The Marble City
A Photographic Tour of Knoxville’s Graveyards
They can be as elaborate as ornate statuary from the Victorian era or as simple as plain stones placed over fallen soldiers. They might be tucked away in quiet corners of the county or rest in the shadows of the city’s tallest buildings. They are the grave markers of Knoxville’s dead, and they hold an unturned key to this East Tennessee community’s past.
In this new book, Jack Neely and Aaron Jay take the reader on a tour through Knoxville’s graveyards—a photographic and historic sampling of more than forty cemeteries in Knox County. In words and pictures, Neely and Jay record the handiwork of the stonecutter, the provocative environments of gravesites, and the colorful lives of the people buried there.
Wandering from small family graveyards to large institutional cemeteries, Neely writes with a graceful style and a respect for the past while Jay’s photographs capture the mood of the stones, sculptures, and design of grave markers. They lead us to the last resting places of a Supreme Court justice, a Grand Prix racing champion, a presidential nominee, and a great blues singer, showing how the lives of these prominent figures often attain added significance by their tombstones, which reveal the diverse burial customs of Knoxville’s citizens.The Marble City invites us to view cemeteries as a means of appreciating an American city’s cultural diversity and the many roles its citizens played in history: the earliest marked burials in the county date from George Washington’s day, and in these quiet acres Confederates lie within whispering distance of Union dead. As the book shows us, each statue and marker has a story to tell. Slaves and slaveholders, professors and paupers, veterans of every war America has fought—Neely and Jay read the history of America in Knoxville graveyards and show that monuments to the dead can still inspire the living.
The Authors: Jack Neely, a columnist for the Knoxville weekly newspaper MetroPulse, is the author of Knoxville’s Secret History. His writing has won awards from both the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Aaron Jay is an award-winning photographer who has worked in both fashion photography and photojournalism. He presently works for MetroPulse.