Ours are two African-American legacies that have to be taken up by the next generation,” she says.

“It’s what makes us unique as people.”