Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM)

Profile:

SOCM began in 1971, under the leadership of J.W. Bradley who sought fair taxation of absentee land corporations. They appealed to the Tennessee government, and won their first battle. Bolstered by their success, the organization then hoped to help local communities with other issues they encountered. These prominently included fighting against strip mining in the area primarily against Amax Coal Company who had secured a grant to mine the area. SOCM fought for the rights of land owners who at the time had little protection against mineral extraction on their properties. Achieving much these first few years, SOCM then voted to support many other issues besides coal-mining. Since then much of their work has involved working with African-American organizations to dismantle racism, fair taxation, and has continued its fight against coal. In the last decade fight against Mountaintop Removal (MTR) strip mining. Since changing its name to better match its work, to Statewide Organization for Community eMpowerment in 2008 the organization has been  “a powerful, multi-racial, statewide organization to work for economic, environmental and social justice issues in our local communities, our state, and our nation.”


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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… Continued

Kate Bradley

Emma Ruth “Kate” Hobbs Bradley was born 13 October 1932 in Petros, Tennessee, a small Appalachian coalfield community in the Cumberland Mountains. Kate was the sixth of seven surviving children in her family. Her father was a coalminer. Kate married… Continued

J.W. Bradley

Jacob “J.W.” Bradley was born on 29 June 1930 and raised in Petros, Tennessee, a small Appalachian coalfield community in the Cumberland Mountains. J.W. married Emma “Kate” Hobbs in 1951. As an adult, J.W. worked several jobs. At eighteen he… Continued

East Tennessee Research Corporation (ETRC)

Profile: [Contributed by John Williams and Neil McBride, September 2015.] As the members of the Student Health Coalition and the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services began working with health clinics, SOCM, the Tennessee Black Lung Association and other community-based organizations… Continued

Irwin Venick

Profile: Contributed by Irwin Venick, May 2016 I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee on a hot, humid day in August 1971 not really knowing what to expect. One thing for sure was that I was not in Kansas (meaning for me,… Continued

Cindy Lutenbacher

[Contributed by Cindy Lutenbacher, September 2015] I was born in Shreveport, LA, in 1953, but I lived in cities all over the South.  New Orleans is my family home, even though only one cousin still lives there now.  I think of… Continued

Marie Cirillo

[Contributed by John Emmeus Davis, 2015] Marie Cirillo was born in Brooklyn in 1929.  Her father had emigrated from rural Italy.  Her mother had grown up in a small Catholic community in central Kentucky.  Every summer, her mother returned to… Continued

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SOCM’s and the SHC’s culture of ‘family fun’

Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey reflect on the value of having fun, highlighting the Student Health Coalition as an especially stimulating group of people to be around. Their commitment to collective recreation ultimately facilitated a stronger sense of togetherness… Continued

Decline of coal camp healthcare and subsequent basis of need for reform

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

Reflections on the SHC’s approach to community healthcare

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell consider what set the Student Health Coalition apart from other community development efforts in the Appalachian region of East Tennessee. Boomer focuses on the Coalition’s and SOCM’s value of community empowerment (by way of… Continued

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey’s origins with SOCM

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

Maureen O’Connell’s introduction to SOCM and the SHC

Maureen traces the development of her involvement with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and the Student Health Coalition (SHC), beginning with her 1969 introduction to Marie Cirillo and research presence in Clairfield, Tennessee. Recorded on May 20th, 2013.   Full… Continued

Highlights from JW Bradley’s collection of papers

Biff Hollingsworth, archivist at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library’s Southern Historical Collection, comes across some highlights from JW Bradley’s recently donated collection of papers. The first is a newspaper clipping of JW, president of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), with… Continued

Maureen and Boomer on the Coalitions Legacy

Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey discuss SOCM, tax equalization, and “getting to the roots of problems and not just providing services.” Recorded in Nashville, Tenn., May 2013. Continued

Mo & Boomer

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 in Nashville, Tennessee.   Continued

Related Resources/Links:

Interview with Suzanne Kurth by Joey Fink, May 11 2011, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Suzanne Kurth is a professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Dr. Kurth was interviewed about her experiences as a professor and feminist at the University since the 1970s. Topics discussed in this interview include: gendered differences… Continued

Interview with June Rostan by Jessie Wilkerson, July 6 2009, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

June Rostan is a long time community and labor activist in east Tennessee. She was born on May 8, 1947, in Valdese, North Carolina. Rostan received her B.A. from Maryville College in 1969 and her M.A. in Special Education from… Continued

Interview with Mary Herr by Jessie Wilkerson, May 19 2011, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Mary Herr was born in Springfield, Ill. in 1940. In 1978 she moved to Cherokee, N.C. where she has worked on many community development projects, primarily in legal aid services. Herr begins the interview by discussing her family history; a… Continued

Interview with Neil McBride by Jessie Wilkerson, May 27 2010, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Neil McBride was born on December 12, 1945 in Dallas, Texas. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia in 1970. After graduating, he worked for a year as the Southern Director of the Law Students Civil Rights Research… Continued

Interview with Melody Reeves by Joey Fink, August 9 2010, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Melody Reeves grew up in California in the 1960s, with many childhood trips back to the South to visit extended family. She moved to east Tennessee in 1979 to work with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), then with the Tennessee… Continued

Interview with Susan Williams by Jessie Wilkerson, July 10 2009, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Susan Williams grew up in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and she received her degree in Biology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1979. From 1979-1989, she worked as a community organizer for Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM). She then went… Continued

Interview with Linda L. Smotherman by Evangeline Mee, 31 May 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Linda Smotherman is from the Piney community in Van Buren County, Tenn.. She became president of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) in 1983. She started college at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in 1968. She finished at the Medical Laboratory… Continued

Interview with Connie White by Jessie Wilkerson, August 16 2010, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Connie White was born on December 8, 1954 in Loudon, Tenn. She became active in the environmental justice organization Save Our Cumberland Mountains in the 1970s and later served as President. She is currently the Associate Director of the Center… Continued

Interview with Betty Anderson by Jessie Wilkerson, August 15 2009, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Betty Anderson was born in Scott County, Tenn. on March 26, 1936. In the 1970s, she became involved with Save Our Cumberland Mountains, a social justice organization that addressed strip-mining and other community issues in Tennessee and Kentucky. She became… Continued

Interview with Carol Ford by Evangeline Mee, 30 May 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Topics discussed in this interview with Carol Ford include: born in Kalamazoo, Mich.; moved to Florida to live with aunt and uncle; treasurer for Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM); vocational school in Jacksboro, Tenn.; thievery in the coal company office… Continued

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