A Legacy of Found History

We at TAMIS are deeply appreciative of Jack Neely's recent article regarding the passing of Knoxville historian and author Ron Allen. ["Ron Allen, 1934-2011," Secret History, June 16, 2011] Neely's heartfelt appreciation for Allen echoes our thoughts regarding the passionate individual dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of our city.

Early on, Ron was ahead of the game, tirelessly canvassing abandoned downtown buildings, estate and garage sales, and antique stores, searching for lost treasures that would have otherwise been discarded. Through the years, Allen rescued photographs, written documentation, sound recordings, and motion picture film footage overlooked by many at the time.

More impressive was Ron's willingness to share materials and information with others. Allen was the second donor of historical motion picture film footage to TAMIS. After reading one of his books on Knoxville history, we simply called him up one day and asked if he had any old films of Knoxville. Within a week, Ron had delivered a large metal container chock-full of vintage Knoxville home movie reels, some dating as far back as the 1920s. Ron also shared with us unique one-of-a-kind sound home demo recordings featuring legendary local songwriter Arthur Q. Smith.

Ron enjoyed keeping a low profile over the years, preferring to spend his time doing research rather than attending social functions. In fact, Allen often went by the moniker "The Unknown Historian," a title he gave himself. But Allen was always available by telephone or e-mail if one had a question regarding the history of our town. More than once, Ron and his books helped us to identify unknown places, people, and events often found in the vintage home movies that come into the archive.

Over the years, Ron self-published many books related to Knoxville history. These books continue to serve as valuable research tools for TAMIS and anyone researching Knoxville history. It is this work that will serve as his lasting legacy to Knoxville.

He was a good friend, and we will miss him,

Bradley Reeves and Louisa Trott

Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound