Composer of Tennessee's First State Song was a Cadek Professor

Roy Lamont Smith Provided Music for "My Homeland, Tennessee"

Sunday, June 23, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Roy Lamont Smith
Roy Lamont Smith

It’s trivia time in Tennessee.  What is the official state song of Tennessee?  Fans of the UTC Mocs and the Tennessee Volunteers and others may quickly say, “Rocky Top,” used by both schools over their respective histories as a spirit song at athletic events. 

Yes, “Rocky Top” is a correct answer.  According to the Tennessee Blue Book at http://www.tn.gov/sos/bluebook/  the Boudleaux and Felice Bryant tune that was a hit for the Osborne Brothers in 1968 became a state song in 1982.

However, Tennessee, a state known for a variety of music – folk, gospel, country, rock, soul, and blues – has several state songs.   The complete list of song names and the dates adopted is as follows.  Complete lyrics for each are found in the aforementioned Blue Book, the official reference for all things Tennessee.

  •   My Homeland, Tennessee (1925)
  •   When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee (1935)
  •   My Tennessee (1955)
  •   Tennessee Waltz (1965)
  •   Rocky Top (1982)
  •   Tennessee (1992)
  •   The Pride of Tennessee (1996)

 

I recently was in the audience for a recital at Cadek Conservatory of the harp students of Betty Spencer.   One of the numbers on the program was our first state song, “My Homeland, Tennessee.”  Ms. Spencer introduced the tune by saying that a former Cadek professor was the composer.   A copy of the lyrics was included in the recital program, so that the audience could match the words to the melody being played by the students and teacher.

Roy Lamont Smith was the composer who set the words of a poem by Neil Grayson Taylor to his music.   According to his obituary in the February 8, 1946 Chattanooga Times, Mr. Smith was a native of Fremont, Nebraska.  His father was the town’s first merchant.   All members of the Smith family were musicians, and Roy began playing keyboards at age four.

As a young adult, Mr. Smith studied piano and organ in Chicago and Europe.  He eventually settled in Chattanooga in 1897, and began teaching at the Normal school in North Chattanooga.  A few years later, in 1904, Mr. Smith was associated with Prof. Joseph O. Cadek in founding the Cadek Conservatory.

Mr. Smith spent the next thirty-years in Chattanooga, teaching at Cadek and serving as organist at several churches.  On several occasions, he performed in concerts on the University of Chattanooga campus.  The April 25, 1940 Chattanooga Times covered his performance to an overflow audience at the Patten Memorial chapel.  A trio performed one of Roy Lamont Smith’s popular tunes, “Moon Shadows.”   

Roy Lamont Smith retired in 1942, and moved to San Diego to live with his niece.   After his passing, Alfred Mynders in a “Looking Backward” column in the Chattanooga Times wrote, “Roy Lamont Smith was a delightful person to know, a great composer, a patient teacher, whose patience and kindness lingered as a warm spot in the heart of every person he ever taught here.”

Thanks to Betty Spencer for including Tennessee’s first state song as part of her student recital, and for mentioning former Chattanooga Roy Lamont Smith’s connection to the song. 

If you have additional information on Roy Lamont Smith, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

When Roy Lamont Smith was on staff, Cadek Conservatory was at 411 Walnut Street.  The building was razed in 1961 for a parking lot for the new Provident offices.
When Roy Lamont Smith was on staff, Cadek Conservatory was at 411 Walnut Street. The building was razed in 1961 for a parking lot for the new Provident offices.


Brooks Family Was Among Earliest Settlers Of Sale Creek

Joseph Brooks was one of the earliest settlers at Sale Creek when it was part of Rhea County. Three of his nieces along with their husbands were Hamilton County pioneers. Joseph Brooks and his brother, Moses Brooks, were sons of John Brooks, who was born in Ireland about 1730. He made his way to Philadelphia and lived a short time in Pennsylvania before going with the tide of ... (click for more)

Hundreds Of Students To Compete In Tennessee History Day Contest

Nearly 300 students from across Tennessee will compete in the annual Tennessee History Day state contest in downtown Nashville on  Saturday . The competition allows students to showcase their creativity and research skills by developing projects with historical themes. The students with the best-judged projects in the statewide competition will advance to the National ... (click for more)

Man Who Killed 4 At Waffle House Is In Custody

Travis Reinking, 29, the suspect in the shooting at a Waffle House near Nashville on Sunday, has been taken into custody, according to police. Reinking, who killed four people and injured two others at a Waffle House near Nashville on Sunday morning was on the loose Monday morning and had been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list. ... (click for more)

Pet Raccoon That Was Destroyed Did Not Have Rabies

A pet raccoon that was destroyed in order to test for rabies after biting a neighbor child did not have rabies, Chattanooga attorney Chris Jones. The family has been advised it can pick up the remains of Boomer at the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department. Attorney Jones, who specializes in wildlife cases, earlier argued there was no valid reason for health ... (click for more)

Set Up A Council On Love, Not A Council On Hate - And Response

In Mayor Berke's April 19 version of the Berke Bulletin, he announced plans to establish a Council on Hate and indicated a focus on tolerance. I beg of him to reconsider that plan. One problem in Chattanooga and in other places in America is that there are some people who have already established an informal version of a Council on Hate. I suggest that a more productive plan ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Corker And ‘The Code’

Of all the vows, pledges, and bonds born unto the human race, nothing overrides “The Code.” It is an unwritten but deeply important knowledge that men should abide with equal respect, fierce loyalty, and chivalrous understanding of one another. For example, The Code dictates you must not and can never date a good friend’s ex-girlfriend, or ex-wife. Rather, you respect your friend ... (click for more)