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One more lesson from the admiral

I hope you and your family had an opportunity to attend at least some of the wonderful activities held at and around Town Hall for the “Farragut Memorial Plaza Dedication Weekend” (April 30 – May 2). These wonderful activities included a Civil War encampment, extended hours and a special exhibit at the Farragut Folklife Museum, the dedication of the first Civil War Trail historical marker located in our Town commemorating the Battle of Campbell Station, a lecture by the creator of the Adm. [James] David Glasgow Farragut Statue, another lecture by a noted local historian on the importance of Adm. Farragut’s military career, and, of course, the “unveiling” of the beautiful bronze statue of Adm. Farragut (complete with music by the Farragut High School Band and plenty of speeches by a host of dignitaries including retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jay A. DeLoach). All of these events were well attended and I think were fully appreciated and enjoyed by the community as a whole. It is important to note that the seeds for these events actually began many years ago and illustrate some important characteristics about our Town.

Our first mayor, Bob Leonard, and the initial aldermen for the Town realized early on the importance of obtaining memorabilia and information about the Town’s namesake, Adm. Farragut, to build community identity and spirit. With a bit of luck (and about $81,000!), the Town purchased the first significant items that now form one of the major collections of Farragut memorabilia located anywhere. Several years later, following then Gov. Lamar Alexander’s call for local “homecoming” activities, our elected officials and Town volunteers teamed up to put together what would eventually become the early Farragut Folklife Museum Collection. Volunteers serving on the Museum Committee continued to search for information and important items from Farragut’s career, and, in turn, the museum became a focal point when our new Town Hall was dedicated in 1990. Our second mayor, Eddy Ford, and successive Board members and FFM members continued to improve both the Farragut Collection and the museum itself, and the importance of our community symbol (“brand”) became more and more well known throughout East Tennessee. When we began to think about how we might celebrate our 30th anniversary, Mayor Ford challenged our citizens and volunteer groups to suggest unique projects, and the Museum Committee responded with the idea of the first military statue of Adm. Farragut in more than 100 years, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen serving at that time enthusiastically agreed.

That approval started a three-year process that engaged Linda White Rankin (the sculptor), the Museum Committee members, the 30th Anniversary Committee volunteers, the Farragut Statue Subcommittee volunteers, and the past and now current members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. As is often the case, one good idea quickly led to others, and the statue became a memorial plaza, which became the beautiful park now sitting by the Town Hall. The original dedication ceremony expanded and led to consideration of the newly adopted Tennessee Civil War Trail program and ended up with a wonderful new marker on site and an inspirational dedication that included a 98-year-old son of the Confederate veteran who actually fought in the Battle of Campbell Station. All of those activities led to the Civil War Encampment and educational display for family participation on Friday night and Saturday that was so well attended. All of these wonderful programs and events were free, family-oriented, and citizen-friendly, as evidenced by the wonderful crowd attendance that culminated on Sunday afternoon.

Many of the speakers at the dedication of the statue mentioned Adm. Farragut’s famous words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” and noted this provided a lesson on how public officials should take decisive action when necessary. And, certainly that is a true comment. However, as you drive by and see the inspirational sculpture and beautiful park complete with the Civil War Trails Marker that points the way to our wonderful Community Museum, I hope you will also think of all the many Community volunteers and citizens whose strategic planning, patience, dedication and hard work through the years made this inspirational facility a reality. Their actions illustrate once again that when citizens who share a common vision for the Community and volunteer their time and talents without regard to who receives credit, the end result of those activities is almost always something positive. That has been the history of Farragut and one of the things that has truly made this a special community. That reminder for our future might just be the best lesson yet from the Admiral.


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