1959 Middlesboro, the park dedication, and ‘movers and shakers’

Published 10:13 am Friday, August 2, 2019

By William H. Baker

Contributing Writer

Who are the movers and shakers in our world? Who were they that provided leadership for the 1959 dedication of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park?

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As a resident of Middlesboro and a volunteer with the Park Dedication Committee headed by Harry M. Hoe, I recall a few of those leaders.

Recently, I discovered a quote from Charles Krauthammer, noted author, newspaper columnist, and television commentator. His reference took me back in memory to 1959 and to those whose leadership led to the great national historical park that is here for all Americans to enjoy and appreciate.

Krauthammer wrote this for the National Review in 2012: “…the most formative, most important influence on the individual is not government. It is civil society, those elements of the collectivity that lie outside government: family, neighborhood, church, Rotary Club, PTA, the voluntary associations that Alexis de Tocqueville understood to be the genius of America and source of its energy and freedom.”

Those movers and shakers from the 1950s were closely allied with family, neighborhood, church and with civic and service clubs. Several of them had served in the military during World War II. They were part of the “Greatest Generation.”

They were residents of the tri-state area, several of whom had a long history of support for the development of the park at Cumberland Gap. Dr. Robert L. Kincaid, Howard Douglas, Tom Fugate and many others were actively involved before Congress authorized the park in 1940.

Harry Hoe, Marvin Mayhall, Juanita Smith (Mrs. Kirby, Jr.), Clinton Broadwater, Eb Nagle, Preston Green, Helen Kincaid Henry, Richard Tamer, Maurice Henry, Lee Campbell, all of Middlesboro, provided their leadership skills. And, the same for Lawrence Russell of Claiborne County, Tom Fugate of Lee County, and Preston Slusher of Pineville. So many that I mention only a few of those I remember working with.

Dean Guy, superintendent, and Lloyd Abelson, historian, from the park pitched in as volunteers as well as officials and helped tremendously in making it a seamless group from the tri-state area.

The Lions Club members built an information “house” for the dedication and placed it on U.S. 25E to be of service to visitors. The Kiwanis Club was active. So were the Jaycees.

At a post-dedication meeting of the Dedication Committee, someone suggested a thank you to all who had worked for this event. Another said, “Let’s just publish the telephone directory. Almost everyone in the area had something to do with the success.”

So, perhaps those of us who remember and those of a new generation can best express thanks by mirroring what those movers and shakers accomplished for us and for the country. Visit. Volunteer. Support. Words and action that will benefit the park and the thousands who visit Cumberland Gap each year.

William H. Baker is a Claiborne County native and former resident of Middlesboro. Email: wbaker@limestone.edu