Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

James C. Cobb

Committee Members

Paul H. Bergeron, Bruce Wheeler, Bobby Leggett


The movement to establish a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee in the 1920s and 1930s was an exceedingly lengthy and complex process. In the seventeen years between the beginning of the park movement and the dedication of the park supporters had to overcome a number of serious obstacles raising over $10 million during difficult economic times, purchasing over six thousand individual tracts of land, overcoming the resistance of well-financed opposition, and weathering the storms of political battles and economic depression that threatened the movement at almost every turn. In order to overcome the massive hurdles inherent in such a large and politically charged project park supporters were able to forge an effective coalition of public and private forces. Local booster groups such as the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association in Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains, Inc. in North Carolina gave the movement tremendous enthusiasm and helped sell the idea of a national park, and its potential economic benefits, to the people of the region. The support of politicians in both states, swayed by both "business progressive" ideology and the popularity of the park movement, gave the movement credibility and at least part of the financial resources necessary to complete the project. The donation of $5 million by the Rockefeller family saved the project when it appeared as if it would fail. The ongoing interest of the Rockefeller Foundation helped insure the success of the project as its prodding, its influence at the highest levels of government and society, and its determination to see the movement through to completion kept the project moving. Finally, the assistance of the federal government through the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the office of the president, and Congress provided the stability, the guidance, and the financial assistance that helped make the par k a reality. With this cooperative effort public agencies and private groups provided a tremendous service to the nation and the region: establishing a national park that maintains a crucial wilderness area, provides recreational opportunities and enjoyment for millions of Americans, and at the same time yields important economic benefits for the region.

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