About Me

I was born and raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, a town that once sentenced an elephant to death and the last place Elvis ever played second on the bill. I graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and became the East Tennessee stringer for The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek. I wrote four editions of Moon Handbooks: Tennessee, a guidebook to the state–see cover below–and now live in Boulder, Colorado.

This blog is a part of www.tnguy.com, a website containing detailed information about Tennessee travel, culture, and heritage.


18 Responses to About Me

  1. Michael Weaver says:

    I’ve heard, for many years, that it was Erwin that hanged the elephant. Are there two doomed elephant stories here? If not, which is correct?

  2. tennesseeguy says:

    Mary, the elephant in question, was indeed hanged in Erwin, but the decision that led to her demise was made in Kingsport. Mary killed a man in Kingsport, but Erwin happened to be the only place with a crane large enough to execute an elephant. Several citizens of Erwin, over the years, have complained about the notoriety their town has collected, and feel that any opprobrium properly resides in Kingsport.

  3. Bob Cantler says:

    The irony of Mary the Elephant being hung was that they made all the other elephants watch. I guess this is to reinforce the purpose of Capital punishment. Do elephants ever forget?

    Speaking of Kingsport, they are doing some cool things to redevelop their downtown! keep an eye Kingsport, it’s not just about Eastman anymore…

  4. Lydia Simpson says:

    I just watched a “Tennessee Crossroads” show that featured a segment about the “Mayberry” town and we loved it!!! We love anything to do with the historical places, landmarks, and places such as this man and woman have built to share with people!! The story about Mary the elephant is sad—-Shame that animals have to suffer because of man’s faults—-rogue or not, she was a creature of the wild. Thanks for your website and your love for Tennessee!!

  5. Nancy Johnson says:


    I read your blog about the Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge, TN. I recently visited there and was wondering if you have any more information on who the current owner is or if there is any movement afoot to restore this historic landmark? Thanks!

    A Northerner that cares

  6. Sandy Ebersole says:

    I noticed a photograph posted to this blog showing lateral slip somewhere in the New Madrid earthquake zone. Do you know where exactly was this photo taken, or the county perhaps? Thanks.

  7. James Akenson says:

    I accidentally found the tennesseeguy! Will publicize it to teachers who are members of the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies. I need some help as well. I want to find contact nformation for Betty Ferguson, daughter of WDIA Memphis cofounder Bert Ferguson. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  8. tennesseeguy says:

    Alas, I have no contact infor for Betty Ferguson.

  9. Amy says:

    I have Tate desendants way too many to begin to list all the info. Great Grandmothe was Mary Tennessee Tate.

  10. Jim Purtell says:

    I’m curious since you covered the James Earl Ray escape, how many other escapes were successful from that facility and where can I get more information about any such escapes?

  11. tennesseeguy says:

    The key word in your question is “successful.” Is “successful” merely getting over the wall at Brushy Mountain prison or does it mean getting over the wall and never getting caught again? I don’t know of anyone who ever escaped from the prison and was never seen again. Most were caught, like James Earl Ray, within miles of the facility.

    As for more info, you can Google all this or read former Brushy Mountain warden Stonney Lane’s book, which you can get on Amazon. He was the warden when James Earl Ray tried to get away.

  12. Elizabeth Hewitt says:

    John Hitch of Mayberry in Knoxville,TN passed away last night at Tenova Main. What a wonderful friend and how he loved his music and Mayberry.

  13. Eloise Arnold Pruitt says:

    I remember Tate Springs when I was small, living in Knoxville. The Wesleyan Methodist Church had their camp meeting there at least once that I remember. Just a delight to find this after all these years.

  14. tommy d. chavous says:

    Is there a market for antique cock spurs ?

  15. kayla garn says:

    i was looking for websites where i can order game chickens thanks if u kno any plz send it to me

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