Petros, TN

1973mapPetros is a small community (population 1,400) in the northeast portion of Morgan County. At one time a major coal mining community with several stores and a bank, Petros is now crippled by the decline of the deep coal mining industry. In 1890, Tennessee built a state prison in Petros, Brushy State Penitentiary, which housed James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin, and up until mid-1972 employed 180 men, 40 of whom lived in Petros. Because of an attempt to form a guard’s union, the Govern0r [sic] closed the prison permanently, again adding to the economic difficulties. It is now a distillery. Petros might also lose its Post Office and certainly will suffer a decline in population. But if the people leave, it is not because they want to. They will not be happy away from their families, the mountains, and their heritage.

Petros also suffers politically with the county, partly because of geography. It is on the other side of the mountain from Wartburg, the county seat. Wartburg has been designated a growth area, and because of this designation, State and Federal funds are concentrated there.

— Excerpt from “Final Report: Rural Student Health Coalition June 1, 1972-May 31, 1973,” PDF page 23.


Related People:

Randy Hodges

Randy graduated Vanderbilt with a degree in civil engineering in 1975. Randy first worked with the SHC helping to construct the Petros Health Clinic in 1973. He served as SHC co-director from 1973-1974 and as a community worker in Jacksboro,… Continued

Irwin Venick

Contributed by Irwin Venick, May 2016 I arrived in Nashville, Tenn. 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, New… Continued

J.W. Bradley

Jacob “J.W.” Bradley was born on 29 June 1930 and raised in Petros, Tenn., 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

Welmoet Spreij

Contributed by Welmoet Spreij, Amsterdam, 2017. I came to Nashville as a Dutch exchange-student in the fall of 1969 and took some classes at Vanderbilt University. While attending a course in philosophy, I came to know John Davis, Dick Burr,… Continued

J. Thomas “Tom” John

I am a bit late in getting my bio in, best done in the earlier stages of pending dotage. I am originally from Laurinburg, N.C., a small farming and, then, textile community in the eastern part of the state. I… Continued
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… Continued

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson was born in West Palm Beach, Fla. in 1947. He attended Vanderbilt undergraduate and medical schools, and did a residency in internal medicine there as well. During the summer of his second year in medical school (1970) he… Continued

Kate Bradley

Emma Ruth “Kate” Hobbs Bradley was born 13 October 1932 in Petros, Tenn., 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

Related Stories:

Notes from the road: Mountain People’s Health Councils

[Story contributed by Caryl Carpenter] On October 23rd, 2017, a doctor, a lawyer, an archivist, and an old lady started out to make history, or more accurately, to record history – the history of Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) in… Continued

“I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.”

[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.] Dear All, Seeing the videos and reading the memories of other Coalitioners has made me want to share what working with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) meant to me. I was a Brooklyn… Continued

Caryl Carpenter discusses the challenges with the structure of Mountain People’s Health Councils

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, talks about challenges in the structure of MPHC, which was founded in 1974 as a coalition of three rural health clinics in Norma (Scott County), Petros… Continued

Caryl Carpenter talks about her experiences with Mountain People’s Health Councils

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, talks about her experiences with MPHC, which was founded in 1974 as a coalition of three rural health clinics in Norma (Scott County), Petros (Morgan County)… Continued

Betty Anderson’s introduction to SOCM

Betty Anderson shares how she first became involved with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and the Student Health Coalition. Included in her account is a story about how she and others responded to opposition of the rural health clinics in… Continued

Perry Steele on the summer of 1972

[Story contributed by Perry Steele, 15 May 2017]  I was finishing my sophomore year at Vanderbilt. Nixon hadn’t drafted me. For some reason Professor Scott suggested I could be a community organizer. Having no other plans for the summer, I… 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

Highlights from J.W. Bradley’s collection of papers

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

Related Resources/Links:

Interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley by Evangeline Mee, 29 May 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Topics discussed in this interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley include: birth in Petros, Tenn.; life history overview; coal mining father; history of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM); women’s role in SOCM; relationship of Vanderbilt University medical students; Student… Continued

Interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley by Evangeline Mee, 11 August 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

This interview with J.W. Bradley and Kate Bradley is a follow up to interview U-0803. J.W. Bradley was born in Petros, Tenn., a coalfield community in the Cumberlands. He served as deputy sheriff in Petros. He was one of the… Continued

Article: “Health Care for those off the beaten path,” from the Tennessee Valley Authority

Kollar, Robert. “Health care for those off the beaten path.” Tennessee Valley Authority, post-1975. View PDF.  More on the Tennessee Valley Authority: Continued

Richard Davidson Photograph Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Richard Davidson (1947-), a medical physician and educator, was among the founding participants of the Vanderbilt Student Health Coalition at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. (1970-1971) and the Mountain People’s Health Council in eastern Tennesee (1975-1976). The Student Health Coalition… Continued