Tennessee State Seal
State Library & Archives Receives Donation of Papers of J. Percy Priest, Prominent Former Tennessee Congressman and Journalist
(Published: August 18, 2010)

People who live in the Nashville area are familiar with J. Percy Priest Lake and Dam, but they may not know much about the man for whom they are named.

Soon, though, people from all over the state will have an opportunity to learn more about the life and accomplishments of this influential Tennessean. The Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), a division of the Tennessee Department of State, provides public access to state records and collections of private manuscripts. Beginning next year, TSLA will offer a new collection that will provide insight about who J. Percy Priest was.

Earlier this month, archivists from State Library and Archives met with Ms. Harriet Priest, daughter of James Percy Priest (1900-1956), and Ms. Rebecca Stubbs, who recently wrote the biography, J. Percy Priest and His Amazing Race. Ms. Priest donated her father’s papers and Ms. Stubbs contributed her own research files to the TSLA collections.

Percy Priest was a U.S. representative for the Fifth Congressional District of Tennessee, which encompasses the Nashville area, from 1941 until his death in 1956. Rep. Priest was a major figure in the post-World War II Congress and contributed to several pieces of important legislation. He worked tirelessly to bring public energy to Tennessee through organizations like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which decided to name the lake and dam in Nashville after him. Rep. Priest was also a key spokesman on public health issues, sponsoring the bill which established the National Institute of Mental Health.

Rep. Priest was also an avid journalist who enjoyed a long career with The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. Many of his newspaper articles, photographs and columns will be included in the collection as well as documents from his political life. These documents include letters from well-known dignitaries such as Alben W. Barkley, Lyndon B. Johnson, Frank Clement, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Strom Thurmond, Harry S. Truman and Billy Graham.

The manuscripts of this distinguished Tennessean will join more than 2,000 other manuscript collections available at TSLA.

Rep. Priest’s papers promise to generate a high level of public interest. These papers - as well as documents from hundreds of other Tennesseans - are an excellent resource for scholarly research or personal interest. They are available by visiting the Tennessee State Library and Archives building, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North in downtown Nashville.

“I am pleased that the State Library and Archives is able to add another important set of papers to its extensive collection,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The State Library and Archives is a treasure trove of information for people who are interested in learning more about the history of this great state.”

“TSLA archivists are always interested in hearing from families with collections of papers of interest, such as these provided by Harriet Priest,” said State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill. “Preserving them is an important part of the State Library and Archives' mission.”

For more information on how to donate manuscripts and historical materials to the Tennessee State Library and Archives, please contact Cathi Carmack by phone at 615-253-3468 or e-mail at cathi.carmack@tn.gov. For books and bound materials, contact Ashley Bowers at 615-253-3462 or ashley.bowers@tn.gov. More information about donations can also be found online at tn.gov/tsla/donations.htm