Notable Clarksvillians

"Notable Clarksvillians" is an ongoing project to share the stories of historically significant people who have a Clarksville connection. We are working diligently to share content to the site so please visit often for updates. We also invite your input. Please email your information and ideas to michelle@visitclarksvilletn.com.


Frank Sutton
Actor
1923-1974

Frank Sims Sutton and Thelma Sutton met working for The Leaf Chronicle in Clarksville. On October 23, 1923, on S. Second Street in Clarksville, Frank Spencer Sutton was born. He was the typical little boy who enjoyed playing outside and coming home dirty. One day, he used grease to paint his face and put on a theatrical performance for his family; he told them that he was going to be an actor. In 1964, Frank was offered a role in a spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show. Starring alongside Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle; Frank played Sergeant Vince Carter in the television series. 

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Wilma Rudolph
Olympic Gold Medalist
1940-1994

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in a region of Tennessee known, at the time, as St. Bethlehem, which later became a part of Clarksville. Rudolph was born into a large family, being the 20th of her father’s 22 children. After a bout with pneumonia and polio at age eight, doctors told her she would never walk again. A mere eight years later, at age 16, she earned a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympic Games in the women's 400-meter relay and would soon be known as the fastest woman in the world.

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Leonora Witzel
Photographer
1875-1961

Nora Witzel was fascinated by cameras and took Kodak shots of people and places in and around Clarksville. A Christmas gift to her mother in 1905 was an album of her photographs, including the family home, flower gardens, and one of the many pet dogs she would love in her lifetime. Nora documented the people and places of postwar Clarksville. She photographed the usual bridges and birthday portraits, but also continued her fascination with outdoor photography. She climbed railroad trestles for unusual views of the Cumberland, and she began to experiment with light and tinting and other techniques of the American Pictorialists, a group of photographers who consciously separated themselves to become "artists."

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Rachel Smith
Miss USA 2007
1985 -

Rachel Renee Smith was born at a United States Army base in Panama, where her parents were stationed, on April 18, 1985. Shortly after, her family was stationed to Ft. Campbell, and made their home in Clarksville. Rachel was interested in modeling and television throughout her early childhood and began modeling when she was eight years old. In 2002, Rachel won the title of Miss Tennessee Teen, and in 2007 she was crowned Miss USA.

 

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Caroline Gordon
Author
1895-1981

On October 6, 1895, Caroline Gordon was born near the city of Clarksville at a farm called Merry Mont. After receiving a Bachelors degree in Greek at Bethany College in 1916, she worked as a teacher at Clarksville High School and then as a reporter for the Chattanooga News. Caroline published her first novel in 1931 and continued writing until she retired in 1979.

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Ida Gray Nelson Rollins
First Female African American Dentist
1867-1953

Ida Gray Nelson Rollins was born in Clarksville on March 4, 1867. Her mother, Jennie Gray, was a black woman, and her father was a white man to whom Jennie was not married. Ida’s achievements are a testimony to perseverance, determination and diligence. Though she was raised by a woman who was unable to read or write, Ida overcame her environment, becoming the first female African American dentist in the United States.

 

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