The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial honors more than 6,200 veterans from across 35 East Tennessee counties who have been killed during military service from World War I to the present day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Memorial includes a public plaza, a 50-foot flagpole and a 27-foot-high bell tower which is inscribed with the four essential freedoms from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's January 6, 1941 speech to Congress "the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear." In addition, the names of 14 Medal of Honor recipients from East Tennessee are inscribed on the pillars.
The idea of a Memorial was established in 1999 after William "Bill" Felton III, (a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves) returned home from visiting Normandy, France. He was deeply moved by the thousands of white crosses in the Normandy cemeteries, marking the graves of those who never got a chance to return home and pursue careers, raise families, further their education and participate in opportunities of post-World War II America.
Felton vowed to return home and work to honor and remember those who died and during the ensuing years, he doggedly pursued his dream. The scope of the project was later expanded to include all names on the physical Memorial of those who died in military service from the beginning of World War I to the present day and to include the entire 35-county, regional East Tennessee area and his dream was realized with the dedication of the Memorial on November 15th, 2008.
Early supporters of the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial included Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and the Knox County Commission who approved $1.25 million for the project and Congressman Jimmy Duncan, who helped secured $475,000 HUD grant while the State of Tennessee provided an additional $500,000. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam promised to find a site for the Memorial and in early 2006, Haslam recommended – and City Council approved – the 8000- square foot plot at the northernedge of Knoxville's World's Fair Park near the historic L& N Railroad Station. A private fund drive commenced to raise the remaining $3 million needed for completion of this project. Today theMemorial is maintained and operated by the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association, a 501(c)3 charitable organization entirely funded by private contributions.
The 35 counties included in the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial are Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Claiborne, Carter, Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hancock, Hamilton, Hamblen, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Polk, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union and Washington.
The Memorial itself was designed by architect Lee Ingram of the Knoxville firm Brewer Ingram Fuller.
- There are roughly 138 tons of granite in the Memorial – over a quarter of a million pounds.
- Most of the granite – all the white stone in the monuments and all the gray paving – comes from about 40 miles west of Yosemite National Park in California.
- The red granite paving comes from about 75 miles north of San Antonio, Texas.
- The black granite border is from a Quebec quarry about 125 miles north of Quebec City and about 135 miles from Maine.
THE MEMORIAL BELL:
- Weighs 693 pounds; Musical Note: B; Diameter 31 ½"; Rung by Inside electric striker (the clapper is mounted inside the bell); Cast of 80% copper and 20% tin; Cast by Petit and Fritsen Royal Bellfoundry, The Netherlands; Sold by The Verdin Company, Cincinnati, OH