I flew to Nashville on Thursday, April 21 for the 111th Tennessee State Conference, Susan Rogers Thomas, State Regent. Susan’s theme is “Legacies of Our Ancestors Inspiring Our Tomorrows” and her emblem is an image of the three white stars on a field of blue found in the Tennessee flag. The Tennessee Society is thriving with over 6,000 members in 95 chapters. Boasting strong leadership, they have had two Presidents General in years since I’ve been a member – Sarah McKelley King and Linda Tinker Watkins.
I enjoyed visiting with Ginger Hoogesteger and Nanette Feeback, one of my Personal Pages, on the half hour drive to Franklin, site of the bloody Civil War battle in which 10,000 men died. My flight had been delayed so I arrived just in time for the State Officers’ Club Dinner, Vicki Sanders, President, who presented a gift to the Guardian Trust Campaign. We played a DAR Trivia game which Susan created from DARopoly. Each table compiled a team, I read the questions, Susan timed the teams and Judy Chaffin, Librarian General, kept score.
Susan’s project is a marvelous two-volume set of books entitled “Legacies of our Grandmothers – Early Tennessee Women” which documents the lives of hundreds of women who were either born or lived in Tennessee prior to 1850. Sketches for each woman include a narrative story of her life and family, followed by a genealogical chart with data on the woman, her parents and siblings, and her spouse and children. The books include footnoted sources and are valued for their genealogical and historical information.
Susan developed a marvelous leadership training program to encourage and educate potential chapter leaders, the DAR Visions Course, inspired by and copied from the work of the D.C. Daughters’ New Members Course, the work of Janet McFarland and Julia Rogers. The course is designed for active engaged members who are subscribers to the DAR Magazine and are recommended by three chapter members. A series of online webinars, study of DAR published resources, in-person activities and independent projects must be completed. In less than two years, 60 have graduated from the program, resulting in enthusiastic, informed chapter leadership.
A variety of workshops were held, beginning with an entertaining program on genealogical research in Kentucky and Tennessee presented by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA. He shared how he got hooked on genealogy as a young child at a family reunion and provided excellent tips and resources for overcoming the brick walls in research.
Representatives from DAR Schools Kate Duncan Smith, Tamassee, Crossnore and Hindman had an opportunity to share information about their programs and receive generous contributions from the Tennessee Society. Many committees had exhibit tables and I was most impressed with the DARopoly exhibit. Others wrote letters to our military as part of our attempt to set a Guinness World RecordTM at the 125th Congress.
Attending the State Chairmen’s Club Luncheon, Shirley O. Smith, President, we enjoyed a video history of the Tennessee Room in the DAR Museum which reflects a parlor in a wealthy American home during the years of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, 1828-1836. Beneath the portrait of Andrew Jackson, seated in a gilded chair, is one of the Bellange chairs commissioned by PresidentMonroe and made for the White House in 1818. All are eager to see the new wallpaper recently installed in the Tennessee Room. Additionally, Shirley presented a gennerous donation to the Guardian Trust Campaign.
It was fascinating to visit the display of 125 Years of DAR history created by State Historian Carol Teeters. The exhibit included many items from the administrations of Tennessee Daughters and Honorary Presidents General Sarah M. King and Linda T. Watkins as well as decades of campaign pins, many commemorative items and an exhibit on our 125th anniversary.
Donald McMahan presented a fascinating History Workshop entitled “The Intriguing State of Franklin”. Concerned that Congress would sell the Cumberland River Valley to Spain or France in order to pay off war debts, four counties in western North Carolina declared their independence as the state of Frankland (later changed to Franklin) in 1784. The petition for statehood did not pass Congress, but Franklin survived as an independent nation for four years with its own constitution, Indian treaties and barter in lieu of currency. When the Indians attacked the settlements in 1788, it rejoined North Carolina to gain the militia’s protection from attack.
The Opening Night Dinner & Awards Presentations began with an impressive procession of Chapter banners and a musical prelude in which Lynne Drysdale Patterson sang. Lynne is a talented performer and previous winner of NSDAR’S American Heritage Music Composition Award for her song "Be Like Abigail” (Ode to Abigail Smith Adams.)
The evening’s entertainment was a program on 125 Years of Music and the DAR. Bethany Brinton played the piano while a video gave a history of Tennesse women in music. The program also included members portraying Minnie Pearl, Dottie West, and Amy Grant as well as National Junior Membership Chair Cecile Wimberley singing Becky Hobbs’ composition, “Celebrate America!” Lynne Patterson sang an arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” in my honor.
It was a pleasure to give a Power Point presentation on the history of our headquarters complex and the need to create an endowment fund to provide for future restoration.
Following presentations of the Historic Preservation Award and the Media Award, the Outstanding Junior Award was presented to Summer Morris, one of my Personal Pages. Fifty year members were honored with long stemmed roses and the members over 90 years of age were recognized.
The evening concluded with the State Regent’s Reception, honoring Susan, Honorary State Regents, Conference Guests and the Outstanding Junior. Lynne Drysdale Patterson presented me with a CD of “Forever Young” as well as “Be Like Abigail; Wives of the Signers.”
The Rachel Stockley Donelson Chapter gave me a print of George Washington donated by Bitsy Gulbenk who has generously donated many of these prints for schools and libraries.
The speaker for the “Who Do You Think You Are?” breakfast Saturday morning was Sharon Withers, Registrar General. Challenging us to describe ourselves in one word, she stated that 99.9% of our DNA is identical to the person sitting next to us. Sharon asked “Who do you think you are as a DAR member? Does the work we do honor our founders and their vision? Or do we get caught up in pins and petty matters?” She closed with a quotation from Nicolas Boileau, a French poet and critic: “If your descent is from heroic sires, show in your life a remnant of their fires.”
The Business Meeting began with Officer reports, highlight of which include:
- $100,000 was contributed to Honor Flight and Honor Air to send 100 veterans to Washington
- Over 1300 new members have been admitted during Susan’s administration
- Chapters have retained 95% of their members
- More than 435,000 hours of community service have been recorded in 3 years
- Instead of holding up voting placards, delegates were given red, white and blue stars
After the reports of Officers, Nancy Hemmrich, Vice President General, Honorary State Regent and Chair of the Development Committee led a lively and most successful pledging session for the Guardian Trust Campaign. Susan Thomas has been extremely supportive of the campaign for an endowment fund and the support of the Tennessee Daughters is truly appreciated.
Meegan Burton, State Junior Membership Chair, presided over the Juniors Luncheon in which everyone received an informative Guide for Junior Membership brochure. The entertainment was a delightful skit on Juniors and the Wide Blue Sash in which Juniors portrayed Honorary Presidents General Anne R. Minor, Edith S. Magna, Florence H. Becker, Gertrude S. Carraway and Adele E. Sullivan, all of whom joined DAR as Junior Members. Linda Watkins and I also participated . We were each interviewed by Jessical “Raz” Dumitru regarding the accomplishments and disappointments of our administrations.
Conference guests Carol Jackson, CA; Bea Fischer, GA; Judy Ostler, TX; Ginnie Storage, VA; Sharon Withers, Registrar General and I enjoyed touring the James Polk House in Columbia, built by his parents in 1816. Serving as our 11th President, James Polk added more than 1 million acres to the U.S., including Texas and Oregon. As we were departing the house, a guest entered and proclaimed “You must be DAR!” Introducing ourselves, we learned she is an Indiana Daughter and assumed we were DAR because we were dressed better than most tourists. We considered it a fine compliment!
State Second Vice Regent Cecile Wimberley presided over the Chapter Regents’ Banquet. All enjoyed hearing the Kate Duncan Smith DAR School String Band under the leadership of David Gamble, which provided the toe tapping entertainment. Selections included “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and concluded with a rousing rendition of “Rocky Top.”
Awards were given and the recent graduations of the DAR Visions Leadership program received diplomas and honor cords.
As the Conference Guests brought greetings, Susan announced that we each had the honor of being named Honorary Tennesseans and that eace would receive a “See Rock City birdhouse” and a Log cast iron skillet, made near her home.
I departed early Sunday and regret missing the Junior Strut, Memorial Service and Wreath Laying at the grave of Louise Grundy Lindsley. Mrs. Lindsley was a Suffragist, member of the DAR and served as Regent of the Ladies' Hermitage Association. She was also related to Carrie McGavock whose home was turned into a field hospital during the bloody Battle of Franklin and is featured in the historical novel, “Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks.
The Tennessee Daughters are creating powerful legacies for tomorrow’s members. The Tennessee stars do indeed shine brightly!