Theme: Organizing

The Black Lung Association

Upon reaching East Tennessee in 1969-70, SHC community workers immediately encountered Black Lung Disease (Pneumoconiosis). For years, the SHC engaged Black Lung Disease on several levels: medical diagnosis and treatment; representation for federal benefits claims; and organizing for reform of the United Mine Workers Union. A working, non-technical definition of Black Lung Disease is a …

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Dick Burr

Contributed by John E. Davis and Jack Beckford. Dick Burr grew up in Lake Wales, Fla. After graduating from high school in 1967, he spent four years as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, majoring in philosophy. His years at Vanderbilt included such activities as an early morning arrest for “harassing a truck driver” after following …

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Charles “Boomer” Winfrey on the Coal Creek War of 1892-1893

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey delineates the historical account of Coal Creek, Tennessee’s Coal Creek War (the battle atop Militia Hill at Fort Anderson) to Maureen O’Connell, Tom John, and Biff Hollingsworth. He explains the conflict’s origins within a larger context of complex coal mining history in the region and discusses its profound impact on the convict …

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Post-Reconstruction African American land ownership in Pennington Gap, VA

Ron Carson shares about the origins of the building now home to the African American Cultural Center (formerly a Rosenwald School) in Pennington Gap, Virginia. His great-great-grandmother, Rachel Scott, owned the land upon which it was built–along with a significant amount of additional acreage in the area.   Full footage of Ron Carson’s tour of …

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Bill Dow in Smithville ,Tenn., 1970

Bill Dow

Bill Dow co-founded the Student Health Coalition while in medical school at Vanderbilt University, in 1969. His larger-than-life role in the SHC origin story and beyond warrants special telling, which we attempt in the essay that follows. Contributed by Margaret Ecker, compiled in collaboration with friends  Bill Dow energized a generation of student activists and …

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Odes and Shelby McKamey

Odes and Shelby McKamey were among the most cherished local hosts for members of the SHC when the health fair arrived in their remote mountain community of Stoney Fork, Tenn. Later, after the Stoney Fork Clinic was established, the McKameys also housed and hosted visiting doctors who came to the clinic, including Tom John. Odes …

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John Kennedy

The summer before his final year at the Vanderbilt Law School and during the summer and fall after his graduation, John Kennedy worked for the Student Health Coalition in 1971 and 1972. He provided assistance to former miners who were seeking black lung benefits and disability payments from federal and state agencies. He was based …

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Charles Schiff

While an engineering student at Vanderbilt University, Charles spent the summers of 1970 and 1971 with the Student Health Coalition. He was 18 years old when he joined the SHC, one of the Coalition’s youngest members. He served as a community worker in Clairfield, Tenn. where, in addition to providing support for the health fairs, …

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