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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Pat Head Summitt
NCAA Basketball Coaching Legend
1952-2016

From the Summer Olympics to the SEC and NCAA, Pat Head Summitt is a name every basketball fan knows and knows well. This Clarksville native was the fiercest of competitors. When offered the job to coach the UT Women's Basketball team shortly after finishing college herself, she had never led a single practice. After 38 seasons with the Lady Vols, she garnered a record 1,098 wins and 8 national championships. Her program maintained a 100-percent graduation rate for players who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.

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Clarence Saunders
Piggly Wiggly Founder
1881-1953

Clarence Saunders didn’t invent supermarkets. He did, however, make them into what they are today. Born 1881 in Virginia, he moved to Palmyra, Tennessee, working as a clerk in a Clarksville wholesale grocery house at 14. His experience gave him some ideas and he tested his theory in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, when he opened the first Piggly Wiggly, revolutionizing the consumer shopping experience. 

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Big Jay McNeely
Saxophonist
b. 1927

Clarksville was silent in 1950 when Cecil James “Big Jay” McNeely, the king of the honking tenor saxophone himself, was playing a show for the town in 1950. Eager for a reaction from the crowd, he came back from the show’s intermission playing while on his knees, and the crowd went wild. From then on, Big Jay McNeely and his tenor saxophone earned an unparalleled reputation by incorporating never-before-seen over-the-top energy into his sets, going as far as leading audiences down the streets of San Diego.

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Austin Peay
Tennessee Governor
1876-1927

Austin Peay State University is named for three-term Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, who is credited with vastly expanding the state's highway system and improving secondary education in each of the state's 95 counties.

 

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Allen Tate
Poet
1899-1979

Renowned poet Allen Tate was born in Winchester, Kentucky in 1899. At Vanderbilt University, he met and befriended roommate Robert Penn Warren, as well as a number of other fellow members of The Fugitives, a literary group that met weekly to discuss poetry and the defense of Southern literature. Tate lived in Clarksville from 1930-38 with his wife Author Caroline Gordon.

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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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