Upland Chronicles: Bozeman legacy detailed in new book

Jul. 13, 2013 @ 11:04 PM

Dr. Charles Bozeman began his medical practice in the Emergency Room at Sevier County Medical Center in 1977. Two years later, he established a private practice near the hospital and he has treated thousands of Sevier County patients for over three decades.

Although Dr. Bozeman grew up in neighboring Knox County, his family name was widely known throughout Sevier County due to the fact that his father Judge C. Howard Bozeman held the longest tenure of any County Judge serving Knox County.

When Judge Bozeman passed away in 2011, he left behind a legacy of dedicated service to his community that reached far beyond the office in which he so competently served.

Recently, a biography written by Debbie Patrick chronicling the life of Judge Bozeman was published by the Knoxville Downtown Sertoma Club, of which Judge Bozeman was a charter member.

All proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to benefit Judge Bozeman’s favorite charity, the Sertoma Center, through the work of the Knoxville Downtown Sertoma Club.

“Knox County Grows Up: How One Man from Happy Holler Made a Difference,” tells the fascinating story of one of the 20th century giants in Knox County politics.

Born June 27, 1918, Judge Bozeman grew up on Baxter Avenue in a working class section of town known as Happy Holler. His father worked for Brookside Mills and later for the railroad.

Beginning at age 7, he delivered newspapers in the morning before attending school. After graduating from Knoxville High School, Bozeman took a job in the management-training program at S.H. Kress Five and Dime located on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. The business operated a popular lunch room in the basement.

Like many eating establishments at the time, there were company polices that called for separate seating areas for blacks and whites. The future judge found this policy troubling when he observed black customers hungry and waiting to be served when there were seats available in the “whites only” section.

He thought the section divisions should be flexible enough to accommodate all the customers depending on demand.

“If these folks would scoot over, it would make room for them,” he reasoned. For this, he was overruled by upper management. When told he couldn’t do that because there was a law against it, he said, “Then this isn’t the place for me.”

He therefore negotiated an agreement to work fewer hours so he could attend the University of Tennessee. Bozeman quit S.H. Kress the following year. He worked for a shoe store on Market Square during the Easter season and in the summer left to work for the government-run WPA.

In 1941, when Bozeman received his undergraduate degree, the University asked him to be their auditor, to take the place of a man who had been called to war. He also enrolled in law school, and graduated in 1943.

By 1946, Bozeman was a lecturer in both law and accounting for UT. After that he began the private practice of law with two partners. Two years later, he decided to try his hand at politics and ran for county trustee. Although Bozeman lost the election, he became known in the county.

Despite the fact Bozeman was a life-long Democrat in a largely Republican town; he was elected County Judge in 1948. Once elected, Bozeman soon learned that the Knox County government was so adrift with corruption and neglected infrastructure; he considered resigning the first year.

The tireless and selfless acts of community service performed by Judge Bozeman are in large part responsible for the establishment of Knox County Health Department, the Knox County Library System, and the Knox County Utility Districts. On his watch some 3,000 miles of county roads were paved. And he oversaw the building of numerous schools and parks through the county.

He was married to Barbara Ann Newman for 67 years. In addition to Dr. Bozeman, the couple had three other sons: Barry Russell, David Bryn and Samuel Ross The couple raised their family in the Chilhowee neighborhood and faithfully attended the First Baptist Church in Knoxville.

Judge Bozeman served as Knox County judge from 1948 to 1966 and 1974 to 1982. During his years in office he worked tirelessly with like-minded politicians such as Mildred Doyle, a die-hard Republican who served as superintendent of Knox County Schools for many years. At the same time he was challenged impiously by his adversaries, most notable of who was legendary groceryman Cas Walker.

Following his own advice to get involved and stay involved, Judge Bozeman was quite active into his 80s. He remained active physically, socially, and in the community. Remarkably he continued the traditional annual family hikes to Gregory’s Bald, a grueling 11.3-mile round trip and often hiked to Mt. LeConte as well.

Judge Bozeman felt strongly about not having any buildings, projects or parks named for him. He embodied the quote credited to English novelist Charles Montague,” There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.”

Carroll McMahan is the Special Projects Facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments; please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to ron@ronraderproperties.com.