By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — When Visit Knoxville and other brochures are mailed out across the country as places of historical significance for visitors to see, two areas will now bear the names of two of Knoxville’s leading African American leaders.
The Museum of East Tennessee History, located in downtown Knoxville, renamed its reading room the Booker-Neely Microfilm Reading Room in honor of two of Knoxville’s most prestigious researchers of local history. One one of those researchers is Bob Booker. Already a civil rights icon, Booker was instrumental in integrating the lunch counters of
downtown Knoxville during sit ins in the early sixties. He was the first African American to serve as a state representative from Knoxville, served on city council and also served for over 16 years as the Executive Director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. He is a historian, and a free lance writer with hundreds of articles under his by line. Booker is also a DJ who owns an extensive collection of vinyl records dating back into the 1940’s. The “Wax Man” as he is known in radio land, has a large following on the local radio station, WJBE 99.7 FM and has published several books among them, The Heat of a Red Summer, a story based on the race riot in Knoxville in 1919, and Two Hundred Years of Black Culture in Knoxville Tennessee.
Also a must see on the tour list for those coming in Knoxville will be a visit to the Rosalind Tillman Courtyard in the heart of the Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Campus. Mrs. Tillman served as Dean of the Magnolia campus for over 20 years. A great proponent of community partnerships, during her tenure as Dean she worked closely with Project Grad to get students exposed to the opportunities of pursuing a college degree and thru many projects over the decades and worked to open the doors to the community of the campus that sits in the inner city. One of the many successful community projects under Tillman’s reign was the development of the Heart of Knoxville Career Center which turned the old campus gym into a training center for those in the community to prepare for jobs.