On February 15, 1940, UT President James D. Hoskins read a statement to the university trustees proposing the establishment of the Press. http://utpress.org/pdf/utpressfounding.pdf
For many years, the Press’s publishing program was the responsibility of a “university editor” in the Division of University Extension. Under this arrangement, the Press published only one title annually. In 1957, the Press was reorganized and granted departmental status. Under the leadership of Louis T. Iglehart, who served as the Press’s director for 38 years, the Press became a full-time publisher. Other major changes included the addition of an editorial board made up of faculty members from all University of Tennessee campuses, a faculty committee of eminent scholars, as well as the employment of professional editorial, production, and marketing staff.
After 70 years of growth and change, the University of Tennessee Press has earned a reputation for excellence. Today it publishes 35 to 40 titles a year in many different disciplines and is especially known for its important publications in African American studies, women’s studies, history, anthropology, religion, folklore, Native American studies, architectural history and material culture, and especially Appalachian studies and southern history.
Since its founding in 1940, the Press has been guided by three specific mandates: (1) to stimulate scientific and scholarly research in all fields, (2) to channel such studies (either in scholarly or popular form) to a broad readership, and (3) to extend the regional leadership of the university by stimulating research projects within the South and by publishing worthwhile material by scholars and other authors from outside the university. The Press seeks always to represent the best in original scholarship, and provides the academic community, as well as the general reading public, with unique and important works that would not necessarily be produced by commercial publishers.
Some of the Press’s most outstanding publications include the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, winner of the 2007 Weatherford Award; Intellectual Life in the Colonial South by Richard Beale Davis, winner of the 1978 National Book Award in history; The Collected Works of James Agee, edited by Michael Lofaro; and the presidential papers of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk. The Press has published many outstanding works about the East Tennessee area, many from local authors. Popular titles include Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Community by Durwood Dunn, The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English by Michael B. Montgomery and Joseph S. Hall, and several humor books, as well as works on other topics, by Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist Sam Venable. The Press has also reprinted a number of classic works about the South and the Appalachian region, including Horace Kephart’s famed Our Southern Highlanders, one of the very first books to document the culture of the Great Smoky Mountains.
In July 2008, Scot Danforth was named the fourth director of the Press. Among the exciting projects currently in the works under Mr. Danforth’s direction are a 2010 revision of the online Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, an extremely popular Web site maintained in conjunction with the Tennessee Historical Society; the construction of an online edition of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia under a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission; and a textbook imprint, Torchbearer Texts, which will utilize new technology.
Steeped in a rich tradition of bringing important scholarly and regional publications to light, the Press is committed to its mission for the 21st century.