News & Events

An Author Event with Reed Massengill

Union Ave Books and UT Press are excited to present Reed Massengill on his book Portrait of a Racist: Byron De La Beckwith and the Assassination of Medgar Evers. This event will take place on July 13th at 3pm at Union Ave Books in downtown Knoxville. This is a free event. The store requests attendees RSVP on their website, at this link.

About the Author

REED MASSENGILL is a widely published writer and photographer. He is currently completing his first film-related book, entitled Inspiration: Greta Garbo’s Seven Classic Film Collaborations with Director Clarence Brown.

About the Book

Originally published in 1994, Portrait of a Racist is an astonishing biography of Byron De La Beckwith (1920–2001), who murdered Black civil rights leader Medgar Evers in June 1963. Written by Beckwith’s nephew by marriage, the book is based on dozens of exclusive personal interviews with Beckwith and people who knew him—as well as letters Beckwith wrote directly to the author. These unique sources provide as definitive a glimpse into the chilling psychological landscape of a man devoted to murderous intolerance as we will likely ever have. Although the slaying of Evers helped to galvanize the civil rights movement in the South, the killer evaded justice for three decades after the crime. Twice tried for murder in the 1960s—both times by all-male, all-White juries—Beckwith was finally convicted in a third trial in 1994.

Accompanied by new illustrations that have never been printed before, this new edition includes an afterword that recounts the author’s participation as a witness and his introduction of new evidence in the third trial. It also chronicles Beckwith’s last years of declining health behind bars, examines the rich scholarship on Evers and civil rights that has arisen since this book’s original appearance, and reflects on the catastrophic persistence.

Save the Date: Book Launch Event for Critical Connections: The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge from the Dawn of the Atomic Age to the Present

Join us September 10 to celebrate the publication of this landmark history.

For more info, contact

An Author Event with Dr. Gilya Gerda Schmidt

Union Ave. Books is excited to present Dr. Gilya Schmidt for Hazzan Mordecai Gustav Heiser: An Artist, His Art, and the Cantor Tradition in America. This event will take place on Thursday, September 19th at 6pm at Union Ave. Books in Downtown Knoxville. The store requests that attendees RSVP on their site, linked here.

Dr. Schmidt will present two recordings of Cantor Heiser’s music, along with a short reading from the book. She will also be signing books for attendees.

About the Author

GILYA GERDA SCHMIDT is professor emerita of Religious Studies and director emerita of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her most recent book is Süssen Is Now Free of Jews: World War II, the Holocaust, and Rural Judaism.

About the Book

When Gilya Gerda Schmidt met him in 1986, Cantor Heiser had spent forty-six of his eighty-one years as a US citizen and was well-acquainted with mourning. Heiser had assumed the cantorate at Congregation B’nai Israel in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1942. A master of the cantor’s art, he was renowned for his style, elegant choir and service arrangements, and rich, dolesome voice, which seemed to pass effortlessly into hearers’ hearts.

But this book is more than a memorial to Heiser. Schmidt melds decades of archival research, conservation efforts, family interviews, and trips to Jerusalem and Berlin into a critical reconstruction of the life and vision of Hazzan Mordecai Gustav Heiser in the multiple contexts that shaped him. Coming of age in Berlin in the afterglow of the Second German Empire meant that young Gustav had tasted European Jewish culture in a rare state of refinement and modernity. But by January 30, 1940, when he reached New York with his wife, Elly, and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Judith, Cantor Heiser had lost nearly all of his living family relations to the extermination programs of the German Reich, after narrowly surviving a brief incarceration at Sachsenhausen.

While Cantor Heiser’s art was steeped in nineteenth-century tradition, Schmidt contends that Heiser’s music was a powerful affirmation of Jewish life in the twentieth century. In a final chapter, Schmidt describes his influence on the American cantorate and American culture and society.

Katie Hannah Appointed New Director of UT Press

Katie Hannah has been appointed the next director of the University of Tennessee Press. She will assume the position April 1.

Hannah brings more than 20 years of publishing industry experience to the role. As UT Press director, she will be responsible for developing and executing strategic, programmatic, and financial plans that ensure the continued success of the organization. She will report to Steve Smith, Bruce and Nancy Sullivan Dean of University Libraries and the University of Tennessee Press.

The UT Press is a division of the UT Libraries.

“Katie has deep experience in all aspects of publishing, including the academic commercial market as well as university press publishing,” Smith said. “Having worked at the UT Press early in her career, she has solid understanding of our Press and the university and a great vision for our future. She is known as a team player who leads from the front. Her background, expertise, and demeanor make her an ideal director and will take the Press to the next level of success.”

She will succeed Scot Danforth, who retires in March after serving thirty years in various capacities at the Press, including as its director since 2008.

“The University of Tennessee Press represents the rich history of the mind, body, and spirit of Tennessee, Appalachia, and the South,” Hannah said. “Having honed my skills at a multinational publishing company, I am thrilled to turn my attention to spreading UT Press’s southern gospel around the globe.”

Hannah is currently director of Custom Strategy at W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. There she leads a five-member team with an $8-million annual revenue that effectively competes with many larger commercial custom textbook publishers.

After teaching literature and technical writing at the University of Alabama, she began her publishing career in sales before working as a marketing manager for the UT Press. Since then, she has served in a variety of roles at Norton, where she founded and developed Norton’s custom textbook publishing program.

Hannah received a Master of Arts in English from Western Kentucky University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi.

“Her skills and wealth of experience will make her uniquely qualified to lead the Press as it faces future challenges and opportunities,” said Robbie Dircks, retired chief financial officer of the University of North Carolina Press and special advisor to the UT Press. “Her knowledge of Knoxville and the region is an invaluable asset to the Press.”

In addition to Dircks, the search committee included six other staff and faculty members from across the UT System.

Jack Farrell and Associates conducted the national search.