Tennessee Eastman Explosion, October 4, 1960

Where were you on October 4, 1960-the day of the Eastman Explosion???

***Please remember the photographic images on this site are the property of the Archives of the City of Kingsport and are governed by U.S. and International copyright laws. Please contact the archives for permission to use images or request reproductions***

A massive cloud forms over downtown Kingsport as a result of the explosion.

Fifty years ago on October 4, 1960 an explosion rocked the Tennessee Eastman Company plant. The explosion was centered in the aniline division of the plant. The blast was felt all around the city and even buildings downtown, which are over a mile away, were damaged.

Sixteen people were killed as a result of the explosion and 200 more were injured.

Cloud of smoke from the explosion

Scene outside Holston Valley Community Hospital

Local photographer Thomas McNeer captured excellent shots of the event as it unfolded. 

Taking care of the injured at Holston Valley

Most of McNeer’s photos were taken at Holston Valley Community Hospital where hundreds gathered to check on loved ones, give blood and lend a hand.

Scene from inside the hospital

Holston Valley Community Hospital

People gathered outside of the hospital

Crowd outside the hospital

People gathered at the hospital

Scene from Holston Valley Community Hospital

For more information on the Eastman  Explosion you may want to check out Pete Dykes’ “The Eastman Explosion Tragedy.”

Here is a description of the book~

The sudden unexpected explosion at the Tennessee Eastman Aniline Plant in October, 1960, brought horrific death and destruction to the huge Kingsport industrial complex. Following the shattering blast, nearby storage tanks of chemicals exploded as well, adding to the growing piles of rubble and debris that heaped up, burying bodies and body parts in a desolate scene of destruction. Flames spread, and multiple drums of stored material exploded as the heat reached them. Nothing like this had ever happened at the forty year old facility, where more than twelve thousand employees earned their livings. “The Eastman Explosion Tragedy” takes the reader back in time with eyewitness accounts of that terrible day in East Tennessee.

The Archives of the City of Kingsport have several collections that pertain to the Eastman Explosion so come on down to the archives and check them out.

Ancestor Appreciation Day 2010

Today, September 27, is Ancestor Appreciation Day! Ancestor Appreciation Day is a  day for learning about and honoring your family’s ancestors.

T. J. Palmer Family, 1926

Below is an article “Celebrating Ancestor Appreciation Day” by Flint Mclintock

Ancestor Appreciation Day is celebrated each year on September 27. The observance of this day gives us the chance to reflect on our ancestors, learn more about them and the ways in which they influenced each of our lives. Many of us in the hustle and bustle of everyday life have never taken the time to fully understand and appreciate our extended families. Traditions are forgotten and the link between the generations slowly fades away until it is nothing more than a whispered notion. Many times it is expressed almost embarrassingly at family gatherings such as a wedding or funeral when out of obligation more than anything ancestral links bring us together with family that feel more like strangers.

In the thread of time and events most of our ancestors lived common lives. Filled with the struggles of everyday life it might be easy to conclude that they do not have much of a story to tell. Ah but nothing could be further from the truth and that is where Ancestor Appreciation Day can give us new insight into those who came before us. If we will but take this little known and often neglected holiday to heart we can learn of the many fascinating and colorful individuals who make up our past.

Knowledge of ones family history can give a sense of purpose and provide stability and comfort in our own lives. We are but one small part in the vast expansion of time an space and at times feel insignificant and over whelmed. This is becoming a more prevalent feeling and is do in part to our lack of knowledge of who are ancestors really were. But when we can see the connection between ourselves and our ancestors we can than begin to gain a sense of purpose. The chance to learn our ancestral history slips away with each passing generation if we do not take the time to listen and learn from those that came before us. The observance of Ancestor Appreciation Day is a time to not only learn about our past but can also be used to preserve such history in written, recorded or video form.

Take advantage of Ancestor Appreciation Day to remember your ancestors, the good and bad, the success’s and failures of those who came before you. Undoubtedly you will be surprised by some of the things you discover and will gain a better understanding of who you are.


Unidentified Kingsport Family, undated

The Palmer Room, located on the 4th level of the Kingsport Library, has a great selection of  local and regional histories, family histories and genealogy research materials that can get you started on learning about your ancestors.

Resources available in the Palmer Room:

• Handbooks (materials for beginners)
• Family histories
• City Directories and Telephone Books
• Digital photographs of tombstones in area cemeteries
• Marriage and death record indexes
• Census microfilm
• Microfilm readers with printers
• Everton’s Genealogical Helper and other magazines
• Maps (local, regional, Tennessee and Virginia)
• Newspaper microfilm (1916 to present)
• Computer access to thousands of genealogy Web sites
• Ancestry Plus Online (only available on the library’s computers)
• Heritage Quest (available online remotely with your library card)
• War of the Rebellion (129 volumes with index)
• Rosters of confederate and Union Soldiers
• Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files (online)
• Freedman’s Bank records (online)
• Virginia Military Records

Series 5 Postcards

The new set of postcards (series 5) can now be purchased at the Kingsport Public Library’s circulation desk, the reference department, and in the archives. Each set includes 5 different scenes and are only $5.00! Postcards are also available for purchase individually for $1.00. You can inquire about individual postcards in the archives.

There are only a handful of Series 1 & 2 left and we are sold out of Series 3 & 4, so you might want to hurry and get Series 5!

*All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Archives*

Kingsport Historical Landmark Restored

Check out this neat video about the renovations to the old Kingsport Utilities Building on Church Circle. It is now TriSummit Bank. They even used photos from the archives for the video! if you are having trouble viewing the video you can see it here as well…


“My Boys” by LeRoy Sprankle

Every so often I like to get on Ebay and do a search for Kingsport items. It is fascinating sometimes what you can find, a lot of really neat items. I recently came across two different listings for LeRoy Sprankle’s book “My Boys.”

I think it is great that the book is being sold on Ebay but I was kind of taken aback by the prices! One was priced at $99.95 and the other is listed at $50.00. I also checked Amazon for the book, prices ranged from $39.99-$149.00.

Okay, here is the thing folks…you can buy the book at the Kingsport Public Library and Archives for $5.00. Yes, only $5.00 (and a few bucks for shipping)! All proceeds from the sale of “My Boys” (if purchased here at the library and archives) go to the Friends of the Archives.

Coach LeRoy Sprankle and unidentified man drinking coffee. The photograph was taken in ST. Augustine, Florida, 1941.

Written by LeRoy Sprankle, known as the “Father of Kingsport Athletics”, the book chronicles the early years of sports at DBHS. The book was written in the 1950s and 60s but was misplaced until it was re-complied and published in 2001.

For more information on LeRoy Sprankle or “My Boys” please visit the archives.

Eight Centuries of American Indian History in East Tennessee

The Kingsport Public Library will be hosting a program, “Eight Centuries of American Indian History in East Tennessee,” on Saturday, August 7 at 1:00 p.m. in the auditorium. The program will be presented by Dr. Jim Glanville.

Dr. Glanville was born in London, England and graduated from the Royal College of Science. He moved to the U.S. and obtained a Ph.D in chemistry from the University of Maryland. He retired from Virginia Tech as Director of General Chemistry and has been an independent scholar of history. He has received 5 patents, and wrote the textbook, General Chemistry for Engineers.

His historical publications include an eyewitness account of the Battle of King’s Mountain, the social history of the American Indians of Southwest Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee, the sixteenth century Spanish presence in Southwest Virginia and a history of the global soda ash industry and the Saltville soda ash plant.

Dr. Glanville will be assisted in his presentation by Chief Lee Vest. The program is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Friends of the Kingsport Public Library.

Fun Fest Genealogy Workshop-Climbing Your Family Tree

Climbing Your Family Tree 2010

Bring your family history to life! This will be an informative and entertaining program on finding and using resources in researching your family and local history. Also, you will find out what your library has available to help your research.

This event will be led by Kenny Stallard, genealogy and history webmaster. He will be discussing “What’s my name; Who am I?” So come and ask Kenny your family tree questions!

The S.P. Platt Family, 1953. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr.

Climbing Your Family Tree will be held at the Kingsport Public Library in the Mead Auditorium on Saturday, July 17 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon.

This event is free but requires pre-registration.  Registrations should be made by phone at 224-2539 or in person at the Palmer Room in the Library. This event is sponsored by the Kingsport Public Library. For more information, contact  224-2539 or visit the website at kingsportlibrary.org.

Wedding Photographs by Thomas McNeer, Jr.

Keeping with the theme of the last post I thought I would share some wonderful wedding pictures by the late photographer Thomas McNeer, Jr.

Mary Jane Hilton and Roy Zimmerman

The Zimmermans were married September 6, 1946. According to the wedding announcement the bride “wore a blue woolen suit with black accessories and a corsage of white chrysanthemums. A strand of pearls was her only ornament.” The couple were married in the home of Rev. E. L. McConnell.

Jean Drury, 1947.

Jean Drury and Kenneth Edward Cox were married August 16, 1947. According to the Times-News, “the bride, given in marriage by her father, was wearing a gown of white marquisette with a tiered ruffled skirt extending into a full court train. The shoulders were marked with ruffles and the high neck line was of illusion. The long, fitted sleeves were finished with wide ruffles.”

Marie Ballard, 1954.

Marie Ballard and Dr. James Dwight Witt were married October 23, 1954 at First Baptist Church.  The announcement states “the brunette bride was radiantly lovely in a Chantilly lace gown over pleated nylon tulle fashioned with a scalloped peplum of lace and an appliqued sequin and pearl motif on the yoke. her veil of silk illusion fell to the fingertips from a lace headpiece encrusted with sequins and pearls. She carried a white prayer book with a white orchid from wich fell streamers tied in love knots.”

Barbara Lynn Gott and Alan Dwight Toomey, 1957.

Barbara Lynn Gott and Alan Dwight Toomey were married March 2, 1957. The bride wore a “dress of Alencon lace featuring a square neckline, made softer by edging, adorned the bride. It had three-quarter length sleeves and a swirling waltz length bell-shaped skirt. The bride’s veil of French Illusion hung from a tiara of seed pearls and rhinestones.”

Patricia Eileen Good, 1962.

Patricia Eileen Good and Donald Calvin Fritz were married August 11, 1962.

Wedding Getaway Cars

It is June so you know what that means…June Weddings!

Steve Backer and Mary Alice Hord getting into the Backer Brothers Flowers Car after their wedding. Steve Backer owned Backer Brothers Flowers, 1947. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr. © Archives of the City of Kingsport

June has long been the leading month for weddings. There are many theories on why this is but one to note is that June is the month that was dedicated by the Romans to the queen of the gods Juno. The goddess Juno was the protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing, so a wedding in Juno’s month seems favorable.

Wampler Wedding Candid, 1953. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr. © Archives of the City of Kingsport

The Archives has some wonderful images of brides, weddings, receptions, showers and some of my favorites, the wedding getaway cars!

Candid wedding photograph taken for the Marvin Whitley and Barbara Chandler wedding, 1954. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr. © Archives of the City of Kingsport

Miss Pat Greer Wedding, 1955. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr. © Archives of the City of Kingsport

Below is my personal favorite image of the wedding getaway car! I was intrigued when I noticed that the car said “Bob and Bobby” and so I did a little digging and found the wedding announcement in the Kingsport Times-News.  Turns out that this car was decorated for the wedding of Bobby Gene Scott and Bobby Jean Taylor! I also love the drawing of the shotgun on the side of the car!

Car decorated for the wedding of Bobby Gene Scott and Bobby Jean Taylor, 1954. Photo by Thomas McNeer, Jr. © Archives of the City of Kingsport