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Monday, February 28, 2011

"First Foot Long Hot Dog in Kingsport" - Video

This is the first video from the event on Saturday, February 26, 2011, celebrating the first foot long hot dog in Kingsport, sold at the Dairy Mart on Lincoln Street.  Jamie, the manager of the East Stone Drive Sonic has a word of welcome (Sonic was co-sponsor of the event), and Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips reads a proclamation honoring Jason and Nora Mae Taylor, and declares this day "Nora Mae and Jason Taylor-Dairy Mart Day" in Kingsport.  Click the "play" button to watch.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'll have that foot long hot dog "All the Way"


The Douglass Alumni Association, the Riverview community and the city of Kingsport celebrated the occasion of the first foot-long hot dogs to have ever been served in the city, which was at the former Dairy Mart on Lincoln Street, owned by Jason and Nora Mae Taylor. At right,  Nora Mae Taylor enjoys a Sonic foot long hot dog.  Below, the old Dairy Mart on Lincoln Street, 1959..... Mayor Dennis Phillips presents Taylor with a proclamation, naming Saturday, February 26, 2011 as "Nora Mae and Jason Taylor - Dairy Mart Day" ...... the New Vision Youth and the Sonic Hot Dog serenade Mrs. Taylor with a rendition of "I Wish I Were an Oscar Meyer Wiener."

/Several tributes to the Dairy Mart were given by members of the audience, and also a special birthday note and congratulations was read to Mrs. Taylor from President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The celebration, held in the Douglass Community Room of the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex on Saturday, February 26, 2011, was sponsored by the Douglass Alumni Association, the New Vision Youth, Kingsport Parks and Recreation's Community Services Division, and Sonic Restaurants.

By the way:  Happy Birthday to Mrs. Nora Mae Taylor, and also to one of her best friends, who joined in the celebration, Mrs. Jill Ellis.  Happy Birthday to both!

Click here to see pictures from the "First Foot Long Hot Dog in Kingsport" Celebration and tribute to Nora Mae and Jason Taylor and the Dairy Mart.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Picture Corrections

The picture captions in the "Salute to Soldiers" story have been corrected.

The story and the pictures are reposted below. 

Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Military personnel honored at New Vision Youth program


"One of the things that makes an American soldier so good at their job is that they believe in America.’

— Capt. Domingo Hale


KINGSPORT — Active and retired military servicemen and servicewomen were honored Sunday afternoon in a program sponsored by the New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Community Service division at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex gymnasium.

Click here to see pictures from the "Salute to Soldiers" ceremony.

The military personnel were nominated from the community and Sunday’s program was part of New Vision Youth’s eighth annual Black History Program.

Several veterans were in attendance to accept their awards, and those who couldn’t make it had family in attendance to accept the award for them.

Johnnie Mae Swagerty was misstress of ceremonies and Army Capt. Domingo Hale served as honorary award presenter.

“We live in a very conflicted world and there are billions of people who are in poverty, and war is a reality to everyone,” Hale said. “However there is still  hope for freedom and a decent quality of life for all people. The American soldiers are the people responsible for protecting or promoting these hopes and these ideas.

“While they do not make the executive military decisions, it is their loyalty and dedication toward spreading and protecting democracy and freedom that gives them the ability to do a very good job and a job well done. One of the things that makes an American soldier so good at their job is that they believe in America.”

Among the personnel honored were Sgt. Allen Faulkerson (Army); Wallace R. Ross Jr. (Army); Sgt. Robert Bogus III (Army); Master Sgt. Sinora Lewis (Army); Sgt. William F. Johnson (Army); Frank Shepherd (Army); Sgt. Michael Leeper (Army); Sgt. Phillip Hoard (Army); Sgt. RonRico Hayes (Army); Sgt. Major Cynthia Howard (Army); Sgt. Michael Moore (Army); William V. Hickman (Army); Sgt. Barbara Lynn Bell (Army); Mark Johnston (Navy); Van Dobbins Jr. (Navy); Richard Hicks (Army); Sgt. Phillip Price (Army); Rev. Lawrence T. Myrick II (Army); Sgt. John Brice (Army Green Beret); Sgt. B.C. Camp (Marines); Dujwan Goodwin (Navy); Lt. Col. Laura Faulkerson (Army); Sgt. Orval Bond (Army); Sgt. James Brice (Army); James Brice Jr. (Navy); Sgt. Marshall R. Cartwright (Marines); Sgt. Stanford L. Treece (Air Force); the Rev. Arthur Snapp (Army); and Hale.

Three recently deceased servicemen were also honored, including Sgt. James W. Swafford (Army); Sgt. B.H. “Benny” Swan (Army); and James Snapp Jr. (Navy).

The event included a prayer by Myrick, followed by a scripture reading by New Vision Youth member Diamond Wyckoff. Color guard was provided by the Sullivan North ROTC and the national anthem sung by New Vision Youth member Juliano Soto.

Kingsport VFW Post 979 participated in the award presentations, and the Full Gospel Mission choir concluded the event with a rendition of “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remembering Coach Deering


To Mrs. Deering and the Family of Coach Deering:

I remember Coach Deering as a teacher and echo the wonderful words that have described Coach Deering on the Douglass web site. What I want to say is what he represented to the Black male population: a Black man who stood for something-what he believed and knew to be true about what he was teaching, how he was teaching it, and what he knew you needed to know before you completed his class. Coach Deering cared about his students. I do not ever remember receiving above a “C” in Coach Deering’s class. However, to be clear, I was glad to get it! He was tough in class. You did not talk but you did listen, and he made sure that you knew he was not going to begin until you did. Coach Deering was very much like all of the Douglass teachers during the sixties: our teachers were smart, intelligent, brilliant! They taught us to not wait on the present and to fear no past or future. They made sure that we kept our eyes on the prize. Coach Deering was not only a coach of athletics but also a persistent coach in the classroom. We will never forget Coach Deering.

Dr. Rosemary Gray


Mr. Deering helped prepare his students for success with his "no-nonsense" style - He simply DID NOT tolerate a lackadaisical attitude toward turning in assignments! - as much as anything he taught from the book. He really challenged us to do/be "MORE".

Doris W Calloway


We want to express our deepest sympathy, God's blessing and love to the family,in the loss of Coach Bob Deering.  We are remembering him in a special way,especially for his time spent in the classroom and on the football field.
Wallace & Shirley (Burnette) Powers & Family
Chattanooga, TN
Mr. Robert C. Deering was a brilliant classroom teacher and an extraordinary basketball and football coach.  At Douglass, the athletes never called him “Coach Deering.”  I suppose it was out of respect for how he handled the classroom.  I marveled at how he stood before our biology class and rattled off information.  He never looked down at his notes or the textbook.  And, when someone came up with a wild guess to one of his simple questions, he’d always come up with a profound statement.  My classmates will remember his remark to Jim Nash—“it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”  His half time speeches to the team can’t be printed today.  I recall that we were a good second half team because his fiery speeches always fired us up (or scared us) into playing harder.  As a member of the Douglass football team, I’ll never forget two nights at J. Fred Johnson Stadium as he stood there in those brown wing tip brogue shoes with his pants leg rolled up. That was his coaching attire.   (You’ll recall we played on either Thursday night or Saturday night back then).  One night at halftime, -- out of frustration with Lucious Stewart’s play—Mr. Deering threw his cup of hot coffee against the wall. 30 players on the team got wet after that one coffee cup splashed against the wall!  Then, what a butt chewing I got from him after throwing a TD pass in the Bluefield game.  We scored, but I hadn’t run the play Mr. Deering called from the sideline.  It made him even angrier when I told him “Pookie” McMiller had actually called the play in the huddle.  Some things stay with you forever.  Mr. Deering always required us to run 10 laps around the Douglass practice field before football practice to loosen up.  (You figure that!).  I hated the “duck walk” and the “crab walk” during summer training; but I never complained to him—no one did.  (No drinking water at practice, but he liked my brother, Jim.  He let Jim sneak water out to us).  How can anyone forget the first year players had to block Doug Releford or Ruben Adams to prove that you were touch enough to play on his football team.  We often scrimmaged against the “old vets” who would come to practice from time to time.  That stopped when Varley Hickman hit one of the old timers and broke the guy’s leg.  (Even Mr. Simp Brown would be out there giving advice).  Mr. Deering allowed me to play QB two years.  It was a humbling experience.  He made sure I knew it wasn’t because of my ability.  He swore I was the only one on the team who could remember the plays and I would tell all my teammates what they were supposed to do.  I believe I can still run tell you how to run T-4 pass, T-8, H and E pass, and F2at8.  And there was the memorable night Mr. Deering ordered us out of the Langston High School gym at half time because the officials were giving us the “home cooking.”  I remember the score—54 to 17.  We had 4 basketball players left on our team who had not fouled out.  I guess you’ve figure out by my comments:  Mr. Deering hated loosing!  He did some celebrated things while he was our coach—but coaches are supposed to be legendary, aren’t they?  As the years have passed, I realize he really impacted my life.  He taught me how to compete.  He made me a tougher player.  Tough enough to go on to college and become an All-American football player.  He made me a better person—more caring and more respectful of others.  Mr. Deering was tough on all of us.  He was firm but fair.  He loved us like we were his children.    And we loved and respected him—and I know his former players and students always will. 

Don Hickman 

"I probably could be a doctor now, if I wanted to be."   I learned about every system in the body from Mr. Deering.... the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, ocular, muscular, auditory, pulmonary, vascular, and not to mention the brain. The weird thing is, I still remember it!!!!

Bert Webb
Mr. Deering and Clarence McKnight. If you were there.....enough said!!!

Bert Webb


There is a lesson Coach Deering taught me through a simple quote, that I find opportunity to use practically every week with some young person, and on occasion with adults.
He graced me with it one day, when I had come to school without a pen or pencil. He said to me,

“Evans, you came to school without anything to write with.
That’s like a man going hunting and forgetting his gun.”

I never made the connection, but that may have something to do with why I steal pens from bank tellers, department store clerks, and why I horde them when attending health fairs and places where commercial vendors give’m away!!! Damn!!

It was the 1964-65 school year at Douglass High School. I was 14 years old. I’m 60 now. Ummm….46 years ago!

He also use to whip my ass in ping pong (table tennis for all you anal types) at the Lincoln Street Boys Club any time he was there…and because he lived in the neighborhood, he was there quite often. He had one of the quickest back hands I’ve ever seen..(still talking about ping pong, y'all)

There’s an African proverb that states,
As long as you remember someone,
They’re not really gone.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meeting Reminder!

The Executive/Working Boards of the Douglass Alumni Association will gather for a regularly scheduled meeting on Saturday, February 26th at 1 PM, in the Eastman Conference Room on the 2nd floor of the V.O. Dobbins Non-Profit Tower.

All Board members, interested parties and individuals with business to bring before the Board, are asked to attend the meeting.

Coach Deering Tributes & Memories

As a tribute to our storied and wonderful football coach Bob Deering, we are inviting your remembrances and memories of Coach Deering, both on the football field and in the classroom. There are plenty of memories of our coach, and upon the occasion of his passing, it's a time to pause and reflect on the memorable moments we were privileged to spend under his care and instruction.

Please send your memories and tributes to:

...and please pass the word on to others. We will publish them here, plus we will send them on to Mrs. Deering as a lasting tribute from the Douglass Alumni Association.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Douglass Teacher Passing

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Robert C. Deering, formerly of Kingsport, now of Westbury, New York.

Coach Deering was the coach of the Douglass Tigers football team from 1957 to 1965.

Coach Deering was born on April 6, 1927 and passed away at his home in Westbury, New York at the age of 84.

An obituary will be posted at the PASSINGS AND OBITUARIES link on your website, as soon as we have it.

Please keep his wife Coletta (Coty) Deering of the home in your thoughts and prayers. Mrs. Deering was the Douglass School secretary for several years.

Donohue-Cecere Funeral Directors
290 Post Avenue
Westbury, NY 11590

Telephone: (516) 333-0615

Black History Program scheduled for Sunday

• KINGSPORT — New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Community Service Division will present the eighth annual Black History Program Sunday at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex gymnasium. The program will begin at 4 p.m.

Good Eatin'


Clockwise from top left: Chance Taylor and Emmanuel King pick up some delicious looking food during the Soul Food Gathering Friday, February 18, 2011 at the Riverview Boys and Girls Club community center; Johnnie Mae Swagerty serves up some chitterlings to Tony Morales; Kiara King enjoys her fried chicken; Veronica Camp and Sharon Swanner take a moment and chat while setting up; Ronald Mitchell begins to move food over to the serving table. The event was sponsored by New Vision Youth and the Riverview Boys and Girls Club to celebrate Black History Month and traditional food fare.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Celebrating HOPE: Free Workshops Continue Kingsport’s Black History Month celebration



Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

A series of free workshops designed to highlight that message continue Kingsport’s Black History Month celebration. The HOPE (Help Our Potential Evolve) workshops will be held from noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Kingsport Renaissance Center.

“We have a lot of talent here in Kingsport and people don’t always get to see it. This is an opportunity to showcase some of those artists and to help kids realize that potential in themselves,” said HOPE founder and event organizer Stella Robinette.

The event is open to the public and, although it is geared toward elementary, middle and high school students, all ages are invited and encouraged to attend.

HOPE got its start when Robinette approached the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department about helping create some special activities for youth during Black History Month.

“I started at the Civic Auditorium and we had a movie workshop, an African cuisine class, drumming and storytelling. The kids also made a quilt from the storytelling,” Robinette recalled.

“It was so successful that I wanted to keep it going, so I started asking others to get involved and we formed a committee and it’s grown every year,” she said.

Building on the workshops that are most popular each year, the committee seeks to find new activities and programs to share.

This year’s topics include everything from music and storytelling to African cuisine.

Richie Hicks will present a drumming workshop, and perennial favorite Gerri Harrison will return for a cooking and tasting class on African cuisine. A drama workshop will also be presented by Arts4Kids and Starr Releford. Former teacher Jill Ellis will tell stories, and the Boys & Girls Club will be on hand for face painting.

New this year is a Michael Jackson Wii competition with four prizes in various age groups.

“We’re going to split the age groups and the winner in the groups can win a $100 gift card,” Robinette said.

An art exhibit, showcasing local artists, remains on display on the second floor of the Renaissance Center.

“I wanted to show off some of our local artists. Some are folks who live away from here now, others are still here. We have art from one 15-year-old that I found on Facebook,” Robinette said.

Robinette said sharing his art is at the very core of what HOPE is all about.

“That’s exactly what we’re about. He has great potential, but he had never displayed his art anywhere. That is one of the goals with this, to get kids who think they don’t have the potential to step up and start hanging their art down here,” she said.

That will be one of Robinette’s key focuses for 2012, as she searches to shine the light on other artists who may go unnoticed and to keep HOPE alive.

“A lot of the credit goes to our sponsors — Eastman Chemical Company, Food City, Tri-Summit Bank, Regions Bank, the City of Kingsport’s Cultural Arts and Parks and Rec departments. Without them, I couldn’t do anything,” Robinette said.

To find out more about the workshops, call (423) 392-8414 or visit

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Dairy Mart: A Neighborhood "Tasty Sweet"


Back in the day, every neighborhood in Kingsport had some kind of identifying business.. some establishment that everybody could identify with, that always brings people out to visit, maybe enjoy good food, or each other's company.

In the 1950's. Riverview had several of those businesses.. Emmitt Collins' grocery store, Paul Taylor's grocery-liquor store, Reverend C.E. Edge's store, the "Hut." But there was only one where you could enjoy BOTH great food and lots of good fellowship.

It was the old Dairy Mart on Lincoln Street, now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It was located directly across the street from the old Riverview swimming pool, now a splash pad.

"Every Sunday, we made about 200 dollars and that was just in milk shakes alone," says 91-year-old Nora Mae Taylor, as she recalled the little box restaurant that she and her husband Jason operated for years. "We had chocolate, vanilla and strawberry..they were all homemade. We had a mixer that mixed it, but everything that went in we did by hand."

The Dairy Mart's claim to fame wasn't in liquid form, though. It was one item that no full-plate fast food restaurant can do without now.

"The foot-long hot dog in Kingsport was born at our restaurant," Mrs. Taylor says. "We were the first restaurant, black or white, in Kingsport that had foot-long hot dogs. This was 6 or 7 years before Pal's. We got them from up in Bristol at Valleydale, and they told us nobody else from Kingsport ever ordered foot-longs but us. I come up with the idea, I don't why I come up with it. They were 25 cents apiece, and the little hot dogs were 10 cents. We had relish.. the sauce, hot dog sauce.. and onions. I despised cutting up all them onions, eyes would water.. I had lots of onions to cut up. People started coming to Riverview to get them foot-longs. The children would come up and the foot-longs were so big, they'd have to share. We had hamburgers and ice cream stuff, but we sold more foot-longs than anything else."

The banana splits were a hit, too.

"They were also 25 cents," says Mrs. Taylor. "I'd take a whole banana and split it up in this little glass dish. Nowadays, they used those plastic dishes that you can take with you, but ours were glass. We'd put ice cream, strawberries, nuts and the chocolate. They'd eat 'em right there and then give us the dish back. Nobody ever walked off with one, they always gave 'em back. They're antique dishes now."

"You couldn't eat inside, so everybody just ate outside underneath the two trees between our place and Reverend (C.E.) Edge's," Mrs. Taylor remembers. "We had (daughter) Brenda and (son) Ronnie down there helping us out, and the kids would always talk Brenda into giving them a little bit more, an extra strawberry, extra chocolate. Jason took her to the side after the day was over and say 'you can't give the profits away.' Every once in a while though, the kids did get extra."

Mrs. Taylor remembers fondly, the McMiller brothers.

"Mark and Rusty would come by, and of course they'd want the ice cream," she recalls. "The other kids would have their dimes, nickels and pennies ready, and Mark and Rusty would act like they had theirs, too. The other kids would get ice cream cones, and the boys would get ice cream. I'd say 'honey, where's your money?' and they'd say 'we don't have any money.' They were such cute kids.. I'd end up giving it to 'em anyway. It was just a dime, so I'd go ahead and give 'em a dime and they'd give it right back. They loved that ice cream."

So what brought the Dairy Mart to Lincoln Street back in the 50's?

"(Husband) Jason went up to this place out there by Peggy Ann's on Center Street," Mrs. Taylor remembers. "There was this little building right beside the Peggy Ann's, and when he went up there, people were crowded up around it. Jason saw that and said he's gonna bring that little restaurant to Riverview. We had $12,000 saved up, and he put every penny in that restaurant. We never did make it back with hot dogs and hamburgers at 10 cents, but we had a good time selling stuff."

Mrs. Taylor says, the Dairy Mart always got excellent marks from the Health Department, because they worked hard at keeping it clean.

"It was a lot of nighttime work," she says. "We had to tear down that ice cream machine every night, clean it, and then put it back together for the next morning. It wasn't hard work, it was just time-consuming. When the Health Department came by, they'd inspect the counters for dust and check the refrigerators, and everything would always be clean."

"We always got "A's."

"And whenever the Riverview Pool was open during the spring and summer months, you'd have to park a block away and then walk to the Dairy Mart," said Mrs. Taylor. "We had both black customers and white customers, because we were within sight of Wilcox Drive, just past the old junkyard."

The Taylors were also operating a dry cleaners on Main Street a few blocks away from the Sullivan-Center Street intersection, when Mr. Taylor decided to bring the Dairy Mart to Riverview. "We were making a whole lot more money at the dry cleaners, with dress shirts at 45 or 50 cents, and suits at 75 cents apiece. We just couldn't do both places at once. In the early 60's, we decided to sell the restaurant."

The Dairy Mart closed down shortly after being sold.

Mrs. Taylor has watched the growth of Pal's Restaurants, and its 22 restaurants around the Upper East Tennessee area. What advice could Mrs. Taylor give "Pal" Barger these days, that helped the Dairy Mart back when?

"Always have a good location, and don't forget the customer," Mrs. Taylor says. "Get to know your regulars. Greet everybody with a smile, and 'have a good day.' Nobody does that much now. They're busy trying to get you in and out and they forget the courtesy."

The customer was always right, at the one place in Kingsport, that was always "tasty sweet."


‘Footlongs’ were around long before Subway started selling them


Contact Vince Staten at or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at

Subway, the sandwich shop, is now claiming a trademark for the name “footlong,” as in their ubiquitous “$5 footlong” commercials.
It would be laughable if it weren’t serious. The company has already sent out cease-and-desist letters to an undisclosed number of restaurants and food stores, telling them to stop using “footlong.”

What? The term “footlong” was around long before Subway discovered Jared. What will they do next, go after all the underground transit systems in America for calling themselves subways?

If Subway wins its trademark case then every mom-and-pop grocery, deli and burger stand in the country would have to change the name of its foot-long hot dog or sub sandwich to 12-Inch-Long Dog or, go the way the soft drink industry went with 2-liter bottles and call it a three-decimeter dog.

Try selling that at the drive through at Pal’s. “You want mustard on that threedecimeter dog?”

Funny that the news should surface this week. Calvin Sneed has just posted a story on his Douglass High School Alumni Web site about the first foot-long hot dogs in Kingsport.

They were sold in the 1950s at the old Dairy Mart in Riverview, which was owned and operated by Nora Mae Taylor and her husband, Jason.

Nora Mae, who is now 91, told Calvin, “The foot-long hot dog in Kingsport was born at our restaurant. We were the first restaurant, black or white, in Kingsport that had foot-long hot dogs. This was six or seven years before Pal’s.”

The Dairy Mart bought their foot-long wieners at Valleydale in Bristol.

Nora Mae told Calvin, “They told us nobody else from Kingsport ever ordered foot-longs but us. I come up with the idea; I don’t know why I come up with it. They were 25 cents apiece, and the little hot dogs were 10 cents. ... People started coming to Riverview to get them foot-longs. The children would come up and the foot-longs were so big, they’d have to share. We had hamburgers and ice cream stuff, but we sold more foot-longs than anything else.”

The Dairy Mart is no longer in business, but Nora Mae’s story could be Deposition No. 1 for the defense for any store that gets a cease-and-desist letter from Subway.

You can read the full story about Dairy Mart and its foot-long hot dog at http://

The Dairy Mart closed in the early 1960s. Subway didn’t open its first store until 1965.

Incidentally, Subway is already using the trademark symbol next to footlong on its Web site.

I think they are going to have a tough row to hoe on this one. And they’ll be getting no sympathy from me. Footlongs existed long before Subway. I did a quick archive search and found: McCrory’s in Indiana, Pa., advertised a foot-long hot dog in 1938. The Silver Coat CafĂ© in Emporia, Kan., advertised a foot-long sandwich in 1951. And Nina’s Spaghetteria in Van Nuys, Calif., advertised a “foot long submarine sandwich” in 1955. Good luck on this one, Subway. But not r e a l l y.


If you lived through the Cold War, then you remember that the Russian Communist Party newspaper was named Pravda, which means “The Truth” in Russian. We all laughed when we found that out.

In a recent New York Times story, I learned that the current Cuban Communist Party newspaper is called Granma. That’s right, Granma. I ran the word through an online Spanish to English translator and got “We’re sorry, we could not find your phrase in the dictionary.”

A serious, important Communist organization is named for my grandmother?

Upon further review (I found an entry in that most impeccable of sources, Wikipedia) I discovered the source of the name. Granma was the name of the boat used to bring Cuban Revolution fighters from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.

There’s an English language version of Granma online at www.

I think we should sic Subway’s lawyers on this case. If we allow the Cuban Communist Party to use the name Granma, what’s next? Venezuela’s Communist Party organ will be named Papaw?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Honoring Heritage • Geraldine Swagerty carries on Legacy from Grandmother



Geraldine Swagerty carries on the legacy of her grandmother.  A nanny, nurse, preacher and teacher, ‘Vannie’ Van Buren Elizabeth Williams Crum is pictured in the second picture below holding the great-great-granddaughter of President Andrew Johnson.

KINGSPORT — When Geraldine Swagerty was growing up in Greeneville, there were two water fountains downtown. She was not allowed to drink out of one of them and that made her so mad she once spit in the one marked “Whites Onl y. ”

That earned her a reprimand from her grandmother, a woman who withstood the blind racism that spread through the South, teaching her granddaughter to care and comfort instead of spewing hate.

“I was young back then, and you know how it is when you are a kid, it doesn’t take much to make you mad. But I saw my grandmother be firm but calm about the things that were being done and said. She told me the Bible told us to love one another no matter the color,” said Swagerty.

Swagerty speaks with reverence about “Vannie” Van Buren Elizabeth Williams Crum — the grandmother who would preach and teach lessons to Geraldine that she would carry on into helping those hungry for their next meal and for the word. Nanny, Nurse, Preacher,


Crum went to work in Greene County at the age of 15 for the Martha Patterson family, descendants of President Andrew Johnson.

By the age of 17, Patterson would have a child, Margaret Patterson Bartlett, Johnson’s greatgreat-granddaughter, and Crum had such skills in nursing and a loving care with the child, according to Swagerty, the family would have her travel with them and stay at their home.

Crum would continue to work in the Greeneville community, doing housecleaning and other duties while going to the city jail and doing Bible studies with inmates.

“She told them, ‘You all need to hear something good.’ She thought they needed to hear the word just like any free man could on a Sunday,” said Swagerty.

Crum also earned the respect of people in Greeneville for her skill in helping sick people.

“They would fetch her, even the midwives who were ready to deliver and they got in a bad way,” Swagerty said.

“I saw her several times make what some people called a soup that would bring people back to life. I mean, these people that would be so sick they would be bedridden, but she would open their mouths, put in the soup, and then she would get on her knees and pray.

“One boy, I recall, had already turned blue. She got the soup, prayed, put some oil on him, and the next thing I knew this child was sitting up in the bed asking my grandmother for some cornbread.”

Swagerty admits she was troubled by her grandmother’s actions because some of the people who would come and beg her to help their children were the same people who had uttered racial slurs at them just days before.

“She taught me so much through her love. To be able to help someone sick who had said something bad about them, that is the work of a true humanitarian. She always told us not to look at the color of someone’s skin. If someone needs help, you help them. That is what we are taught to do,” said Swagerty.

She also remembered another room that had to be built onto her grandmother’s house because of the number of people she took in off the street or those who were hungry.

“She let them stay in her house no matter what,” Swagerty says. “She had such a caring soul for people — young, old, sick, poor. She wanted us to remember that when she would feed those people or give them a cot to sleep in on a cold night.”

Tradition With Hope

Swagerty has continued her grandmother’s vision by taking to the pulpit on Sundays and by opening up the basement of her Full Gospel Mission Church in downtown Kingsport with a soup kitchen that has been feeding the hungry for 12 years.

The process of caring for needy residents has not been easy. With more and more people asking for help and limited resources, Swagerty has dealt with the problems with a simple philosophy — He Provides.

“The Lord has given me everything I have needed in this life and at the kitchen,” she said.

“We’ve had people steal the salt shakers, the toilet paper, heck, they even stole the toilet seat one time. I’ve had people come in for a meal and I have found them asleep upstairs in the church. How can you refuse to help a person like that? You don’t turn anybody away.”

The lessons that Crum taught her granddaughter weren’t always easy but they were ones that over time have become the path to a lifetime of service.

“We can go through life being mad at one another, but I’ll tell you, I’ve got better things to think about and a better life to live than one filled with hate toward someone else. And if I can turn someone toward helping another, then I have done what my grandmother taught me,” Swagerty said.

Honoring Heritage • Sneed keeping connections open for Riverview community



Although he has not lived in Kingsport in nearly 40 years, Calvin Sneed, left and below, is the go-to guy for news about Riverview, such as the recent renovation and expansion of the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Center.)

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  This is one of the articles the Times-News did for this year's Black History Month commemoration.  Although there is a focus on and pictures of, your Website manager, the greater and more important focus should be on the progress that our community has made over the years, and why it is vital that we remember the spirit of Douglass High School, and celebrate its legacy with the heritage of the Riverview Neighborhood.. once... always was... still is... and will always be... a great place to be and live in Kingsport!).

KINGSPORT — Calvin Sneed has spent his entire career in radio and television, from reporting the news, to hosting a weekend sportscast, to consumer reporting. But the folks of the Riverview community know him as something more, someone who works hard to promote the neighborhood and its residents even though he has not lived in Kingsport in nearly 40 years.

Sneed, 56, lives in Chattanooga and works as the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. co-anchor for WTVC NewsChannel 9. Though he has lived in Chattanooga since 1992, and not in Kingsport since 1972, Sneed manages to maintain strong ties to the Riverview community, where he lived for more than a decade.

Roots in Riverview

Sneed’s family moved from Middle Tennessee to Kingsport in 1960, joining his father’s family that had lived in Riverview for decades; he attended Douglass High School — the city’s blacks-only high school — from 1961 to 1966 (the year the school closed). Douglass is now called the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Center and is home to a number of non-profit organizations.

“Most of the alumni in the neighborhood consider whenever you leave Douglass for the last time, you’re a graduate of that year. I’m technically a Douglass graduate of 1966,” Sneed said.

After the school closed and the schools were integrated, Sneed attended John Sevier Middle School and graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1972 with an emphasis in radio and television broadcasting. While at D-B, Sneed worked at WKPT for two years and credits Dr. Verna Ruth Abbott for helping him get the job.

“Originally I wanted to be an actor because at the time we didn’t have very many African-Americans on television in the acting profession. I was planning on it and looking at Hollywood,” Sneed said. “I had done some readings, interpretations and acting in some plays at D-B. I was going down that road, but when Dr. Abbott helped me get a job at WKPT, I went in that direction.”

Over the next 15 years, Sneed continued working in the radio and television field, at WTVC in the early ’70s as a news reporter, news photographer and news producer, at WIBK radio and WATE Channel 6 in Knoxville and doing consumer reporting in Columbus, Ohio, during the ’80s.

Sneed said after his parents died within a year of each other in the late ’80s, he had an opportunity to return to WTVC in 1992 as a consumer reporter. For the past four years he has been the co-anchor of the evening newscasts.

Sneed has two cousins who live in Kingsport and he considers the folks in Riverview as his extended family. Although Sneed has not lived here for nearly 40 years, he said Riverview is what kept his connection to Kingsport. He adds he is considering moving back to Kingsport once he retires.

“I’m burning the phones up all the time and burning the roads up. I can probably drive from Chattanooga to Kingsport with my eyes closed,” he said. “I’m up there four or five times a month. There’s always something going on and I like coming back home. I like coming back and seeing people. I’ve got a list of people I see when come back.”

Sneed has also kept abreast of the major projects that have taken place in the Riverview community over the past five years, helping with the communication between the neighborhood and the city on projects such as the HOPE VI redevelopment project and the renovation and expansion of the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Center.

A Web of Connection

Four years ago, Sneed, along with Roberta Webb and Donald Hickman, began looking at ways for the Douglass alumni to stay in touch with each other and spread the news of the neighborhood and of Kingsport. Thus came the idea of an alumni Web site. But because Douglass was closed, Sneed said they had to broaden their scope.

“We couldn’t talk about what’s going on in the school or the upcoming football season, so I said let’s talk about the neighborhood, the education we had and keep the heritage of the school and the legacy of the community alive,” Sneed said.

The Web site launched in December 2006 — — and includes information about Douglass (as well as the school song), news from the community, hundreds of photographs and an obituary section. The main page of the Web site receives about 2,000 to 2,500 hits a week.

“For me it’s my second full-time job. It helps me stay in touch and I like the idea of helping our extended family of alumni stay together. There’s this wave of nostalgia going on right now where people see something they remember from their past and they want to hang on to that memory,” Sneed said. “But I can’t do it alone and there’s so many people in Riverview that help me with the Web site.”

Sneed said the Web site is very fulfilling for him, and he is proud that people from around the region and across world visit the site.

As for why he works so hard on the Web site and staying in touch with Riverview?

“I love where I come from. I’m proud of where I came from. Riverview has been through a lot from when I first moved there 50 years ago,” Sneed said. “Once you move in and people get to know you, they welcome you into the family. There’s just something about it.”

Kingsport resident Doug Releford, who grew up in the old Riverview Apartments (#83) and graduated from Douglass in 1963, said the Riverview community sees Sneed as the go-to guy for news and information about the neighborhood.

“By Calvin being involved in the news in Chattanooga, people feel like he can dig a little deeper than most people could. That’s why they really go to him with a lot of things,” Releford said. “And I think (the Web site) is received tremendously by the community and the people out of town.

“I get calls and e-mails all the time saying that’s the only way they keep up with what’s going on in Kingsport. If it wasn’t for (Calvin) and the Web site, people would just be lost. He really keeps the memory of Douglass alive.”

Free soul food served up on Friday

• The Riverview Boys and Girls Club, the Riverview Residents Association, New Vision Youth, and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Community Service division will host a free Soul Food Celebration of Black History on Feb. 18 at the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority Community Room in Riverview from 4 to 7 p.m. The menu will include fried chicken, turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, yams, greens, green beans, sweet potato casserole, rolls and biscuits, mashed potatoes, banana pudding and peach cobbler. For more information, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty, (423) 429-3553 or Denise Sensabaugh-Davis at the Riveryview Boys and Girls Club.

Black History program slated Feb. 20

• New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Community Service division will present the 8th Annual Black History Program Feb. 20 at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex gymnasium. The program will begin at 4 p.m. New Vision youth will be honoring soldiers and veterans. Sullivan North High School's ROTC will make a flag presentation. Also present will be the Kingsport VFW, U.S. Army Capt. Dimingo Hale, Juliana Soto and the Full Gospel Mission choir. For more information, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty, (423) 429-3553.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Groups hosting Black History Bus Trip

• New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Community Services division will host the annual Black History Bus Trip to the Nathaniel Greene Museum in Greeneville on Saturday. The bus will leave from the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex parking lot at noon and return to Kingsport at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty, (423) 429-3553, or Chassie Smiley with the Parks and Recreation department at (423) 224-2489.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Song to Celebrate Black History Month

This Black History Month, we are honoring many seniors in the Riverview community, who have walked the long walk, fought the tough fight, and have endured the trials and tribulations of the neighborhood. They have also rejoiced with their neighbors, helped raise their neighbors' children, and given hope and inspiration that Douglass and Riverview descendants carry to this day, and are passing on to future generations.  We can always find them lifting their voices to sing the Praises of the Lord.

We call them our "Riverview Senior Songbirds."

Mrs. Mamie Gillenwater was one of the first residents of Riverview, her family moving into the Riverview Apartments back in 1940.   She says, one of the first things she did, was join the church.

71 years later, the now 86-year old is one of the newest residents of Riverview Place, the new HOPE VI homes in the neighborhood.

She attends the Ebenezer Baptist Church (Reverend James Whiteside, pastor) and sings in the choir, but has been recuperating at the Brookhaven Nursing Home recently from, what she calls, various "getting-around" problems.

"Miss Mamie," also loving known as "Miss Tootsie" told us, she did not want Black History Month to get gone, before she got to celebrate it with her friends, family and loved ones in the community.

As a result, she sang to us, a couple of her favorite spiritual songs in only the wonderful way she can.  She says, she wants to dedicate the songs to the Riverview Community, and all of her friends in Kingsport.

Just click the "play" button in the lower left corner to play the video and hear the song.  Click the square in the lower left corner for full-screen.

In commemoration of Black History Month, we'll publish "Miss Tootsie's" second song in a couple of weeks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kingsport Gospel Fest 2011: Kicking Off Black History Month

Many Riverview and Kingsport residents returned to their spiritual roots the night of Saturday, January 28,2011.

Gospel Fest brought together many area gospel music singers and groups, whose voices lifted to the heavens.

They took most of the audience right along with them.

Click here to see a picture slideshow of Gospel Fest 2011 at the Kingsport Renaissance Center.

Groups singing during Gospel Fest 2011 included the Great Commission Praise Team, "TCB - Tri Cities Blessed" Singers, Lynette Alley, Juliana Soto (a New Vision youth), the Bethel A.M.E. Choir, the Bristol Lee Street Baptist Praise Team, the Central Baptist Choir, and the ADMC Singers.

Emcee for this year's event was Riverview's own Xavier "Tim" Hall, who absolutely kept the audience in stitches between each performance.  Tim, who was raised in the church, did not hesitate to remember the little things in church everyone has taken for granted for many years.  At one point, he came out in a choir robe, to teach the singers how to represent in a black church.  The laughter grew louder, as his remembrances hit closer to home.

Gospel Fest 2011 was sponsored by the City of Kingsport, Wal-Mart, Eastman Chemical, Kingsport Parks and Recreation (Cultural Arts Division), Food City, Arts 4 Kids, the Barter Theater, D.J. Express, the Appalachian Express Mens Chorus, Regions Bank and the Kingsport Arts Guild.  Committee members for Gospel Fest 2011 are Stella Robinette, chairperson, Doug Releford, co-chairperson, Lucy Fleming, Martha Beverly, Randy Leeper, Morris Baker, Chaiba Bloomer, Tanya Foreman, Paul Montgomery, Tammy Davis, Ron Collins, Gwen Collins, Kevin Lytle, Michelle Tolbert, Jessica Kerney, Monnie Macdonald, and Pharnell Raines.

The event serves as the official beginning to Black History Month in February.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More Douglass Alumni Descendants Signing Letters of Intent to Play College Football

D.J. Beard, a standout cornerback at Ola High in McDonough, Georgia, is one of the Navy's direct entry recruits. Beard committed to head coach Ken Niumatalolo during his official visit to Annapolis on Jan. 9.  A strong student with a 3.3 cumulative grade point average, Beard was also recruited by William & Mary, Elon and Army.

D.J. is the grandson of Douglass Alumnus Helen Bunting of Kingsport.  His father Don is a colonel in the U.S. Army.

"I liked that it's big-time college football and that Navy has been so successful over the years," Beard said. "It's a big relief to get this decision done and know that I'm going to get a great education while playing Division I football."

Beard was a two-year starter at corner for Ola High and was named honorable mention Southern Crescent Conference after recording 45 solo tackles and 15 pass breakups as a senior. The 6-foot, 174-pounder totaled 40 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups as a junior. He was recruited by Navy assistant Justin Davis, who is now handling the state of Georgia.

"I'm a tough, physical corner that excels in one-on-one coverage. I go after the ball and like making big plays," Beard said.

Kingsport Exhibit spotlights African-American art

In celebration of Black History Month, the Kingsport Art Guild’s February exhibit features the folk art of Nancy Johnson.

“I want my artwork to convey deep meaning with rich value and expression,” said Johnson, who took up art after retiring from a career in nursing. “Artists may choose oil or watercolor and brush, pen and ink, writing and poetry or their voice to create something special and different. I have tried to depict black pride and beauty and strength of black culture.”

Johnson’s work will remain on display in the Kingsport Renaissance Center’s second-floor Main Gallery through Feb. 25.

Admission is free.  For more information, call (423) 246-1227 or visit

Dobyns-Bennett Players Sign Letters of Intent to Play College Football

Two of Dobyns-Bennett's Football Stars, whose high school highlights Douglass Alumni have watched with admiration, have chosen to stay close to home for their college careers.

Chris Sensabaugh and Brenton Leeper will play their college ball close to home, after signing Letters of Intent this past week.

Click here to read the full story at Model City Sports, with videos and highlights from the signing ceremonies.

Josh Harwood at Model City Sports has more in-depth coverage of the ceremonies.

Click here to see slideshow family pictures of the signings.

Of course, Chris comes from a long line of football-playing Sensabaughs that date back to the Douglass High School Tigers.

Brenton is the son of Tonia Leeper & Brenton Bly, the grandson of Douglass Alumni Board  members Sheila Leeper and Judy (Bly) Phillips, and the cousin of Board Members Virginia Hankins, Joy Underwood and Linda Bly.

Below is the D-B signing ceremony from Kenny Hawkins at WJHL-TV, Channel 11.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Barter Theatre bringing show to Kingsport: Black History Month Event

• KINGSPORT — The one-man show “Eye of the Storm” will be presented by Barter Theatre Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Center theater in Kingsport. The play is being performed as part of Black History Month events. Tickets are $19 for senior citizens and students and $21 for all others. The play is about Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., whose landmark judicial decision catapulted him into the center of the controversy surrounding the civil rights movement.