Talking about Tennessee is one of the best states to live in in the U.S. Tennessee is known for its music scene, high-quality whiskey, and is home to the Great Smokies. Country music artists and singers such as Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton hail from Tennessee, and the state has a lot of talents who have grown to become influential in their capacities.
Famous for its country music, low cost of living, southern comfort food, and beautiful natural landscape. It is the second cheapest state to live in the United States and the number one state to retire.
So, in this article, we’ll look at Tennessee’s most influential people. We carefully selected our list of famous people in Tennessee based on verifiable data on the web.
Most Influential People in Tennessee
Here are the most influential people in Tennessee
#1. James Agee
James Rufus Agee is a writer and poet. He a born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on November 27, 1909. Previously, he was an American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter, and film critic.
In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
When Agee was six, his father died in an automobile accident. From seven, he and his younger sister, Emma, were educated in boarding schools. The most influential of these was located near his mother’s summer cottage two miles from Sewanee, Tennessee.
#2. Eddy Arnold
Richard Edward Arnold was an American country music singer who performed for six decades. He was a Nashville sound (country/popular music) innovator of the late 1950s and scored 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts, second only to George Jones.
On May 15, 1918, Arnold was born on a farm near Henderson, Tennessee. His father, a sharecropper, played the fiddle, while his mother played guitar.
As a boy, Arnold helped on the farm, later gaining his nickname – the Tennessee Plowboy.
Eddy Arnold attended Pinson High School in Pinson, Tennessee, where he played guitar at school functions and events. He dropped out before graduation to help with the farm work, but continued performing, often arriving on a mule with his guitar hung on his back. Arnold also worked part-time as an assistant at a mortuary.
#3. Doug Atkins
Douglas Leon Atkins is one of the most influential people in Tennessee. He was an American professional football player who was a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans Saints in the National Football League (NFL).
Atkins played college football for the Tennessee Volunteers under head coach Robert Neyland. He was a fierce defender known for using his immense size and agility to his advantage, at 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m).
Furthermore, Atkins was born May 8, 1930, in Humboldt, Tennessee. He attended Humboldt High School and played for the school’s basketball team, which won the state championship in 1949 with an undefeated record.
#4. Chet Atkins
Lutrell Chester Burton Atkins, better known as Chet Atkins, was born on June 20, 1924.
He was an American guitarist and record producer who created, along with Owen Bradley, the smoother country music style known as the Nashville sound, which expanded the country’s appeal to adult pop music fans.
His picking style, inspired by Merle Travis, Django Reinhardt, George Barnes, and Les Paul, brought him admirers within and outside the country scene, both in the United States and internationally.
Atkins produced records for Perry Como, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, Jerry Reed, Skeeter Davis, Connie Smith, Waylon Jennings, and others.
Among many honors, Atkins received 14 Grammy Awards and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, making him one of the most famous people in Tennessee.
#5. Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress, and philanthropist born in Sevierville on the 19th 0f January 1946. Also, she is best known for her work in country music, making her one of the most influential people in Tennessee.
In the four-and-a-half decades since her national-chart début, she remains one of the most successful female artists in the history of the country genre, which garnered her the title of ”The Queen of Country Music.
Also, She is known for her distinctive soprano, sometimes bawdy humor, flamboyant dress sense, and voluptuous figure.
Her family was, as she described them, “dirt poor.” She told her family’s shortness of money in her song “Coat of Many Colors.”
Furthermore, Music formed a significant part of her early church experience. She once told an interviewer that her grandfather was a Pentecostal “holy-roller” preacher. Today, when appearing in live concerts, she frequently performs spiritual songs.
#6. Sondra Locke
Shelbyville Sondra Locke is one of the most influential people in Tennessee. She is an American actress, singer, and film director and was born on May 28, 1947.
Sondra Locke was born and raised in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Her parents are Alfred and Pauline Locke. She has one older brother, Don.
Locke was the valedictorian of the Shelbyville Central High School class of 1962. She attended Middle Tennessee State University for a year before dropping out to pursue an acting career.
Furthermore, she made her film debut in 1968 in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Also, Locke got a career boost in 1976 when she played a pioneer woman opposite Clint Eastwood in the western classic The Outlaw Josey Wales.
#7. Estes Kefauver
Estes Kefauver is one of the most influential people in Tennessee. Carey Estes Kefauver was born on July 26, 1903
He was an American politician from Tennessee who opposed the concentration of economic and political power under the control of a wealthy, exclusive elite and favored racial equality. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 – 1949 and in the U.S. Senate from 1949 to his death in 1963.
After leading a much-publicized investigation into organized crime in the early 1950s, he twice sought his Party’sParty’s nomination for President of the United States.
In 1956, he was selected by the Democratic National Convention to be the running mate of presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson.
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#8. Benjamin L. Hooks
Benjamin Lawson Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 31, 1925. He is an American civil rights leader, a Baptist minister, and a practicing attorney.
He served as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1992. Throughout his career, he has been a vocal campaigner for civil rights in the United States. Executive director of the NAACP, attorney, and clergyman.
Benjamin Hooks was the fifth of seven children of Robert B. Hooks and Bessie White Hooks. His father was a photographer and owned a photography studio with his brother Henry known at the time as Hooks Brothers. The family was fairly comfortable by the standards of black people for the day.
Still, he recalls that he had to wear hand-me-down clothes and that his mother had to be careful to make the dollars stretch to feed and care for the family. In his youth, he had felt called to the Christian ministry. But, his father disapproved and discouraged Benjamin from such a calling.
#9. Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore, Jr. is one of the top influential people in Tennessee; he was born on March 31, 1948, but raised in Carthage, Albert Arnold. He is the former 45th Vice President of the United States who served from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.
He is currently an author, businessperson, and American environmental activist who starred in the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Academy Award in 2007.
Also, Gore wrote the book An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, which won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in February 2009.
He was involved in American politics for 24 years, serving first in the U.S. House of Representatives (1977–85) and later in the U.S. Senate (1985–93) (representing Tennessee) before becoming vice president. Gore was the Democratic nominee for president in the 2000 presidential election.
#10. Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943; she is a Grammy-nominated American poet, activist, and author. Giovanni is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Nikki was born into the family of Yolande Cornelia, Sr., and Jones “Gus” Giovanni. She grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1960 began her studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, her grandfather’s alma mater.
She graduated in 1967 with honors, receiving a B.A. in history. Afterward, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
In 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Livingston College of Rutgers University. She is an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Furthermore, she has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. Also, Giovanni’sGiovanni’s writing has been heavily inspired by African American activists and artists, making her one of the top influential people in Tennessee.
I hope the article helps you know more about Tennessee’s influential people.