For the Public
Appointed by Governor Don Sundquist in 2002, Walter T. Durham, a former Gallatin businessman and public affairs activist, is the current State Historian. He has served the history community in leadership roles such as chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission, president of the Tennessee Historical Society, and founding chair of the Tennessee Heritage Alliance, now the Tennessee Preservation Trust.
The State Historian is appointed by the Governor for a term of four years. The office is honorary and without compensation and is administratively attached to the State Library and Archives. It is the State Historian’s statutory duty “to prepare for publication and to disseminate historical data upon Tennessee history, past and present.”
Durham is the author of twenty-four books and more than one hundred articles dealing with Tennessee history. Four of the volumes were done with collaborators. He has contributed articles to encyclopedia and chapters to books by others.
In 2004 Durham began publishing the State of State History series to provide critiques of the way the public accesses state history and to highlight obscure or overlooked aspects of Tennessee history. He also compiled and published A Directory of Tennessee Agencies, Governmental and Non-Governmental Bringing State and Local History to the Public. These innovative studies have established a benchmark for further discovery and sharing in the field.
Four Tennesseans preceded Durham to the office of state historian, established by the General Assembly in 1955. They were Robert H. White, Dan M. Robison, Stanley Horn, and Wilma Dykeman.
Durham is fascinated by his state’s story. “Each of the United States has an important history, but few can eclipse Tennessee for its role in the westward movement; the national leadership of Presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson; the part played by Sam Houston, president of the Republic of Texas and later governor of the same people as one of the United States; for Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s leadership in founding the United Nations; and for the strong performance of Albert Gore, Jr., as vice president and his near election to the Presidency. This is just part of the story. It goes on and on.”
The State Historian can be reached at 500 Elmington Avenue, Apt. #427, Nashville, TN, 37205, or by phone at 615-678-6328.
State Historian Publications
The State of State History in Tennessee series
The State of State History in Tennessee in 2010
Updated February 26, 2013