Charles “Boomer” Winfrey

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.

See Also:

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.

Coal Creek Miners Museum:

“Oh God for one more breath: Retelling Anderson County’s Mining History,” by Kathleen Walls.

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