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Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

Tennessee State Poems & Poets

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

Official State Poems & Poets of Tennessee

Tennessee adopted "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by Admiral William Porter Lawrence (a native of Nashville TN) as the official state poem in 1973 (Tennessee also recognizes an official bicentennial poem, veterans poem, and a state declamation). All State Poetry

Naval Admiral William Lawrence composed "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" while enduring a 60 day period of solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Lawrence spent a total of six years as a POW during the Vietnam War. This poem describes the love and longing he felt for his beautiful home state:

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

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 Poets Laureate & Ambassador of Letters

TENNESSEE POET LAUREATE: In 1999 Margaret (Maggi) Britton Vaughn was designated as Tennessee’s poet laureate for the term of her natural life. 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. Tennessee's previous and first poet laureate was Richard M. "Pek" Gunn (1971 -1994) - author of "The Tennessee Salute" (adopted as Tennessee's official bicentennial march song in 1975).

TENNESSEE AMBASSADOR OF LETTERS: Harriette Louise Bias Allen (former Director of Forensics in the Department of Dramatics and Speech at Fisk University in Nashville) 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.

TENNESSEE COWBOY POET LAUREATE: The Tennessee General Assembly designated David  'Buffalo Bill' Nelson as the official "Cowboy Poet Laureate of Tennessee" in 2004.

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.