After studying geology at the University of Tennessee and working as a geologist for one year, Boomer took a job as a community organizer with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM). As he later described his role: “They needed somebody with geological training to go out and sample water and review mining plans and things and see if there were any flaws in any of them that could be exploited.” He stayed at SOCM for 10 years.
After the death of his father, while trying to decide on a new direction in life, he began an 1,800-mile canoe trip, paddling from East Tennessee down through Florida. His voyage became a fundraiser for SOCM. It also became the start of a new career. The journal that he kept during his canoe trip was published in local newspapers. The publicity generated by his journal entries led him to a 30-year career in journalism as a reporter and editor.
He became known as a local historian, intent on documenting and preserving the history of Coal Creek (Briceville) and Lake City (Rocky Top). He served as a founder, contributor, and volunteer at the Coal Creek Miner’s Museum. As shared by his friend Maureen O’Connell, Boomer had a “to do” list every day and enlisted most folks who visited to be his legs to help him sort rocks for a Tennessee rock and gem display for the Miner’s Museum. He was a “large force of personality with sheer knowledge about so many things, an anger at things it’s right to be angry about, a unique humor, and no one a better storyteller.”
Boomer died in his home in Lake City on October 6, 2023.
Chad Montrie, To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
Bill Allen, “Save Our Cumberland Mountains: Growth and Change within a Grassroots Organization.” Chapter 5 in Stephen L. Fisher (ed.), Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993).
Cody Ferguson, This Is Our Land: Grassroots Environmentalism in the Late Twentieth Century (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015).
“Boomer”: Helping, Promoting His Home Town. https://www.oakridger.com/news/20180731/boomer-helping-promoting-his-hometown
Coal Creek Miners Museum: http://www.coalcreekminersmuseum.com
“Oh God for one more breath: Retelling Anderson County’s Mining History,” by Kathleen Walls. https://americanroads.net/mountain_roads_summer2017.htm
Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey discuss Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), tax equalization, and “getting to the root of problems (not just providing services).” Recorded in Nashville, Tenn., May 2013. Continued
Boomer discusses his introduction to Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) in 1972. Inspired by his geological studies and depth of conviction about unregulated strip mining’s adverse effects on both the environment and community health, Boomer has been an active participant… Continued
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… Continued
Files transferred from the William W. Dow Papers (#05612) that document two Student Health Coalition reunions. One attended by Dow in 2009, and another hosted in Nashville in 2013 after Dow’s death in 2012. Materials include correspondence between former coalition… Continued
On strip mining, community organization, and “[having] fun while trying to change the world.” Interview with Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey, recorded at a May 2013 reunion of the Student Health Coalition (SHC) in Nashville, Tenn. Continued
Lark Hayes shares her history with the East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC), highlighting responsibilities such as putting together a rights and benefits handbook, southern coal property title research, and overloaded coal truck fact-finding (for lawsuits) alongside Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and… Continued
Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey reflect on the value of having fun, highlighting the Student Health Coalition (SHC) as an especially stimulating group of people to be around. Their commitment to collective recreation ultimately facilitated a stronger sense of… Continued
Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell ruminate on work left to be done in the eastern Tennessee region of Appalachia. Their focus pertains mostly to the ongoing need for augmented healthcare resources, drug education and reform, and meeting the needs… Continued
Related Content: Continued
Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey reflect on Bill Dow‘s character and personal philosophy about community organizing. They describe him as an other-oriented person driven by creative, actionable service and mutually respectful relationships best illustrated by his perception of and… Continued
Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell consider what set the Student Health Coalition (SHC) apart from other community development efforts in the Appalachian region of East Tennessee. Boomer focuses on the Coalition’s and Save Our Cumberland Mountains’ (SOCM’s) value of… Continued
Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell discuss the local healthcare setting upon Save Our Cumberland Mountain’s (SOCM) and the Student Health Coalition’s (SHC) early stages of community organizing in East Tennessee. Maureen details several local factors which established a major… Continued