Here and Now Historians

Features

By Gray Bennett / Photography by Trevor Long

Past, present, and future – history is the ever-unfolding story of events and people in our communities and in our world. We spoke with five local historians to learn more about their work and what sparked their passion for history. From leading tours at historic sites to writing books and publishing local and national news, these women and men are dedicated to remembering decades passed and inspiring others to make a difference today.

beverly c. foster

Beverly C. Foster

Beverly C. Foster grew up learning about history from her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and she knew she had an interest in the subject from a young age. In her early college years, Foster received a bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degrees in anesthesia and critical care medicine, but after her children graduated from college, Foster went back to school to pursue another bachelor’s degree in African American studies. During that time, her passion for history reignited, and she participated in a Fellows program with the Atlanta History Center. “History tells us how we arrived at the present day,” Foster explains. “It connects the dots and is the truth of yesterday.”

Foster went on to found the Walker County African American Historical and Alumni Association with a small group in 2000, and together, the group began writing books and programs, offering scholarships, and organizing yearly trips to museums and various historic locations, including the United States Capitol. Today, Foster also hosts a TV show on North Georgia’s UCTV 265 – Beverly’s Historical Moments. In her work, Beverly hopes to help create a more complete history of Walker County with an accurate representation of African American history. “It’s important for us to interact with and learn about other cultures, so we can understand each other,” Foster says. “We need to listen to other people’s stories.”

walker county african american historical and alumni association

(Bottom) Photo courtesy of Beverly C. Foster

“I chair a committee in Walker County to change a car wash site into a local African American History and county-wide community park. This is big news in a rural area like Walker County, and it will add 160 years of Walker County’s history to their present-day Civil War and Antebellum environmental historical expression.”

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steve l. smith

Steve L. Smith

Steve L. Smith found his passion for Soddy-Daisy history when he discovered how photos make the city’s history come alive. After an older friend shared photos of his father helping to build an incline up Mowbray Mountain in the early 1900s, Smith was inspired to collect more photographs and first-hand accounts from older residents in the area. “People have a story to tell,” Smith says, “and they are eager to have someone listen.” Through years of research and conversations, Smith learned and documented more about how the coal and pottery industries came, flourished, and faded in the area – a topic that previously had very little documentation.

Today, Smith is president of the Soddy, Daisy & Montlake Historical Association. In addition to having written seven books in The Good Old Days series – books on Soddy, Daisy and Montlake history filled with old photos, maps, and copies of invoices – he has helped create public programming such as Pioneer Day, which provides an immersive experience of the federal period and area settlements in the early 1800s. Smith encourages anyone wanting to learn more about local history to seek out older people with stories in an area of interest. “Many older people lived through the Great Depression and World War II,” he explains. “They know what hard times are, and they will tell you if you will just sit and listen to them.”

historical soddy daisy in 1916

(Bottom) Photo courtesy of Steve L. Smith

“This photo was taken in Soddy prior to 1916. The tall building in the very back was the coal tipple and coal washer that burned in May 1916. The men pictured – Harrison Smith on the left and Sherman Hughes on the right – are sitting in a coal car on a flatbed mule-drawn wagon. Coal is what invited people from Wales, England, and Germany to populate Soddy, Mowbray, and Daisy.”

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john lloyd edwards iii

John Lloyd Edwards III

With his father having been a Baptist minister heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement, John Lloyd Edwards III grew up surrounded by history. At just 12 years old, Edwards marched with U.S. Congressman John Lewis and civil rights activist Diane Nash during the Nashville sit-ins, and in his college years, he studied art history and developed various exhibits on Black history. “I remember the passion I felt when my father would share information he read about a person or an event of importance in Black History,” says Edwards. “I like to share that knowledge with others and help them feel the passion I felt back then and continue to get excited about.”

For the last 40 years, Edwards has been the founder and publisher of the Chattanooga News Chronicle, highlighting the African American community and confronting injustice. The newspaper features stories on local and national news as well as African American history, including articles on important African American figures in Tennessee history such as blacksmith William Lewis and Thelma Marie Claybrooks Harper, the first African American woman state senator in Tennessee. Edwards also champions a passion for poverty relief through literacy and education through the Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation, founded by his father in 1970. “History is one of the most important subjects that will reward our research,” says Edwards. “This is a subject that will reward you for life.”

william lewis (far right on second row) and family

“William Lewis, pictured at the far right on the second row from the top, came to Chattanooga when it was Ross’s Landing.  Still a slave, he paid for his and his wife’s freedom.  He built a reputation as a skilled blacksmith and became a wealthy businessman.”

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linda moss mines

Linda Moss Mines

The “history muse” has whispered to Linda Moss Mines all her life. Mines grew up listening to her grandfather telling stories and singing songs about their ancestors, the Cumberland Plateau, and the nation. When she began college, she initially had plans for a medical career, but unable to shake her true passion, she changed majors in her junior year to pursue a degree in history. “Three degrees, visits to hundreds of history sites, and 51 years later, history still calls my name,” Moss says. “I’ve been blessed to live the life of my dreams, sharing the history of our nation and the world.”

Having retired from 45 years of teaching, Mines is now a full-time history volunteer. Not only does Mines speak to civic and professional organizations, volun-teach in various classroom settings, write for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and lead historic tours, but she also serves on the board of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation, and the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council. “There will always be stories that need to be told and sites that need to speak aloud to visitors,” Mines says to aspiring historians. “Choosing history as a career, deciding to volunteer at a historic site, or researching and writing about history all offer a different path that can be fulfilling. If the muse is calling your name, take time to listen.”

chief john ross

(Bottom) Photo courtesy of Linda Moss Mines

“As the official Chattanooga and Hamilton County historian, I often speak about the connections between past and present – and those stories always begin with the rich legacy of the Cherokee Nation and Chattanooga’s founder, Chief John Ross.”

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rita l. hubbard

Rita L. Hubbard

As an avid reader from a young age, Rita L. Hubbard had a natural fascination with history. Stories from her mother and grandmother inspired her to research historic events at her local library, and her passion for history only grew from there. “As a former teacher, I have taught students who faced incredible odds and felt they would never realize their dreams. History is important to me because it unveils people you never heard of who faced overwhelming odds and still achieved. Unveiling these stories and sharing them with the world proves you don’t have to be born rich, tall, or a certain color to be a hero. You don’t have to be amazingly strong, or impossibly beautiful. You can be ordinary, and yet extraordinary at the same time. History proves that ordinary people can be heroes.”

Today, Hubbard is a writer of historical nonfiction for children and teens, a researcher for historical documentaries, and the founder of The Black History Channel, which reaches a global audience online with historical articles, inventions, music, and literature written by, for, and about African Americans. She encourages aspiring historians to seek out history piece by piece. “Think of yourself as a sleuth. Start small if you have to,” Hubbard says. “There are more stories out there; more people waiting to be discovered and admired; more people to encourage us to keep pushing until we finally get to the best version of ourselves.”

nurse services club

(Bottom) Photo courtesy of Rita L. Hubbard

“This is an image of the Nurse Services Club (1925-1953), founded by the late Dr. Emma Rochelle Wheeler and used in ‘African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes,’ by special permission of the late Bette Wheeler Strictland, daughter of Dr. Wheeler. Circa 1925. The image was taken in front of the Walden Hospital building, located on Eighth Street in downtown Chattanooga.”

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