Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Paul H. Bergeron

Committee Members

Charles O. Jackson, Charles W. Johnson


The endeavor to establish a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains was begun in the 1920's, a period that historians of the South and of Tennessee have labeled Progressive. The intent of this study of the role of Knoxvillians in founding the national park was to determine if the drive is a reflection of this Progressivism. From the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association until the dedication of the park by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, Knoxvillians were at the "helm" of the movement to have a national park established in the nearby Smoky Mountains. These interested individuals sought and received the aid of the federal government, the state government, Tennessee citizens, local, state, and national civic and charitable organizations, and various philanthropists. To a large extent, the commitment and labor of Knoxvillians was what assured the establishment of the park.

The activities surrounding the drive for a national park by the citizens of Knoxville do agree with the type of Progressivism applied to the South and to Tennessee for the period of the 1920s. Knoxville's concern for progress, which to a large extent meant increased personal wealth, is quite evident in the press and in the correspondence of those leading the park drive. The traditional conservative goal of conservation can certainly be seen in the arguments presented to justify the need for a national park. Other Progressive goals, such as improved road and better schools, are also closely linked to the park endeavor. Although one should not generalize from a single civic endeavor, one can argue that the results of this study do serve to support the broader theses of Progressivism that historians have used to characterize both Tennessee and the South in the 1920s.

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