The James Agee Centennial Celebration, a series of multimedia events in several different venues downtown and at UT, wound up this past weekend’s round with a rare showing of Agee’s film about Lincoln—shown, appropriately, at Lincoln Memorial University. The group included several scholars, among them former New York Times editor Dwight Garner, Metropolitan Museum of Art photo curator Jeff Rosenheim, musician R.B. Morris, festival chairman Mike Lofaro, and Knoxville-native novelist David Madden, who gave a presentation as Agee himself. Scholars and fans walked out of the room at dusk to a surprise: Staring at them through a large window in downtown Knoxville was an enormous wild peacock. At least twice as large as a turkey, the bird was hopping from branch to branch, unfettered.
Peacocks are rare but not unheard of in the city. An LMU staffer, who prefers not to be named, says the peacock just appeared there about five months ago. “The students love her,” she says of the peacock which has become a mascot at LMU’s downtown Knoxville campus. They have named her Mary Todd, after Lincoln’s troubled wife. She spends much of her time on the roof of the 1848 building that once served as a Union hospital.