The Technical Society of Knoxville is a group of persons interested in technology and science, and their effects on society, and in particular, on the community. The Society was founded in 1921 by Charles E. Ferris, dean of the UT College of Engineering. When he was asked why he founded it, he said “For the good it can do.” And that is still the purpose after 95 years.
The society has provided expert advice and expert assistance to the Knoxville area and has served to educate the members and the public in areas where technology is having or can have an impact on the community.
The hallmark of the Technical Society is its Monday Luncheon. On the second Monday of each month the program features a speaker on a subject of technical, scientific, or general interest. Over 4000 luncheon meetings have been held over the past 95 years. The presentations are planned to be informative and educational, and provide person to person contact with experts in the field.
Meetings take place at the Crowne Plaza on Summit Hill Drive in downtown Knoxville. Complimentary self parking is available in the hotel garage. Meeting attendees receive a token for exiting the garage without charge after the meeting. Members and guests begin arriving around 11:30 and go through the buffet line. Cost is $13 per person payable in cash or by check in the meeting room to the designated collector. Meetings are called to order at 11:55. After a brief transaction of Society business, the guest speaker is introduced. Normally, presentations take about 50 minutes. Time is usually allocated for questions from the audience. The meetings are adjourned at 1:00pm.
Some programs are scheduled as professional development hours (PDH) to meet the State of Tennessee’s continuing education requirements. These special meetings consist of at least 50 minutes of prepared presentation with discussion reserved for the time after the meeting. The State Licensing Board does not pre-approve such hours; the TSK does not guarantee approval, but strictly meets the Board-specified requirements. A certificate of attendance is available. Meetings are announced in the Sunday News Sentinel Business bulletins.
Guests are welcome.
An old institution with a young spirit, the Technical Society of Knoxville has built an enviable record of contributions to the public welfare of Knoxville, Knox County, and the surrounding area. Always concerned with education in engineering architecture, planning, and physical sciences, the Society has supported many of the programs of the University of Tennessee, from career guidance for pre-freshmen to furnishing Judges for Engineers Day. The Society has selected advisors for the Pellissippi State Technical Community College staff, and sponsored the formation of Junior Engineering Technical Societies (JETS) in area high schools. Speakers are provided, upon request, for high school career days. TSK has sponsored awards and assisted in management of the annual Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair. TSK provides a member of the Knox County Air Pollution Control Board.
The expertise and advice of the Society’s membership is made available, upon request and without cost to the departments of local governments as well as UT, Pellissippi State and other institutions of higher learning. The membership has established a scholarship fund at the University in honor of its Founder, Dean Charles E. Ferris of the College of Engineering. The advisory capabilities of the membership cover a wide field: planning, building codes, flood problems, parking and traffic problems, to name only a few.
The Technical Society of Knoxville has had outstanding leadership during it’s many years of serving the Knoxville region community. Look through the list and send any information you have on these leaders to firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles E. Ferris 1921 first dean of UT College of Engineering
William Whaley 1922
Charles I. Barber 1923
Charles A. Perkins 1924
M. F. Nichols 1925
M. F. Nichols 1926
Elmer V. Gmeiner 1927
Harley A. Coy 1928
Alvin R. Murphy 1929
Robert C. Matthews 1930
A. H. Mills – E. A. Sehorn 1931
George M. Hall 1932
Hal H. Hale 1933
J. G. Tarboux 1934
Sidney W. Reese 1935
Mark B. Whitaker 1936
Albert S. Fry 1937
F. L. Wilkinson – G. E. Tomlinson 1938
George E. Tomlinson 1939
Nathan W. Dougherty 1940
Robert A. Monroe 1941
Harry Wiersema 1942
Burgess B. Brier 1943
Robert H. Whitten 1944
Van Court M. Hare 1945
Armour T. Granger 1946
Max C. Bartlett 1947
Harry B. Tour 1948
Wilson New 1949
Paris B. Stockdale 1950
Reed A. Elliot 1951
Ernest M. Barnes 1952
Robert H. Nagel 1953
Fred A. Hoeke 1954
Franklin Pitcher 1955
C. Earl Eubanks 1956
Bob J. Buehler 1957
Robert F. Collignon 1958
Nicholls W. Bowden 1959
John W. Crabtree 1960
Everett Scroggie 1961
Lawrence E. Marshall – Nathan E. Way 1962
Wylie A. Bowmaster 1963
E. R. McGlothin – Eldridge A. Whitehurst 1964
O. Wendell Anderton 1965
Julian P. Hinton 1966
Robert Kims Collins, Jr. 1967
C. Edwin Kelso 1968
John A. Brown, Jr. 1969
Thomas C. Bounds 1970
Fred N. Peebles 1971
Willard W. Bedwell, Jr. 1972
Glenn R. Wall 1973
Edward P. Bales 1974
William K. Stair 1975
Colby V. Ardis, Jr. 1976
Mancil W. Milligan 1977
I. O. Johnson 1978
J. P. Morgan, Jr. 1979
Corydon W. Bell, Jr. 1980
Stanley D. Sajkowsky 1981
Robert R. Scott, III* 1982
James W. Keller 1983
Ervin F. Newman 1984
A. L. (Augie) Mazetti – John M. Burka 1985
William B. Rentenbach 1986
James K. Goddard, Jr. 1987
Stephen J. Hillenbrand* 1988
Jack L. Davis * 1989
Willard H. Sitton 1990
Lillian Mashburn 1991
Roger E. Hawks 1992
William B. Gardner 1993
Wayne Loveday* 1994
Richard R. Stache 1995
Walter O. Wunderlich* 1996
Ronald Mauer 1997
Giles S. Dye 1998
Harold Draper 1999
Lochlin W. Caffey 2000
Phillip Dodson 2001
Kim Davis 2002
Peter Scheffler* 2003
Linda M. Murawski 2004
Allen Coggins* – Ted Lundy* 2005
Stephen Levy* 2006
Richard M. Berry 2007
Jean-Pierre Granju* 2008
Ely Driver* 2009
Tim Moran 2010
Berny Ilgner* 2011
Ken Barry * 2012
Leira Douthet * 2013
Bruce Glanville * 2014
The Technical Society of Knoxville’s proposed changes in italics:
Name, Location and Object
Section 1. The name of this association shall be THE TECHNICAL SOCIETY OF KNOXVILLE, abbreviated TSK.
Section 2. The location of the Society shall be in the City of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the place for meetings and the transaction of business shall be selected by the Board of Directors.
Section 3. The Purpose of this Society shall be as follows:
a) To promote the advancement of the technical and allied arts and sciences or their branches
b) To unite, in an educational manner for their mutual welfare, the engineers, scientists, and other persons engaged or interested in the technical professions, arts and sciences within the City of Knoxville and vicinity.
c) To aid in an educational manner, the public in the solution of civic problems involvingengineering or scientific matters, and to encourage research in and investigations of such problems of public interest; to provide means of service, publications, and instructions on subjects tending to improve or increase the technical skill and social usefulness of persons engaged in technical or scientific pursuits or other allied activities; and to promote facilities for mutual contact and discussion.
d) To do all things incidental to the foregoing or for the professional improvement, social intercourse, and maintenance of high professional standards of its members.
Section 4. The means to be employed for this purpose shall be the holding of meetings of the Society for the consideration of matters affecting the welfare of its members; for the presentations and discussion of topics of interest and the reports of committees; for promoting social and professional gatherings; and for the examination and study of achievements and subjects of scientific and technical knowledge.
Section 1. Classes of membership in this Society shall be Members and Honorary Members.
Sections 2. Members shall be persons now or formerly engaged in the pursuit of engineering, architecture, physics, chemistry biosciences, earth sciences, or allied arts and sciences in a broad sense, such as economics, urban and industrial development, information science . At the time of application for membership, a prospective member shall have graduated from an accredited school of engineering, architecture, or science; and shall have had at least four years’ active practice or equivalent professional experience in his field. Membership in leading national engineering, technical, or scientific societies shall be recognized as a satisfactory professional qualification.
Section 3. Honorary Members shall be persons who, as members, have made outstanding contributions to the Society and who have achieved reasonable eminence in engineering, architecture, physics, chemistry, or allied arts and sciences. The number of Honorary Members living in the Knoxville area shall not exceed five percent of the total membership of the Society, including Honorary Members, on January 1 of the current year.
Section 4. Teaching engineering or science in accredited schools shall be held equivalent to an equal number of years of active practice.
Section 5. Rights and privileges for all grades of membership shall be equal except that only members in good standing shall have the right to vote and hold office in the Society.
Admissions and Expulsions
Sections 1. Application for Membership shall be made in such form as may be prescribed by the Board of Directors and shall include a concise statement, with dates, of the applicant’s professional training and experience, reference to at least three members in good standing who are personally acquainted with the applicant, and a pledge to conform with the requirements of Membership if elected. The application shall be signed by the applicant.
Section 2. Honorary Members shall be elected by a majority of the members of the Board of Directors. Announcement and presentation of new Honorary Members shall be made at the discretion of the Board of Directors, preferably at the next Annual Meeting of the Society.
Section 3. Election of Members shall be made by the Board of Directors in accordance with the following procedure:
(a) the applicant submits an application. The Board of Directors decides on the applicant’s suitability by majority vote.
(b) not less than seven days after such publication the Board of Directors shall act upon the application and shall give due consideration to any report from any member. Two negative votes in the Board of Directors shall reject the applicant.
(b) After an applicant is approved for Membership by the Board of Directors, the Secretary shall notify the applicant thereof; but the applicant shall not become a Member until the current dues are paid within thirty days after such notification.
(c) on satisfactory completion of membership requirements, the applicant’s name and brief qualifications shall be announced at the next meeting and published in the Soupçon.
Section 4. Resignation of any member from the Society shall be communicated in writing to the Secretary. The Board of Directors shall not accept such resignation until all indebtedness to the Society shall have been satisfactorily discharged or excused by the Board of Directors.
Section 5. Expulsion of any member or a request for resignation, for reason other than delinquency in payment of dues, shall require affirmative vote by five members of the Board of Directors, and if such action is taken, the Secretary shall formally notify the said member. The Board shall consider such action upon written request of ten members.
Section 1. Annual dues of Members shall be determined by the Board of Directors, subject to ratification by the membership, and shall be payable the first Monday after January 1. A one-time fee for a name badge and a TSK label pin is levied for new members at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Honorary Members shall not be required to pay any dues or assessments.
Section 2. Fractional dues for the current years shall be charged to any person elected to membership after March 31 of that year. Percentages of dues for new members shall be assessed as follows:
January through March: 100 %
April through June: 80 %
July through September: 60 %
October through November: 40 %
December: dues for next year.
The annual dues shall cover the calendar year and be payable starting January 1st for current members, and at the time of admission for new members.
Section 3. Arrears in dues on the part of any Member after April 30 shall automatically suspend the member’s good standing until such dues have been paid, unless payment is excused or the time of payment is extended by the Board of Directors. The treasurer shall notify in writing, before November 30 of each year, each member whose dues were in arrears on October 31 of that year. Mailing of the Soupçon to the suspended member will cease after that date. Arrears in dues on the part of any Member after December 31 shall automatically terminate membership in the Society unless the Board of Directors takes action to the contrary. The name will be removed from the following yearbook’s membership register.
Section 4. Extension of time for payment of dues and for the application of any penalty shall be at the discretion of the Board of Directors. The Board may also, for sufficient cause, temporarily excuse from the payment of annual dues any Member who for any good reason is unable to pay dues.
Section 1. Officers of the Society shall be a President, a First Vice-President, who shall also be President-Elect except as provided in Article VI, Section 5, a Second Vice-President, two Directors, the last Past-President who retains membership in the Society, and a Secretary and a Treasurer. These eight officers shall constitute the Board of Directors, in which the government of the Society shall be vested, and they shall be the Trustees of the Society under the laws of the State of Tennessee. A majority of the Board of Directors shall constitute a quorum. The Secretary and the Treasurer shall be appointed annually by the Board of Directors. It is possible for one person to cumulate these two responsibilities. All other officers shall be members of the Society duly elected to office.
Section 2. The President shall have the general supervision of the affairs of the Society and shall preside at the meetings of the Society and of the Board of Directors. The President shall have power to appoint all committees and shall be ex-officio member of all standing committees.
Section 3. The Vice-President, in the order of seniority, shall preside at the meeting in the absence of the President, and shall assume and discharge all duties thereof. The First Vice-President, assisted by the Second Vice-President, shall have the supervision of the programs presented at the weekly meetings; he/she may select monthly program chairpersons who shall have the responsibility of inviting speakers, obtaining the titles and subjects of their presentations, indicating whether or not the programs qualify for Professional Development Hour credit, forwarding the previous information to the Secretary in time for publication in the Soupçon and diffusion to the media, and verifying the availability of any equipment needed.
Section 4. The Directors shall be members who have shown an interest in the affairs of the Society and attended regularly the meetings over the preceding years. They shall make a diligent effort to attend all Board meetings. Their terms shall be limited to four years.
Section 5. The Secretary and the Treasurer shall if possible attend all meetings of the Society and of the Board of Directors. The Secretary/Treasurer or a person designated by the Board of Directors shall preserve true minutes of the proceedings of all such meetings. The Secretary/Treasurer shall keep a record of all ballots canvassed; he/she shall give all notices required by the Constitution or by resolution; he/she shall perform such other duties as may from time to time be assigned to him/her by the Board of Directors.
Section 6. The Secretary /Treasurer shall have custody of all funds and securities, and shall keep in books belonging to the Society, a full and accurate account of all receipts and disbursements. He/she shall receive all money paid into the Society, shall deposit or invest said money in the name of the Technical Society of Knoxville, and shall take proper vouchers for and make all disbursements as may be ordered by the Board of Directors. He/she shall make a diligent effort to collect all money due the Society. He/she shall render to the Board of Directors at its regular meetings, and whenever requested by it, an account of all his transactions as Treasurer and of the financial condition of the Society; he/she shall also furnish, whenever requested, a statement of receipts and expenditures to the Board of Directors and shall present annually to the Board of Directors a balance sheet of the TSK’s books as of December 31.
Section 7. The Board of Directors shall manage the affairs of the Society in conformity with the laws and rules under which it was organized and the provisions of this Constitution. The Board shall hold regular meetings once a month whenever necessary, but at least twice a year to pass upon applications and questions of membership, to properly approve bills for payment, to direct the policies and generally conduct the business of the Society and shall adopt such rules as may be necessary to transact its business under this Constitution. At least once in each calendar year, the Board shall render a report to the Society giving information on the status of Society affairs. The Board shall have power to fill vacancies that may occur except in the offices of President and First Vice-President.
Election of Officers
Section 1. At the first regular meeting in October, the President shall appoint a Nominating Committee of five members, whose duties shall be to nominate members for the offices of President-Elect who shall also be the First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, and two Directors. Only members shall be appointed to the Nominating Committee who, in the opinion of the President, have shown an active interest in the Society. The Nominating Committee shall not nominate a member for any office without first having obtained the consent of that member, nor shall it nominate the same member for more than one office. At the first regular meeting in November, the Nominating Committee shall submit to the Secretary a list of the nominations, and the Secretary shall thereupon announce the nominees. No officer of the Society shall be eligible to a place on the Nominating Committee, nor shall a committee nominate any of its own members to any office. At the next two regular meetings, any group or groups of five or more members in good standing may nominate, in writing, other members for any or all offices.
Section 2. The President of the Society, after having served in office for a full term shall not be eligible for immediate re-election. The First Vice-President, who shall also be President-Elect, shall accede to the office of President upon expiration of the President’s term.
Section 3. If no nominations are received in addition to those named by the Nominating Committee, the President shall declare the nominations closed and shall conduct an election of officers by voice vote. If additional nominations are received by the third regular meeting after the first regular meeting in November, ballots shall be prepared by the Secretary for voting at the next regular meeting. The ballots shall bear the names of members nominated for each office and shall provide a blank space so that members may vote for other qualified candidates by writing in the name of such persons. Ballots shall be distributed, at the next regular meeting, to all attending members in good standing, shall be cast during the meeting, and shall be opened and canvassed immediately by tellers appointed by the President. Majority of the ballots cast shall elect to any office. In the election of Directors, if more than two receive a vote greater than a majority of the ballots cast, the two receiving the most votes shall be elected. In case no one receives a majority for a certain office, a runoff election shall be held immediately between the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes cast for that office. No member shall hold more than one office in the Society at any one time., except the positions of First Vice-President and President-Elect.
Section 4. At the first meeting in December following the conclusion of the balloting and election process, the newly elected officers shall be announced and shall assume their respective office in January following the Annual Meeting installation.
Section 5. The term of office of all offices shall be for one year, except for the Directors, the Secretary and the Treasurer. The retiring President shall automatically hold over as a member of the Board of Directors for the succeeding year. The term of each officer shall begin on the first Monday after January 1 following his election, when he shall assume office, and shall continue for the period above mentioned or until his successor is duly elected.
Section 6. Vacancy in the office of President or First Vice-President shall be filled by the First or Second Vice-President, respectively, and a new Second Vice-President shall be elected not by majority vote of the Board of Directors. In such event, the new First Vice-President shall not be deemed to be the President-Elect, and both a President and a President-Elect shall be chosen in the next election.
Section 1. Appointment of standing committees shall be made by the President at the first regular meeting of the Board in January. These shall be Attendance & Membership, Program & Annual Meeting, Finance, Public Relations, Meeting Room, Soupçon, Yearbook & Directory, and Budget Committees. The President shall also appoint from time to time, with the approval of the Board of Directors, special committees to report on subjects of technical or public interest, or of special interest to the Society.
Section 2. The Board of Directors shall investigate the eligibility of applicants for membership in the Society, and shall also perform such other duties as may be deemed necessary by the majority of the Board for fostering and promoting membership in and the goals of the Society consistent with this Constitution.
Section 3. The Program Committee shall provide programs for all meetings of the Society, and the outgoing committee shall be responsible for the program for the annual meeting. The Program Committee shall have the power to appoint subcommittees from among the members of the Society to take charge of such special entertainments or social activities as the Society may elect to hold. The First Vice-President may appoint a Program Committee to assist him/her in the scheduling of the programs.
Section 4. The Board of Directors shall audit the accounts of the Treasurer at least once each year, and shall have supervision of the financial affairs of the Society. A financial report shall be published annually.
Section 5. The Program Committee shall keep the members of the Society informed of Society activities, and shall provide the program to be published in the Society’s publication, THE TECHNICAL SOUPÇON, and its annual publication, the Year Book. The SOUPÇON will be prepared and posted on the website before the beginning of each month distributed monthly by the Secretary. A few printed copies of the current Soupçon will be brought to the meetings by the Secretary and given to the speaker and the visitors, and made available to members present. The Yearbook/Directory will be prepared by the Program Committee Secretary under the direction of the President.
Section 6. The Public Relations Committee shall endeavor to keep the general public informed of the activities of the Society, shall bring to the attention of the Society any matters of public or technical interest, and shall represent the Society in its contacts with civic, public, or private organizations within the vicinity of Knoxville. Special committees for specific purposes, such as liaison with civic, public, or private organizations within the vicinity of Knoxville shall be nominated and authorized by the Board of Directors. The Committee shall be responsible for notifying the news media about programs.
Section 7. The Attendance Committee shall endeavor, by means of personal contacts, special announcements, or any other methods that they may devise, to increase attendance at the regular and special meetings of the Society.
Section 8. The Meeting Room Committee shall make arrangements for a regular meeting place and shall register any complaint of the membership as to food, service, lighting, ventilation, or any other complaint about the place of meeting. The Committee shall also at the direction of the President arrange for necessary decorations and service for special meetings. The cost of meals shall be determined by the Meeting Committee which shall include the meal, gratuity, and meeting place cost. The cost shall be reviewed by the Treasurer and recommended to the Board of Directors for approval.
Section 1. Regular meetings of the Society shall be held each Monday, from 11:45 am to 1 pm, unless canceled or changed by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall have power to change the time and place of any or all regular meetings and to call such special meetings at any time as may be deemed advisable.
Section 2. The Annual Meeting shall be held during January on a date approved by the outgoing President, at which time the annual reports of officers and committees of the preceding year shall be presented and other business may be transacted.
Section 3. A quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting shall consist of at least fifteen percent of the number of members eligible to vote. No business other than that mentioned in the call shall be transacted at any special meeting.
Section 4. The order of business to be observed at any meeting shall be determined by the Board of Directors, and such order of business shall not be suspended except by a majority vote of the members present.
Section 5. A resolution or motion concerning other than the internal affairs of the Society shall be out of order at a meeting of the Society unless submission shall have been approved by the Board of Directors, or a copy thereof shall have been in the possession of the President or the Secretary for at least three days.
Section 1. Any proposed amendments to this Constitution must be submitted in writing, signed by not less than five members eligible to vote, and shall be filed with the Secretary, who shall read the same to the Society at the next meeting. Not less than two weeks’ notice of the proposed amendments shall then be given, and the President shall set the date of meeting at which the amendments will be voted on. A two-thirds affirmative vote of all members present shall be necessary for the adoption of the proposed amendments.
History of the Technical Society of Knoxville
1921 – 1984
Evelyn Elliot Wilcox
Dedicated to the late Helen H. Mason,
beloved member of this Society
whose idea led to this publication,
and to the memory of my father,
Reed Archer Elliot, who served as
President of the Technical Society
I. The Early Years 1921-1929. . . . . 1
II. The Depression, TVA, and World War II 1930-1949. . . 11
III. Transition Years 1950-1960 . . . . . . . . . . 25
IV. Challenge and Change 1960-1984 . . . . . . . . 33
THE EARLY YEARS 1921-1929
Since 1921 the Knoxville Technical Society has been a vital part of Knoxville’s civic and professional life. Its members have involved themselves in virtually every aspect of Knoxville’s development. In fact, the Society’s concerns over the years reflect the problems and challenges which have faced the city. It has served as a sounding board for new ideas and as a forum for dissemination of technological information. weekly meetings have brought together a diverse membership from the private sector, the University of Tennessee, and TVA, and have introduced many newcomers into the community.
The founding of the Technical Society by prominent members of Knoxville’s academic and business community was an expression of the belief in progress and in the area’s future potential which was current at the time. In the 1920’s Knoxville, like most of the country, seemed to be flourishing and was thought to be on the threshold of even greater growth. The population was increasing, building permits were at a record high, taxes were low, and the young population (82.93 percent of the city’s population was under 45) was optimistic about the future. New advances were being made in science and technology and locally the University of Tennessee was making plans for expansion. As a result, some Knoxvillians saw a need for a civic and professional group which would help them stay abreast of new trends. The Technical Society served this purpose and its members hoped that it could serve the community as well, for underneath the prosperous surface were disturbing problems. Knoxville’s neighborhoods were changing, polarizing along class and racial lines. Prosperity existed alongside pockets of poverty. Working class citizens were faced with low wages and no job security. City government was plagued by factionalism. Its high bonded indebtedness prevented the city from providing many needed services. Pollution was a problem and planning was virtually nonexistent. Over the years the Technical Society would address itself to many of these problems.
Charles Ferris, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, founded the Knoxville Technical Society. In later years he was to say that the idea came to him after attending early UT highway engineering conferences. On April 26, 1921, Ferris invited a few of his colleagues to dinner at Good’s Cafe, where preliminary plans were laid for an organization which would include “all Knoxville’s engineers and technical men.” Dean Ferris served as toastmaster. He introduced as the evening’s speakers W. M. Fulton, Dr. C. A. Perkins, Dr. H. A. Morgan, William Whaley, E. A. Seahorn, N. W. Dougherty, Dewey Hunt, James Dempster, R. C. Matthews, and Calvin Rice, who was national secretary of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The Knoxville Sentinel for the following day reported that the new organization “will address itself to civic problems when these arise, each problem being considered by a group especially adapted to the work.” Reminiscing about the dinner twenty-five years later, Ferris modestly said that Calvin Rice “by means of an excellent dinner, a good idea and a good purpose, interested a dozen Knoxville technical men in forming a society which would serve the surrounding community by supplying technical guidance in civic problems.”
Formal-organization of the Technical Society was deferred until June 6, 1921, in order to coincide with the dedication of Morgan Hall, UT agriculture building, and the dedication the next day of Ayres Hall. It was hoped that the spirit of progress implicit in these events would be symbolic of the new Society. The first meeting was a dinner at the Business Men’s Club. A constitution was adopted unanimously.
Charles Ferris was elected president. First vice-president was William Whaley; second vice-president, C. I. Barber; treasurer was E. A. Seahorn; and N. W. Dougherty served as secretary. W. B. Crenshaw and F. W. Webster were elected directors for two-year terms and John Graf for one year. The meeting was addressed by two well-known engineers who were made honorary members of the Society: Thomas McDonald, chief engineer of the United States Bureau of Public Roads; and C. J. Tilden, professor of structural engineering at Yale University.
In accepting the presidency, Dean Ferris said that he wanted to see the Society organized “for the good it could do.” Professor John A. Switzer of UT invited the members to join the University in its work. He especially hoped that the Society would aid in building an engineering library at UT.
The Society began with forty-eight members. Some were professors or graduates of the College of Engineering. Others were engineers who had come to Knoxville to supervise various local industries. All were brought together in the Society by the dynamic personality of Charles Ferris, whom former UT President James Hoskins called “one of the most beloved men ever on the Hill.”
Ferris had come to Knoxville in 1892 as an instructor in mechanical drawing at UT. Born in Napoleon, Ohio in 1864, he received his B.S. degree from Michigan Agricultural College (later Michigan State) in 1890 and did graduate work at McGill University, Montreal. He said that his early schooling consisted of reading the Bible, Oliver Twist, state agricultural reports, and a collection of biographies of famous’criminals. When he came to UT in 1892, there were fewer than fifty students in the College of Engineering. The fourth faculty member hired, he saw the department grow from little more than a blacksmith’s shop into one of the area’s foremost technical schools. Ferris was later to found UT’s cooperative engineering program, one of the first in the country.. He was active in many aspects of University life, organizing the first University bookstore and playing on the football team.
In his first year as an instructor, the 156 pound Ferris was asked to play on the football team to give weight to the line. In describing his football career Ferris said, “I was in no sense an asset to the team. . . about all I learned was how to fall without having my breath knocked out.” Nevertheless, Ferris continued to enjoy the sport, which at that time was played on a rough field which had to be cleared of rocks before each game. An iron fence at the north end kept players from falling into the street. Ferris well understood the need for a new field. He helped arrange financing for Shields-Watkins Field by organizing a realty association which sold stock to pay for acquisition of part of the stadium site. It has been said that one of Dean Ferris’ outstanding traits was his sincere interest in people, particularly his students. Henry Aikin, who was a young engineering professor when he joined the Technical Society in 1921, remembers Ferris as a friend as well as his dean. Aikin and his new bride lived with the Ferris family during his first year at UT.
Ferris was successful in attracting to the Technical Society many of Knoxville’s leading citizens. Professors Perkins, Dougherty, Woolrich, Biggs, Carson, Matthews, Ayres and Aikin were colleagues from the College of Engineering. J. Wallace Keller, a 1910 UT engineering graduate who had worked on projects in Mexico, Haiti, and Alaska, had returned to Knoxville in 1921 to help run his family’s foundry business. E. A. Seahorn was a founder of Seahorn and Kennedy, a civil engineering firm, which still exists in Knoxville. Charles Barber, a well-known local architect, designed many of Knoxville’s homes and churches. Architect Fred Manley and his partner Clem Myer were responsible for the Medical Arts Building and several area schools. John R. Graf designed the main building of the 1910 Appalachian Exposition. John B. Cox, a 1893 UT graduate, supervised the installation of street car systems in England and Portugal. Weston’ Fulton, meteorologist, inventor, and industrialist, was a charter member as was his business associate in the Fulton Company, Jean Giesler. He, like Fulton, held more than one hundred patents for temperature control and other mechanical devices. Charles Lester was a landscape architect who had studied at the University of London. He landscaped the Fulton estate as well as other large private gardens in Knoxville. Roy Reddie, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, supervised the first zinc mines in the New Market area, while Harvey Coy eventually became vice-president of American Zinc Company in Mascot. Alexander Harris had come to Knoxville as director of public services under City Manager Brownlow.
These men shared with Charles Ferris the belief that the Knoxville Technical Society should have two main objectives: to foster the professional development of its membership and to aid the public in solving civic problems. The Society was formed at a time when Knoxville’s citizens were beginning to expect more from local government than maintenance of law and order. Many citizens recognized the need for plans to regulate urban growth, for codes to regulate building and health, and for increased efficiency of public services. The members of the Technical Society subscribed to these views and, as engineers and technicians, were willing to lend their expertise to attain these goals.
Throughout its history the Technical Society has been consistent in its approach to the issues of the day. First, it educates its members through informational programs presented by experts in various fields. Next, it appoints committees to study areas which it judges are appropriate for its scrutiny. Finally, the committees make resolutions which, if approved by the membership, are presented by resolution or other means to the appropriate civic body.
In the 1920’s the Technical Society was one of the leaders of the movement to reform city government. In 1923 this resulted in a change to council-manager type government. Along with more efficient government, the Society advocated more effective public services. It supported a plumbing code which was adopted in 1924. Boiler inspections were called for, and in 1927 the boiler code committee prepared a bill which was introduced in the state legislature.
1927 also saw the beginning of the Technical Society’s years-long struggle against Knoxville’s chronic smoke problem. Hundreds of coal furnaces produced a choking, smoky haze which was characteristic of the city. In February, 1927, the Society heard a report on Knoxville’s smoke, its types, and some possible remedies. Mr. Gordon of the Smoke Abatement League told of the League’s work and of its desire to cooperate with the Technical Society. In 1928 Society members were invited to the Smoke Abatement League meeting at the Lyceum Building where they heard the results of a report on soot deposits. In 1927 Mr. Barber reported that the Society had received some credit for work done on smoke abatement.
Knoxville’s City Planning Commission contracted with Harland Bartholomew and Associates of St. Louis to prepare a comprehensive city plan. It was preceded, in 1927, by a Major Street Plan for Knoxville, which City Council adopted. This plan, which included a recommendation for construction of the Henley Street Bridge, also called for an east-west connector across the north end of the business district, which was eventually realized in 1976 with construction of Summit Hill Drive. By 1928 H. W. Alexander of Bartholomew Engineering had joined the Technical Society. His report on the Major Streets Program was received enthusiastically by the group, which had been an early advocate of city planning. Later that month Dean Ferris moved that Alexander be written a letter complimenting his on his success as a resident engineer in Knoxville.
The Technical Society also showed early interested in issues which affected the members professionally. It believed in publicizing its findings. In 1927 Mr. Sea horn reported that an exhibit window had been obtained at Sterchi’s. Its purpose was to exhibit interesting display and “indirectly advertise the Society.”
Professor Dougherty explained to the Society the role of the State Engineering Examining Board. In 1929 the Society voted to contribute forty dollars toward legal expenses incurred defending a test suit, which was later decided in favor of the board. In 1931 Dougherty became a member of the State Board of Examiners.
The Society joined the Chattanooga Engineer’s Club in endorsing the State Geological Survey. In 1928 Professor J. A. Switzer moved that a telegram be sent to Congressional Representative J. Will Taylor and Col. L. D. Tyson recommending that the Mississippi Flood Control Bill before Congress be amended to provide for participation of civilian engineers.
The question of public vs. private control of power production at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was one with far-reaching implications for the Society and the area. Professor Switzer was especially interested in this issue. In 1927 he voiced his concern that, should the Madden Bill receive Congressional approval, it would prevent future development of the tributaries of the Tennessee River and would effectively grant an enormous subsidy to a private corporation. A resolution to this effect was passed and sent to the Tennessee legislative delegation, to engineers’ clubs throughout the state, and to the press. In 1931, however, Professor Switzer spoke to the Society opposing the Norris Bill, which would have allowed government ownership of the Muscle Shoals plant, terming the proposed expenditures called for in the bill “enormous” and “unwarranted.” He reported that a poll of the members showed a three-to-one majority against the bill before his talk and seven-to-one against after it.
The 1920’s were a time of optimism for Knoxville. Growth seemed inescapable. progress inevitable. The establishment of the Technical Society was an outgrowth of this climate. Its concerns reflected those of the community–desire for improvement in civic function. hopes for professional growth. Its programs for that period reflect the Society’s varied interests. One meeting a year was conducted by the senior engineering class at UT. At another, Charles Barber described the new YMCA building.
Col. D. C. Chapman spoke on the proposed Smoky Mountains National Park. George Dempster told of his experiences with the use of dynamite. A Mr. Crawford of Johns Manville discussed the origins and uses of asbestos. Col. Parker of UT spoke on football and Judge Bob gave a “practical talk on being human.”
The weekly luncheon meetings were held in a variety of locations. Early records show meetings at the YWCA, UT’s Strong Hall Cafeteria, the Cragmore Tea Room, Church Street Methodist Church, the Farragut Hotel, and the Hotel Andrew Johnson. The price and quality of lunch was a topic of great interest over the years. Some of the changes of location were caused by price increases, the first from forty to fifty cents. In 1928 a member suggested trying a vegetable lunch for a few weeks. Although the motion carried, there was no further mention of the vegetarian meals. Charter member Henry Aikin remembers that in those times of more relaxed teaching schedules. he and his colleagues from UT enjoyed walking to the noon meetings.
Annual outings were popular events. In 1928 the group toured the Aluminum Company and lunched at the hotel in Walland. Other outing destinations included Lea Lakes, Lake Santeetlah, and the Tapoco Inn. In 1927 the annual outing was a picnic at Beverly, the home of Charles Barber, outside Fountain City. The minutes report that all had a delightful time. Eventually the annual outing became a family picnic, a tradition which lasted for almost thirty years.
Although one member’s proposal of a stag banquet was not adopted, the young Society took part in some activities which have not become traditional. In 1927 it held a benefit dinner for the Old Ladies’ Home. Two years later, at the request of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Society helped sponsor a program aimed at publicizing the need for a municipal airport. The chief pilot for the Mahon Company was selected to fly the Society’s plane at aviation day ceremonies.
Mark B. Whittaker remembers the early years of the Technical Society as being particularly enjoyable. As a young engineer just beginning his career in Knoxville, he was proud to be associated with so many of the city’s leading citizens. He recalls the meetings as congenial occasions, combining the best aspects of the luncheon club and the professional society. By the late 1920’s the Society had established itself in the community. It had identified as its primary areas of interest the professional concerns of its members and civic problems to which its members could address themselves. Despite the fact that actual progress had been slow, there seems to have been a spirit of optimism about what could be accomplished.
THE DEPRESSION, TVA, AND WORLD WAR II 1930-1949
By the 1930’s a spirit of optimism must have been difficult to maintain. Knoxville, along with the rest of the country, suffered from the effects of the Great Depression. By 1932 three of Knoxville’s six national banks had disappeared through mergers, and three were in receivership. Many depositors lost their life savings. In the city, building permits fell from 2,207 in 1928, to 1,246 in 1929, to 757 in 1930. In August 1930, Frank Jones, the city planning engineer, spoke to the Society on city planning, a program which may have seemed quixotic at the time. One symptom of the hard times was the decline in membership of civic clubs. Although perhaps not so hard hit as some groups, the Technical Society worried about how to stop its declining membership.
In 1931 Dean Ferris suggested that the high cost of lunch, then 65 cents, was keeping away prospective members. Another member proposed a cafeteria style meal as a money-saving idea.
At about the same time, Dr. Charles Barbour, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, presented a program on the effects of the depression on some of Knoxville’s citizens. He introduced a Mr. Roop, who had been unemployed for months and who described the experience and how he had survived. Dr. Barbour also told of the crisis situation which had developed since the city had found it necessary to suspend employment of many whom they could no longer afford to pay, even with food. He asked the Society to help in any way it could. Like most of the rest of the community, the Technical Society could offer little in the form of financial
assistance. It did, however, continue to support by resolution what it felt were solutions to Knoxville’s pressing needs.
In 1931 it sent a resolution to Knox County Court urging continued financial support for the newly-created Knox County Health Department, noting that “typhoid fever and diptheria have been remarkably reduced during the past two years through its work.” The resolution went on to state “three years ago there were but very few sanitary privies in the country; at present we can see them in all sections of the county.”
The Society also advocated the sale of bonds for a new county high school, sending a telegram to the Knox County legislators in Nashville. When the city asked for a report on a new central heating plant, a committee was established which sent the city manager a report of its findings.
The Technical Society’s strong connection with UT was evident when, in 1930, a committee sent a recommendation to the president of the University suggesting that the new engineering building be named Ferris Hall. The Society was notified by the UT- Board of Trustees that its recommendation had been accepted.
Writing about this period, H. H. Hale, Society president in 1933, described himself as a “hard times president,” who with “a baker’s dozen struggled to keep the Society alive.” Then, said Hale, “TVA came into the picture and our interests, membership, activities, and finances received some blood transfusions. Things began to pick up all the way around.” Certainly the TVA act passed by Congress on May 18, 1933, was to have a profound effect on the Tennessee Valley, on Knoxville, and on
the Knoxville Technical Society. The group was not slow to recognize the new presence. On June 19, 1933, it appointed a committee “to formulate plans for the club’s activity regarding the Tennessee Valley Program. ” In August of that year, plans were made for a fifteen-minute radio program on WROL as a part of the Society’s contribution of cooperation with the TVA in its program. In the words of one long-time member “things were never the same again.”
Many of the engineers, architects and scientists who had arrived in Knoxville found their way to Technical Society meetings, at first as speakers and guests, later as members. In the fall of 1933, four meetings were addressed by speakers from TVA on topics ranging from street tree planting to highway design. A 1934 program describing construction methods and equipment being used in construction of Norris Dam attracted an audience of seventy-six. Prior to 1933, the usual attendance had been twenty to thirty.
The newcomers from TVA began to join the Technical Society almost immediately. Between September and May of 1934, thirty-eight new members joined, twenty-five of whom were from TVA. By 1936 the membership totaled one hundred twenty-three, of whom twenty-two were from UT and fifty from TVA. Almost every month after 1934 saw members joining from the ranks of the new arrivals. The impact on the Technical Society was immediate. As Past-President Hale said, the transfusion was badly needed. Deans Ferris and Dougherty are also said to have believed that the influx of new members was a lifesaver for the Society. Many of the new members were renowned engineers who had already achieved great distinction in their fields. Others were younger men who would gain world-wide
recognition for their pioneering work in the Tennessee Valley. The benefits were reciprocal. The Society gained energetic and talented members, while the newcomers found in the Technical Society an introduction to the community and to many of its leading citizens. In fact, the Technical Society was unique in its welcome of the new arrivals. No other local group offered the same combination of technical forum and social meeting ground. For many newcomers, joining the Technical Society was the first step in an attempt to become part of a community which had not traditionally welcomed outsiders. Many of the new members began to involve themselves in the life of the Society almost immediately. They initiated new activities, such as a George Washington’s Birthday party at the Andrew Johnson ballroom to which ladies were invited. The TVA orchestra provided music. Later the same year a new member announced the presentation by the TVA Players of the Chinese fantasy, The Yellow Jacket, to which all members were invited.
The new members were quick to concern themselves with civic problems as well. There was ample scope for their energies. Knoxville in the 1930’s was plagued with sooty air, a growing traffic problem, lack of municipal planning, inadequate and deteriorating housing.
Many of the newcomers remember their first impression of Knoxville as one of soot and smoke. One called it “a down and out city.” Past-President Ervin Newman vividly remembers his first morning in Knoxville when, on looking out his hotel window, he saw a herd of cattle crossing Gay Street. To these men, many of whom had come from larger metropolitan areas, life in Knoxville must have seemed somewhat unusual. To them, many of its problems were obvious and action was essential.
A 1935 discussion of Knoxville’s traffic situation gives an interesting insight into the differing approaches to problem solving represented by some Society members. On the subject of how best to improve traffic safety in Knoxville, there were four quite different perspectives. Professor Dougherty of UT suggested that a course in traffic safety be established at the University. Architect Charles Barber spoke of the need for traffic surveys. A new member from TVA advocated a volunteer traffic police corps, while another new member told the group how the problem had been approached in St. Louis. The minutes report that “a lively discussion followed on relative standards of safety and law observance in Knoxville and other cities.”
Some members may have objected to criticism of their city. J. Wallace Keller, a member whose ancestors had been early settlers of the area, quit the Society in the 1930’s because he found the new TVA members “too pushy.” If there was resentment of the new members and their sometimes unfavorable comparisons of Knoxville with other cities, there was also the realization that these men were willing to involve themselves in the work of the Society and to lend their considerable talents to the civic improvements which they believed to be necessary.
By 1937 the Society had elected its first president from the ranks of the TVA members. The presidency of A. S. Fry marked the beginning of an active period in the Society’s history. “Fry, described by one member as a “good tyrant,” stressed organization and seriousness of purpose. Monthly board meetings were held at the UT Faculty Club. A new constitution was adopted and printed in a yearbook which also included lists of the members, officers, committees. and a short history
of the Society. The cover of the yearbook was adorned with the new Technical Society logo of sliderule and triangle which was designed by TVA engineer James G. Allen.
The method for announcing future meetings also became more elaborate. Since 1921 Professor Robert C. Matthews had been responsible for sending out notices of meetings. A charter member, Matthews graduated from the University of Illinois in 1902, where he gained a national reputation as one of the country’s first cheerleaders. The first engineering faculty member hired by Charles Ferris as dean, Matthews taught descriptive geometry and elementary machine design. In 1937, Professor Matthews inaugurated the weekly bulletin, the Technical Soupçon, which he composed, typed, duplicated, and mailed himself. The letter-sized sheet contained notice of the coming week’s program, a description of the program of the previous week, announcements, and attendance figures. Matthew’s distinctive style featured good humored jokes and outrageous puns. The name Soupçon, itself a play on words, suggested the miscellaneous nature of the newsletter as well as the Society’s lunchtime custom. Professor Matthews continued to publish the newsletter until his retirement fromthe University in 1949, when he was made an honorary member of the Society. Matthews’ humor and personality were reflected in the Soupçon, and its success was entirely due to his efforts. After 1949 the publication underwent various changes, going from note card to legal size and finally becoming a monthly newsletter.
Another Technical Society tradition begun in the 1930’s was the weekly drawing for an attendance prize, known as the Brier Bowl. The earliest mention of such a
drawing is found in reports of the 1935 George Washington’s birthday celebration. The first prizes were free lunches. For many years Burgess B. Brier was in charge of the lottery. A June 1937 Technical Soupçon announced that the drawing would be called the Brier Bowl since “the club gets stuck weekly for a free lunch.” The prize, which was designed to encourage attendance and prompt payment of dues, was won by the third name drawn–if that person were present and wearing his name badge. After Brier’s resignation from the Society in 1959, the drawing was carried on as the Humidor by Ritchey Hume and finally as the Gravy Bowl.
1937 was a year when new committees were established and new projects begun. A new smoke-abatement committee was appointed to study ways to bring the problem to the public’s attention. A traffic committee issued a report which called for enactment, enforcement, education, and engineering in solving the city’s traffic problems. The committee further recommended that driver education and a state driver’s permit be compulsory, stating that “no mere payment of a dollar should be construed as granting anyone the right to operate a swiftly moving vehicle over the streets of the city.”
One of the Society’s earliest civic improvement projects was begun in 1937. It proposed to construct a zero milestone in front of the Post Office from which distances could be accurately measured. Although the project was approved by City Council, permission for the marker to be erected on government property was denied by the Treasury Department and the Project was dropped in 1941.
The first Technical Society awards to UT engineering students were announced by Dean Ferris in 1937. Prizes of twenty-five and fifteen dollars were given for the best papers on an engineering subject. The awards were given yearly until 1942, when war-time conditions forced suspension of the competition.
By the late 1930’s the Technical Society had established committees to study many civic and professional issues. In 1939 there were committees for traffic, flooding, industrial training, the city plan, student papers, smoke abatement, and fire protection. One of the most ambitious projects was a proposal submitted by the traffic committee. It proposed that the city build a circumferential boulevard which would completely encircle the downtown and nearby residential districts. The plan called for a divided four-lane highway which would follow, on either side, the courses of First and Third Creeks. The creek channel in the center would be enlarged for flood protection. The eleven-an one-fourth mile boulevard would relieve traffic congestion on downtown streets, promote safety, insure flood protection, and provide landscaped recreation areas along the river front. The plan, which filled the front page of the Sunday Knoxville Journal Magazine for August 20, 1939, was headlined “A Dream for the Future.” The visionary plan foreshadowed the later construction of Neyland Drive, Bicentennial Park, the downtown business loop, and the 1-640 connector. The Journal report termed the plan’s only obstacle the city’s financial stringency. Indeed, as the Society would discover, financial stringency was a formidable obstacle, impeding implementation of virtually every civic improvement for the next thirty years. Local conservatism and resistance to change were
further obstacles, as the chairman of the traffic committee, H. L. Freund, discovered while accompanying a field representative of the National Safety Council who was visiting Knoxville. The two men encountered no local support for the idea of a Knoxville Safety Council. Guy Smith, editor of the Knoxville Journal, doubted that money could be raised either publicly or privately for such a venture.
The director of the Chamber of Commerce was not helpful, saying that he did not look with favor on any civic movement which involved criticism of present public policies. Since neither local newspaper reported the field representative’s visit, although both had interviewed him, the men reached the conclusion that there was no local support for work on traffic safety and that Knoxville was satisfied with the status quo.
Despite this somewhat pessimistic outlook, the Technical Society continued to work toward its goals of civic improvement and to offer its services to the city whenever it felt it could be of use. In the 1940’s Knoxville needed help. In 1946 John Gunther called Knoxville “the ugliest city I ever saw in America. . . Sunday movies are forbidden and there is no Sunday baseball. Perhaps as a result, it is one of the least orderly cities in the South–Knoxville leads every other town in Tennessee in homicides, automobile thefts, and larceny.” Although Knoxvillians furiously objected to his portrayal of what Gunther described as “an intense, concentrated, degrading, ugliness,” the city was dirty, its housing was deteriorating, its population was declining, and its government lacked funds for needed improvements. Even Knoxville journalist Lucy Templeton wondered in her column if the city would be able to recognize and find solutions to its problems.
The Technical Society offered its services in several areas. In 1940 City Manager Mynatt gladly accepted the Society’s offer of help in revising the city building code. In 1941 a committee produced a revised code which was approved by City Council and adopted on December 2, 1941. Despite the city’s promises to publish the new code, this was not done until 1944, when the Technical Society paid to have it printed.
In 1940 the flood committee issued a seventeen-page booklet outlining Knoxville’s potential for flood damage. Citing a giant Ohio Valley flood of 1937, it suggested steps the city could take to avoid a similar disaster.
The Society also continued to work on plans for development of river-front land created by the closing of Ft. Loudoun Dam. In 1940 the Society offered its help to the City Planning Commission, and a committee worked with TVA on waterfront development plans. In 1941 the city hired Bartholomew and Associates to review planned waterfront development. City Council approved a plan which called for parks and a river-front highway similar to the one proposed by the Technical Society in 1939.
The Society kept up its work on smoke abatement. A committee reviewed Knoxville’s smoke ordinances, issuing a report critical of City Council for its failure, in 1940 and 1941, to fund budgets for enforcement of smoke regulating ordinances. The News Sentinel for March 6, 1941, quoted the Technical Society’s report and asked that funds for effective enforcement be found. As a result of the Society’s work, two inspectors were appointed to the staff of the smoke regulation engineer.
By 1944 thirty-one Technical Society members were serving in the armed forces and the remaining members were ready to assist in the war effort.One member,
Harry Tour, designed and made a service flag which displayed a star for each service member. The Brier Bowl prize was paid in Defense Stamps. Dean Dougherty, who was Civilian Defense Coordinator for Knox County, offered the Society’s services in civil defense. Its first project was a study of protection of school children in air raids. Prepared in conjunction with the Knoxville Sub-Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the report was an extensive one, containing plans of each city school, as well as an assessment of each structure’s value as a possible shelter. The buildings were described, shelter areas designated, and needed improvements noted. Two appendices described the dangers of explosions and their effects. The report recommended that in the event of attack, schools be evacuated if possible. The Board of Education and the Office of Civil Defense adopted the proposals.
As its contribution to the war effort, the traffic committee studied city traffic lights, to determine whether some stop lights could be turned off in order to save gasoline, rubber, and to speed up traffic flow. Of twenty-six lights investigated, the report concluded that nine could safely be discontinued or replaced by stop signs. The report was sent to City Manager Webb, who later made some changes as a result of the study. Not all Knoxvillians were impressed by this Technical Society effort, however. City Judge Bob Williams dismissed the case of a motorist charged with a traffic violation at Martin Mill Pike and Chapman Highway, where a light had been changed from red to blinking, with the comment, “some more of that expert stuff. . . the money saved wouldn’t pay the hospitaI bills of those injured there.”
Before the end of World War II the Technical Society began to think about the direction the city would take in the post-war period. It continued to advocate planned growth and the employment of well trained professionals as advisors to the city. In 1943 a post-war planning committee was formed. It was hoped that the committee could interest representatives from other civic organizations in planning for Knoxville’s development. Because of its strategic location and cheap power, the Society felt that Knoxville was potentially on the verge of a period of new growth. It proposed that the Society take the lead in promoting advertising of Knoxville and the area. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation was far different. In the 1940’s Knoxville politics was dominated by Cas Walker, a politician who had consistently opposed increased taxes, spending, and change. Nevertheless, in 1945 the Society sent Mayor-elect Walker a resolution urging City Council to appoint a qualified city manager who met the requirements of the International City Manager’s Association. In 1946 Walker fired progressive City Manager Paul Morton. The post-war planning committee identified many of Knoxville’s pressing problems. It called for a school-building program and worked for passage of a school-bond issue. In 1946, City School Superintendent Prince asked the Technical Society for a special committee to help the Board of Education plan temporary school buildings. In 1947 the Society was given the opportunity to discuss important civic issues on WNOX Radio Forum. For its two programs the Society chose to discuss Knoxville’s need for a new technical high school and a civic center. In discussing the need for vocational education, the Society pointed out
that 62.6% Qf all Knoxville’s students dropped out of school between grades one and eleven. In cooperation with the Knoxville Council of Civic Clubs, the Technical Society led the way in calling for a civic auditorium, a project which was finally realized in 1961.
Progress was slow in many areas. In the 1940’s the Society began sending representatives to City Council meetings and reporting its actions to their members. It urged other civic groups to follow its
lead in monitoring Council’s deliberations. When the city asked for
help from civic groups on the problem of First Creek flooding, the Technical Society offered its assistance, while urging that the city
hire a consulting flood control engineer to make a study to determine
what solutions were needed and at what cost.
Some of the Society’s other post-war projects were continuations
of earlier work. The traffic committee went on wrestling with
Knoxville’s traffic problems. One member suggested that an emergency squad be formed to repair dangerously run down streets.
In 1945 it issued a thirteen-page report entitled Stop Traffic Accidents, It Can Be Done. The report described a situation of increased car registrations and climbing accident rates, proposing creation of a Traffic Commission as well as a scientific survey of traffic conditions and safe driving courses in schools. One thousand copies of the report were distributed to City Council, County Court, police, and to nineteen civic groups. . . The report stated that since 1937, when it inagurated a traffic-safety program, the Society had been instrumental in saving 235 lives. A News Sentinel editorial for September 16, 1945, praised the Technical Society for issuing the report, which was carried on page one of the Sunday
Magazine, but termed some of its proposals “too elaborate” and called
instead for better enforcement.
Enforcement was also key to the on-going smoke-abatement effort.Throughout the 1940’s, the Society stressed the importance of enforcing existing regulations as well as the need for public education.
It repeatedly offered its services to the city. A resolution which was
sent to Mayor Edward Chavannes in 1947 described the Society’s resources as “over two hundred engineers who are ready to help with what many regard as Knoxville’s number one problem.” In 1949 it adopted smoke abatement as its major continuing professional project. Despite its efforts, there is little evidence that the city took advantage of the Society’s offers of assistance. In 1951 the group was still attempting to educate the public to the dangers of air pollution.
That year it published a chart showing the correct way to fire a furnance with soft coal in order to reduce smoke.
TRANSITION YEARS 1950-1960
In the spring of 1951 the Technical Society observed its thirtieth anniversary. As part of the founder’s day celebration, a special issue of the Technical Soup90n was printed; it contained what proved to be a final interview with Dean Ferris, who died on May 19, 1951, two weeks before the event. In his message Dean Ferris reminded the present and future members of the Society’s dual objectives of civic service and mutual contact and discussion. He expressed the belief that over the years the members had realized these objectives and that through its numerous public projects the Society had made a definite contribution to Knoxville’s civic life.
Certainly by the 1950’s the Society had established its priorities. It had made building codes, traffic, City Council, and smoke abatement on-going concerns. During that period it also concerned itself with public health, civil defense, and municipal planning. Its members were involved in virtually every aspect of the city’s life. By then many of the TVA members and their families had lived in Knoxville long enough to become active participants in community life, serving as Scout leaders, church workers, and joining PTA groups. Harry Wiersema for example, active in civic welfare work, was also instrumental in bringing David Van Vactor to Knoxville as head of the UT music department and conductor of the Knoxville Symphony. Wiersema and his four daughters played with the symphony and he served for several years as its general manager.
The Society sponsored a bowling team which was part of the Civic Bowling League. It also sent players to the annual Frank Garrett Memorial Civic Golf Tournament. In one contest the Technical Society was represented by fourteen golfers, who ranged in age from twenty-five to eighty-six. Robert Monroe, age eighty-six, shot a ninety-three.
For many years, from the late 1930’s until 1954, the Technical Society’s annual picnic was a highlight of the year.Some of the most memorable picnics were held at the Tazewell Pike home of Charles Barber and, later, of Homer George. The members and their families enjoyed traditional picnic fare: fried chicken, potato salad, tomatoes, pickles, and watermelon, which was served on long brown-paper-covered tables. The afternoon festivities included games of softball, horseshoes, bingo, bridge, and badminton. There were door prizes and prizes for children’s games. The gardens and high hedges were perfect places for games of tag and hide and seek. Later picnics were held at Fountain City Park and the Municipal Water Plant.
By the early 1950’s, however, the picnic had become less popular. Perhaps the members and their families had outgrown picnics and softball. Perhaps the new phenomenon, television, seemed more interesting than picnics. Whatever the reasons, the Society voted in 1954 to discontinue the tradition. For two years a newly-formed Ladies’ Auxillary held a barbecue; but in 1957 the Auxillary voted itself out of existence, abandoning the idea of a summer outing.
Subsequently the annual meeting in January would become the Society’s primary social occasion. If the Technical Society was changing, with even its newest members becoming part of the community, Knoxville, too, was in a state of transition. The 1950’s saw an
increasing trend toward suburbanization, as more families moved to newly established subdivisions outside the city limits. Within the city, unemployment was high and many local , industries were in decline. Knoxville had the highest percentage of people earning under $3,000 of all metropolitan areas in Tennessee. Between 1950 and 1960 the city’s population declined, while its dependent population (under eighteen and over sixty-five) represented eighty percent of the city’s population gain. These demographic shifts symptomized what one source has called “a city in trouble.”
As it had in the past, the Technical Society called attention to many of the city’s problems, offering its members’ assistance and encouraging the city to hire professionals to solve technical problems. In a resolution supporting a proposed municipal auditorium, the Society asked that Council, in carrying out the project, employ competent planners and architects and that it consult with the city and county planning commissions. Although the auditorium plan failed, the Technical Society continued to send resolutions to the mayor and Council. It endorsed a new city sanitary code as well as construction of a primary sewage treatment plant for Knoxville. When the city dismissed its sanitary engineer, ostensibly for economic reasons, the Society passed a resolution protesting the action and requesting that the position be filled immediately with a fully trained professional sanitary engineer. In 1953, City Council, responding to pressure from the Technical Society and other groups, called for a referendum on funding a treatment plant, and by 1956 Knoxville’s sewage disposal facility was completed.
In 1950 the Society sent a report to Mayor James Elmore recommending that the city adopt the Southern Standard Building Code, and calling the old code, which the Society had prepared in 1940, inadequate for new, developments in building materials and construction methods. The mayor accepted the report, asking for the maximum publicity coverage, and the Southern Standard Code was adopted. Proposals for a county building code were not successful at that time.
When, in 1950, repairs were being made to the Gay Street bridge, the Society recommended that the city hire consulting engineers to carry out a stress analysis of the structure, which had been built in 1897. As a result, the city hired a firm to carry out the necessary investigations.
Although the idea of urban planning had been introduced in Knoxville as early as the 1920’s, in the 1950’s the concept of planning as an accepted part of government’s role was a controversial political issue. In 1950, under Mayor Elmore, the City Planning Commission published a general city plan for Knoxville which was the first such attempt since the Bartholomew report. A preliminary Technical Society analysis called it not a plan but a statement of objectives for a future plan. The report noted that if followed, the plan would further divide the city into neighborhood shopping districts and decentralize the business district by the construction of expressways.
In 1952, Mayor George Dempster, opposing the previous administrations’ planning policy, proposed to transfer planning to the city engineer’s department. As a result, the planning commission staff and several of its citizen members resigned. Subsequently, the Technical Society’ city plan committee advised that its name be
changed to the civic development committee and that it send a representative to joint City County Planning Commission meetings which were beginning to be held monthly.
The trend toward suburbanization produced some new challenges for the Society’s members. Between 1943 and 1956, fifty-six new sub divisions were built outside the city. All of these areas depended on
wells and septic tanks. In 1954 the joint Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission asked for the Society’s help in the septic-tank effluent problem. A committee was appointed to classify Knox County soil for septic tank use. It consolidated several hundred soil classifications into four broad groups according to their general suitability as disposal media. The committee used its studies to construct a soil map showing the various types of soil in the area. ` When the Planning Commission asked for help in reviewing specifications for subdivisions, the Society appointed a committee which, with the FHA, redrafted the existing specifications, which were found to be ambiguous and poorly arranged. It prepared specifications for new roads, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks of subdivided areas.
In 1956, these special committees and the civic development committee were incorporated to form the metropolitan planning committee, which began to work closely with the newly-formed Metropolitan Planning Commission. After the MPC was established, with its own staff, the Society was not as necessary as it had been for technical assistance. It did, however, work to promote the MPC and to increase public awareness of the need for planning. In 1957 with that goal in mind, the Society
began a quarterly news letter, The Metropolitan Planner.
Each issue was designed to bring a particular topic to the attention of Technical Society members and other interested groups. Five hundred copies of volume I, entitled “Knoxville’s Growing Pains,” were sent to civic groups and community leaders. Other issues dealt with industrial land use, downtown development, streets, highways, and traffic, as well as city and county finances.
The city continued to search for solutions to its many problems. Between 1945 and 1959, it commissioned six separate traffic and street plans. Soot was still a worry–1949 sootfall was 143.3 tons compared to 348.6 tons in 1936. The Technical Society took part in a campaign sponsored by radio station WNOX aimed at emphasizing the public’s responsibility for observance of anti-smoke ordinances. When asked by the Knoxville Civil Defense Committee, the Society appointed personnel to help in collecting information for a Civil Defense Analysis of areas such as traffic, utilities, communications, weather and geology.
In the 1950’s the Society continued its practice of sending letters to each new mayor and to city and county officials, offering the aid of its various committees. The response varied with each administration.
Mayor Elmore welcomed Society help on building codes, and Mayor Dance appreciated its support of the MPC. Mayor Dempster, however, did not respond to offers of help from the traffic and school building committees.
The 1950’s have been called a time of complacency. Knoxville, traditionally a conservative community, continued in that era to view change suspiciously. The Technical Society, while consistentlyadvocating the use of modern methods and technology, reflected community
values in its reluctance to become involved in some controversial areas. It actively supported the movement for fluoridation of the water supply, a position which could be supported by scientific data. It refused, however, to assist the Americans for Democratic Action in a plan for entertaining foreign visitors to the area. In 1954, following the
Supreme Court’s landmark decision ending school segregation, the chairman of the school-building committee suggested that the Society study school consolidation and desegregation. Although it was to advocate consolidation, the Society did not address itself to the issue of desegregation. In 1954, when asked for a contribution to help finance Bible teaching in the city schools, the Society denied the request; not on grounds of separation of church and state as originally suggested, but because as a non-technical matter it did not come within the Society’s scope. That position also led the Society to refuse permission for a program by Miles Horton, of the Highlander Folk Center, as too controversial. However, in 1959 the Society sponsored meetings on the subject of the proposed metropolitan government at a time when many civic groups avoided that controversial issue.
While reluctant to become involved in issues which it felt were outside its mandate, the Society was to initiate one of its most popular projects in the 1950’s. In conjunction with the Knoxville News Sentinel and the University of Tennessee, the Technical Society sponsored the first Southern Appalachian Regional Science Fair. On May 2, 1953, the Society gave the first awards dinner, which was attended by one hundred fifty students. It has continued to support the Fair, providing it with judges and, until 1966, underwriting the banquet. After that year it was decided instead to donate two
cash awards and trophies to the senior division winners in engineering or physics.
CHALLENGE AND CHANGE 1960-1984
The years since 1960 have been challenging ones for the Technical Society. A period during which the Society questioned its purpose and methods, it was also a time when some of the Society’s goals for the community seemed at last to be within reach. The Society continued its interest in civic improvement, while putting a new emphasis on educational projects and involvement with other professional groups.
By the 1960’s the city had begun to come to grips with many problems which had long interested the Society. Trained professionals were employed to solve technical problems, something which the Society had always called for. The city’s planners, traffic engineers, and pollution experts were at work on problems to which the Technical Society had once given a great deal of its time and attention. It was time for the Society to reassess its role in the community and to establish future goals.
Between 1965 and 1975 the Technical Society initiated three separate investigations into its direction and purpose. As early as 1957, one member expressed the fear that the Society was “coasting,” that not enough of value was being accomplished. A 1966 report found the Society deficient in the performance of civic duties; it cited Article I, Section 2 of its Constitution, which calls for the Society to “aid in an educational manner, the public in the solution of civic questions.” One committee felt that its obligation to the community was not being met “except for a few programs and projects accomplished in the past and only one currently in progress.”
In 1967 it was suggested that the Society needed a single worthy project and that a public relations program be enacted to support it. This spirit of self-examination continued into the 1970’s when the board discussed the need for more and better committees, more complete committee reports, and a more active board. It repeatedly expressed the wish that the Technical Society not be “just a knife and fork club.” In 1975 a self-study committee reported lagging member interest, indicated by low attendance. A survey found that as few as one-sixth of the members polled would actively work for the Society, while only one-half said they would take some part in its programs and activities. As a result of the report the committee suggested that the Society needed to improve its image with its own members and that it should eliminate non-functioning committees, emphasizing instead those concerned with civic problems. Again, it hoped that the Society could change its image from that of a lunch group to one of a service organization.
In addition to member apathy and lack of direction there was the problem of decline in weekly attendance. By the 1970’s older members and retirees made up the bulk of the attendance at weekly meetings. It was felt that new faces were needed. In 1975 TVA employees and retirees made up half of the membership. Although special efforts had been made over the years to include UT faculty members, many had dropped out because of class schedule conflicts and research commitments. Oak Ridge had never been a source of members because of the time restrictions imposed by the lunch-hour meetings.
Membership guidelines had traditionally been subject to interpretation.
Although the Constitution states that members be persons engaged in engineering, architecture, physics, chemistry, or allied arts and sciences, the last phrase had been cited as an indication that membership qualifications might be construed liberally. In the past a few members had been accepted if the applicants had been connected in some way with a technical organization. Nevertheless, the majority of members were engineers, architects or scientists. In 1963, when the president brought up the question of admitting negros, the matter was shelved for the reason that the only prospect was an economist, not an engineer. By the 1980’s the Society had one black member. Women, too, were at first excluded by the terms of the Constitution. There were few qualified women architects or engineers in the area until quite recently. The first woman member, admitted in 1968, was Rose Ann Hatcher Kyle, a statistician who worked in TVS’s division of water control planning. In 1971, Helen Mason, a technical librarian was elected to the Society. She went on to serve as secretary and member of the board and was awarded honorary membership. A few other women joined in the 1980’s. In general, however, the membership continued to be white and male, with TVA employees making up the largest group.
Despite questions of direction and method, there was evidence that the Society’s efforts had not been unsuccessful. From 1960 to 1980 progress was made in many of the areas in which it had been involved. A combination of factors including new political alignments, better economic conditions, industrial and population growth, gave Knoxville a new, more positive outlook. In 1971 Mayor-elect Kyle Testermam
challenged the Technical Society to provide guidance and leadership in community affairs, saying that its proposals did influence the deliberations of local governing bodies. Evidence of this could be seen in the areas of air and water pollution. Since 1927 the Technical Society had been active in support of smoke abatement. By 1962 this committee’s name was changed to the air pollution control committee. In reply to a letter from the committee, the city smoke regulation engineer reported that the city’s original ordinance, which the Society had reviewed, had been amended three times since 1940. From 1940 to 1950, sootfall was reduced from 286 tons per square mile to 83 tons per square mile.
A 1965 committee report, Air Pollution–A Growing Menace in Knox County, outlined the general situation including topography, weather factors, types of pollutants, and existing regulations. It recommended that the county apply for federal funds for an air pollution study by experienced consulting engineers. In 1966 such a survey was instituted by the MPC. The next year the air pollution committee reviewed plans for a new rendering plant at East Tennessee Packing Company, finally determining that the new plant would not create an odor or water pollution problem.
In 1968 the Technical Society congratulated Knox County’s Commissioners on the establishment of a Department of Air Pollution Control, which was to be responsible for controlling pollution in both the city and county. The Society has continued to support funding for the department and its director. Society members have served on the Pollution Control Board, Hendon R. Johnston serving as its first
chairman. By 1972 the environmental resources committee was able to report that “based on the activities of the Knox County Department of Air Pollution Control and particularly Mayor Kyle Testerman. . . it was judged that for the first time ever pollution control activities in Knoxville and Knox County are receiving their due share of governmental attention.” An air pollution committee continues to keep members informed. In 1983 the Society passed a resolution supporting reauthorization of the Clean Air Act and supporting provisions which would maintain environmental gains of the past decade, as well as initiate positive action to reduce acid rain.
The Society was also concerned with water pollution. In 1966, at the request of the Clean Water Council, the air and water pollution committee prepared an informational paper, Public Service Paper 661 on the Southern Extract Company. The report included a study of the plant and its history in Knoxville. It described the company’s pollution of Ft. Loudoun(sic) Lake by its waste products. The paper recommended that the city make a study of the economics of water-quality management in deciding to what degree pollution of lake water by industry may be permitted. When the problem of First Creek flooding became an issue after a 1976 flood, the Society offered its help in developing a floodcontrol plan. Mayor Tyree withdrew his 11.6-million-dollar plan until it could be examined by experts from TVA and the Technical Society.
The 1970’s found the environmental resources committee at work on the problem of waste. In 1971 it issued two reports which were summaries of several years of discussion on the problem. The reports recommended that the existing Third Creek facilities be reorganized,that sewer ordinances be enforced, and
that the entire system be evaluated by an independent consulting engineering firm. They further recommended that the city and county find a site for a sanitary land fill and develop and implement a five-to ten-year waste-management program. Mayor-elect Testerman asked for, and received, Society suggestions for implementation of the two reports.
In 1975 the Society published a report on the waste problem entitled, Illegal Dumping in Knox County: the Problem and the Solution. The report, which described the many problems associated with illegal dumps, presented three possible plans for correcting the situation and for providing county residents with garbage service. Copies of the report were sent to Knox County Judge Howard Bozeman and other county officials.
The Technical Society had long urged the city to hire and adequately fund a professional engineer to oversee a traffic engineering department. A 1961 committee report characterized the city traffic engineer as most discouraged about his work, adding that ninety-five percent of his recommendations were not accepted by City Council. In 1971 the Society issued a study of city traffic operations, the policies of the traffic engineering department, traffic enforcement policies, and the court system. The report found that in addition to better enforcement, the city needed more than one traffic engineer and a larger budget for the traffic department. It further recommended that a committee of representatives from local engineering societies and the Technical Society be formed to advise the mayor and City Council. Mayor Testerman asked the traffic committee chairman to work with him in revising the traffic engineering department. In 1972 the traffic committee reported that it had been inactive because the 1971 traffic analysis was so well received by the mayor and Council that it was thought best to let the new traffic director get started “without agitation.”
Long a supporter of the MPC, the Technical Society policy in the past two decades has been not to duplicate the work of the commission, but to actively support its recommendations. In 1968 the MPC Chairman, Dr. William Cole, asked the Society to undertake a comprehensive study of the organization and function of the MPC. The study, which was carried out in conjunction with the UT Graduate School of Planning, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, and the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers, was intended to determine whether the MPC was reaching its full potential. It outlined Knoxville’s problems and recommended that the MPC formulate an over-all regional plan for Knoxville and Knox County. In 1971 a Technical Society member served on an advisory committee to screen applicants for MPC director. Throughout the 1970’s the Technical Society’s metropolitan planning committee worked to encourage municipal planning. It was hoped that the Society could serve as an intermediary between the MPC, developers, and homeowners. The committee also reviewed preliminary studies for the proposed east-south Knoxville connector and bridge. In 1979 two of its three recommendations were adopted at hearings on the project.
In addition to supporting metropolitan planning, the Society continued to monitor zoning and codes. In 1963 it called for a new zoning ordinance to replace the city’s 1928 ordinance and the 1941ordinance for annexed
areas. City Council adopted the Southern Standard Housing Code in 1971 following a recommendation by the Society.
In the 1970’s the Technical Society turned its attention to such contemporary topics as nuclear power and the Tellico Dam project. The Society made little effort to examine differing views of these issues. In the 1970’s TVA policy favored development of its nuclear power programs as well as completion of the Tellico Dam project. Perhaps because of its large TVA membership, or perhaps because of a tendency of the members to endorse the findings of many of their eminent colleagues, the Society invited speakers who represented the opinion of the majority of the membership on these questions.
Nuclear power was the topic of numerous Society programs. It heard from such advocates of nuclear power as the Chief of TVA’s Nuclear Engineering Branch and the head of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration at Oak Ridge. The best attended meeting of 1972 (145 present) was addressed by the project manager of TVA’s Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant. The program for the following week was a talk by the Director of Reactor Research for the Atomic Energy Commission on nuclear power as the key to future energy needs.
Four programs for April, 1975 were devoted to various aspects of the breeder reactor: investigating its impact on the community, its place in the energy program, and the status of foreign breeder programs. All speakers were proponents of the breeder concept. When the Society was challenged by a critic to look at both sides of the breeder issue, he was invited to join the Society and to chair a committee to do just that. There is no evidence, however, that the new member took advantageof the opportunity.
Several programs were devoted to the projected benefits of the Tellico Dam project. In 1972 a representative from Boeing Corporation discussed land purchases involved in development of the proposed new town, Timberlake, and how private enterprise had become involved in the project. Another program was described as an informative description and justification for the Tellico and Timberlake project. In 1977, when the project had been temporarily stopped by the “snail darter” controversy, the Technical Society board of directors approved a resolution supporting the Tellico project and urging its exemption from the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The membership approved the resolution by a vote of forty-seven to one.(Bob Scott remembers voting against. President Mancil Milligan said “ the resolution passes with some opposition”.)
When planning began for a World’s Fair in Knoxville, the Technical Society heard presentations on the fair and how it would benefit the area. Although the Society never formally resolved to support the event, many of its members were involved with the fair in various ways. Some retired TVA members served as guides to the TVA exhibit. Ironically, the World’s Fair created an unforeseen problem for the Technical Society. It had met at the S & W from 1946 until the cafeteria closed in 1981, when the Society moved to Ramsey’s Cafeteria. With the opening of the World’s Fair, the Society was forced to move again, this time to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where the weekly attendance dropped sharply.(actually the Society met in several places- including the YWCA which had hosted the Society in earlier years- before settling on St. John’s Episcopal Church.) The Society is currently meeting at the Quality Inn, downtown. In the 1980’s the Society has continued to support the concept of metropolitan government, offering the services of its members to the Knoxville-Knox County Charter Commission. In a recent action it endorsed the concept of a technology corridor along Pellissippi Parkway.In 1983 the Tennessee technology corridor committee was created to help promote the plan.
The Technical Society has, throughout its history, supported educational projects. As early as 1928, it subsidized the Tennessee Engineer, a quarterly publication put out by students of the UT College of Engineering. It contributed to the publication for several periods from the 1940’s until 1951. It was an early contributor to the UT Engineering Library. In the past two decades the Society has concentrated its efforts on the secondary school level. It established a speaker’s bureau which provided speakers to civic clubs and local high schools for Engineers Week talks and career day programs.
In 1959 the Society began the Junior Engineering Technical Society, or JETS, program in several local high schools. Society members served as advisers to the groups, whose aim was to stimulate interest in science and engineering. Students were given opportunities to apply principles learned in school to actual engineering projects. The Technical Society has also sponsored several Explorer Scout Posts which provide opportunities for Scouts interested in science and engineering to carry out projects with the help of Society advisers. In the middle schools, it sponsors Math Counts, math contests which are conducted along the lines of a spelling bee under the leadership of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers. The Society also is a sponsor of the local Junior Achievement program, lending financial support and technical advice to a participating school and judges to the annual competition.
The Society established a Science Enrichment Fund which donated money to area high-school science departments. It provided funds for solar energy-project and a computer at West High, a spectrometer for
Central High School, and equipment for a photography lab at Gresham Junior High.
The Technical Society has continued to support the Appalachian Science Fair and is planning for the 1988 International Science Fair which will be held in Knoxville and which will attract entrants from approximately twenty countries. Finally, in 1983 it established the Ferris Endowment Fund which, it is hoped, will attract contributions from Technical Society members, friends, and former students of Dean Ferris in support of engineering education.
As in the past, the Technical Society enjoys varied and informative weekly programs. It welcomes speakers from many of the area’s institutions including UT, Oak Ridge, and TVA. Traditionally the Society invites the mayor as well as other members of city and county government to speak. For many years members have enjoyed programs ranging over a wide variety of topics. In 1938 they heard Dr. Arthur E. Morgan speak on the engineer and his relation to government, J. B. Jones on marble for the National Art Gallery, Major E. C. Eckel on engineering geology, and Major Robert Neyland on UT football. Often the Society’s members share their special interests or knowledge with the group. In 1949, for example, the late Dana Wood, an avid collector of gravestone epitaphs, gave a talk entitled “Gone But Not forgotten.”
Society programs also serve to keep members informed of technological advances. In the 1940’s the group heard programs on the possible applications of the heat pump, plastics, the atom, and contact lenses. The Society has continued this tradition, inviting speakers from virtually every segment of the community, from
newspapers and school boards to business and industry. In the 1980’s its programs inform members of the latest developments in many areas. Indeed, some members find the more technical programs a challenge to their ability to stay abreast of changing times.
In recent years the Technical Society has emphasized the importance of cooperation with other professional groups. As early as 1946 Society President Armour T. Granger raised the issue, suggesting that the Society take the lead in coordinating local engineering organizations. It was not until the 1960’s, however, that the Society began to move in that direction. In 1966, when it first was invited to join the state-wide Joint Engineering Action Group, it declined on the grounds that the Society’s main focus should remain on the local level. By 1969, however, the Technical Society decided to join JEAG, citing its interest in combatting air and water pollution and in legislation concerning engineering matters. As a member of JEAG, the Society joined engineering groups across the state in working for the public welfare and for the advancement of the engineering profession. Through JEAG it monitors legislation affecting the profession, using JEAG staff resources to inform legislators of its position on matters of professional interest.
In 1973 the Technical Society joined thirty-five technical and professional societies in sponsoring WATTec, a conference and exhibition which is held annually during National Engineers Week. The name, WATTec, is an acronym for Welding and Testing Technology Exhibition and Conference, since its two original sponsors were the Oak Ridge units of the American Welding Society and the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. The conference, with the common electrical unit as the root of its name, focuses on the uses, production, and conservation of energy. It provides a forum in an interdisciplinary environment for exchange of ideas and information on national issues involving science and technology. In supporting WATTec, the Technical Society continues its tradition of encouraging professional growth and fostering public awareness of technical issues.
Past President Robert Collignon believes that in the future the Technical Society could serve as an umbrella group for the area’s many technical and professional societies. It is clear that this is a challenge which the members of the Society have the talent and resources to meet. Over the years the Technical Society has demonstrated its willingness to address complex issues. Traditionally, its members have volunteered their time and expertise in an attempt to improve the quality of life in the area, and the city has gratefully accepted this help, especially at times when it lacked many resources.
If in the 1980’s the Society accepts a new challenge, that of unifying the area’s technical organizations, it would make another significant contribution to the community. Perhaps in years to come the Society will once again emphasize its civic function: identifying local areas of concern to which its members can usefully address themselves and taking an active role in helping to shape Knoxville’s future. Whatever its future direction, it is likely that the Knoxville Technical Society will remember Charles Ferris’ original intention–that the Society work for the good it can do.
The Technical Society Papers. Special Collections. U.T. Library. University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Deadrick, Lucile, ed., Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee. East Tennessee Historical Society. Knoxville, Tennessee, 1976.
Gunther, John, Inside U.S.A. Harper and Brothers. New York, 1946.
McDonald, Michael, and William Bruce Wheeler, Knoxville, Tennessee Continuity and Change in an Appalachian City. The University of Tennessee Press. Knoxville, 1983.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press. New York, 1965.
The Knoxville Journal.
The Knoxville News Sentinel.
(parenthetical comments are by Bob Scott)