East Tennessee

East Tennessee

East Tennessee is a name given to approximately the eastern third of the state of Tennessee, one of the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee defined in state law. East Tennessee is the portion of the state located within the Eastern Time Zone and four counties in the Central Time Zone, namely Bledsoe, Cumberland, Marion, and Sequatchie Counties (however, the current legal definition of the Grand Divisions places Sequatchie County in Middle Tennessee). East Tennessee is noted for its mountains, particularly the Great Smoky Mountains portion of the Appalachian Mountains, but in fact has many and varied landforms. East Tennessee is also known for being the birthplace of country music.


The major cities of East Tennessee are Knoxville and Chattanooga. Other important cities include the "Tri-Cities" of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport located in the extreme northeastern most part of the state, an area previously and traditionally referred to by residents as "Upper East Tennessee", although today the term "Northeast Tennessee" is preferred by people who do not live there.

Higher education

East Tennessee is noted for the presence of many institutions of higher learning. The region's major public universities are the Knoxville and Chattanooga campuses of the University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Private four-year institutions include Bryan College, Carson-Newman College, King College, Lee University, Lincoln Memorial University, Maryville College, Milligan College, Johnson Bible College, Tennessee Wesleyan College, and Tusculum College. Several public community colleges and vocational/technical schools also are located in the region.


Knoxville and Chattanooga also contain major operations of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The U.S. nuclear weapons program known as the Manhattan Project was largely developed during World War II at Oak Ridge. Kingsport is the home of Tennessee's largest single industrial employer, Eastman Chemical Company (approximately 7,500 employees in 2006, 14,000 in the 1960's). Eastman was formerly the chemical division of Kodak. East Tennessee is also home to the Aluminum Company of America, now Alcoa. Initially attracted to the area by its potential for low-cost hydroelectric development, Alcoa still maintains a major operation in its namesake town of Alcoa, just south of Knoxville.


East Tennessee is the only part of the state, and one of the few in the South, which has consistently voted Republican since Reconstruction. The region was the only area of the state that did not practice slavery on a wide scale. It was the only region to oppose secession before the Civil War, with the exception of Sullivan County, and as a result became an early base for the Republican Party. This allegiance has continued to this day.

The state's 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, based in the Tri-Cities and Knoxville respectively, are considered to be so heavily Republican that Republican nomination is tantamount to a general election victory. When Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, the 1st and 2nd Districts' congressmen were the only ones not to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives. Similarly the only U.S. Senator from a seceding state who did not resign was Democrat, and later, National Union Party member Andrew Johnson, who was from Greeneville.

The 2nd District has been held by Republicans or their antecedents continuously since 1859; the 1st has been held by Republicans or their antecedents for all but four years since 1859. Democrats do slightly better in the 3rd District, based in Chattanooga, but that district has not supported a Democrat for President since 1956. Part of the region is in the more evenly split 4th District, which was created after the 1980 Census.

The influence of East Tennessee on statewide Republican politics was felt particularly strongly in the 1986 and 2002 races for governor of Tennessee. In 1986, former Republican Governor Winfield Dunn (1971-75) ran for the office again. However, 1st District Congressman Jimmy Quillen had never forgiven Dunn for his opposition to a medical school at East Tennessee State University. Quillen did not endorse Dunn and encouraged other East Tennessee Republicans not to endorse Dunn either. Although Dunn won the Republican nomination, lack of support in East Tennessee cost him any realistic chance of defeating Democrat Ned McWherter in November.

In 2002, former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen garnered more support in East Tennessee than was usually expected for a Democrat. He defeated Republican Van Hilleary (who is from Rhea County, near Chattanooga) largely by holding down his margins of defeat in East Tennessee; he actually carried Knoxville by 400 votes.

Despite the regional Republican majority, there are significant Democratic enclaves in Hamilton, Knox and Washington counties—home to Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City respectively, and also home to the three largest colleges in the region. Democrats also garner support in coal mining areas and in the Oak Ridge area.


Unlike the geographic designations of regions of most U.S. states, the term East Tennessee has legal as well as socioeconomic meaning. East Tennessee, along with Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee, comprises one of the state's three Grand Divisions. According to the Tennessee State Constitution, no more than two of the state Tennessee Supreme Court's five justices can come from any one Grand Division. A similar rule applies to certain other commissions and boards as well, to prevent them from showing a geographic bias.

East Tennessee is the most populous and most densely populated of the three Grand Divisions. At the 2000 census it had 2,119,505 inhabitants living in its 34 counties, which have a combined land area of 35,115.76 km² (13,558.27 sq mi). Its population was 37.25% of the state's total, and its land area is 32.90% of the state's land area. Its population density was 60.358/km² (156.33/sq mi).

ee also

* Western North Carolina
* Appalachia

External links

* [http://www.east-tennessee-history.org/ East Tennessee Historical Society]
* [http://www.discoveret.org/ DiscoverET.org, a general-purpose community website]

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