Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

Tennessee State Poem & Poets


Tennessee wildflowers

Smoky Mountain wildflowers in Red Bank, Tennessee; photo by Jenny Pansing on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike).

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

by Admiral William Porter Lawrence

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee was adopted as the official Tennessee state poem in 1973. Naval Admiral William Lawrence composed this poem while enduring a 60 day period of solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Lawrence, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, spent a total of six years as a POW during the Vietnam War:

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee
What Love and Pride I Feel for Thee.
You Proud Ole State, the Volunteer,
Your Proud Traditions I Hold Dear.

I Revere Your Heroes
Who Bravely Fought our Country's Foes.
Renowned Statesmen, so Wise and Strong,
Who Served our Country Well and Long.

I Thrill at Thought of Mountains Grand;
Rolling Green Hills and Fertile Farm Land;
Earth Rich with Stone, Mineral and Ore;
Forests Dense and Wild Flowers Galore;

Powerful Rivers that Bring us Light;
Deep Lakes with Fish and Fowl in Flight;
Thriving Cities and Industries;
Fine Schools and Universities;
Strong Folks of Pioneer Descent,
Simple, Honest, and Reverent.

Beauty and Hospitality
Are the Hallmarks of Tennessee.

And O'er the World as I May Roam,
No Place Exceeds my Boyhood Home.
And Oh How Much I Long to See
My Native Land, My Tennessee.

Tennessee Poet Laureate

Margaret (Maggi) Britton Vaughn was designated as Tennessee’s Poet Laureate for the term of her natural life in 1999. Maggi is a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She is known for her first critically acclaimed book Fifty Years of Saturday Nights, and other works including Grand Ole Saturday Night, The Light in the Kitchen Window, and the play I Wonder If Eleanor Roosevelt Ever Made a Quilt. Tennessee also adopted her poem Who Are We as the state's bicentennial poem in 1997. The previous and first Laureate was Richard M. "Pek" Gunn (1971 -1994) - author of The Tennessee Salute, adopted by Tennessee in 1975 as a bicentennial march song.

Tennessee Ambassador of Letters

Harriette Louise Bias Allen, former Director of Forensics in the Department of Dramatics and Speech at Fisk University, was named Tennessee’s Ambassador of Letters in 1977. A native of Savannah, Georgia, Ms. Allen is widely recognized as a poet, storyteller, and oral interpreter.

State Poet Laureate of Christian Country Music in Tennessee

Colonel Hugh X. Lewis of Nashville was designated as the Poet Laureate of Christian Country Music in Tennessee 2006. Colonel Lewis was described in the legislation as “an inspirational poet and one of the most distinguished singer-songwriters in the nation.” An award-winning country music songwriter and exciting performer, Lewis has penned more than 250 country and Christian country songs in his 50-year career that have been recorded by such artists as Grand Ole Opry stars Charlie Pride, Little Jimmy Dickens, Del Reeves, Jim Ed Brown, Stonewall Jackson, Carl Smith, and Kitty Wells.