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Maury County, Tennessee
Notable Residents

James Knox Polk11th President of the United States
Gen. Leonidas PolkCSA
Gen. Felix Kirk ZollicofferCSA
Gen. Richard WinnRevolutionary War
John Harlan WillisCongressional Medal of Honor, WWII
Admiral William Banks CapertonSpanish American War, WWI
Alfred Osborne Pope NicholsonState Senator
Chief Justice Supreme Court of Tennessee
US Senator
Edward Ward CarmackState Congressman
US Senator
John Trotwood MoorePoet Laureate of Tennessee
Early Director of Tennessee Archives
Edward Franklin "Pop" Geers World Champion Harness Racer
Lindsey NelsonNationally-known Sportscaster
Sterling and Coo-Coo MarlinChampion Race-car Drivers

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Bishop Leonidas Polk, General, CSA

Leonidas Polk, the son of William Polk and his second wife, was born in Raleigh, NC on 10 April 1806. While at the University of North Carolina, he received an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Polk became roommate to Albert Sidney Johnston, who remained his friend until Gen. Johnston died at the Battle of Shiloh. Polk resigned his military commission after graduation from West Point to enter Theological Seminary at Alexandria, VA. In 1830, he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in Richmond. On May 6th of the same year, he married Frances Devereux, his childhood sweetheart. Their first child, Hamilton (named for his deceased brother), was born in 1831, and in 1833, Polk took his family to Maury County, TN to take up Ashwood Plantation, which had been given to him by his father. He and his family stayed with his brother, Lucius J. Polk, at Hamilton Place while he was building Ashwood Hall.

While in Maury County, Leonidas Polk assumed charge of the Columbia parish and aided Bishop Otey in establishing Columbia Institute for women, which opened in 1834. (After Polk's death, Frances taught at the Institute until she established her own school in Louisiana.) While in Maury County, Leonidas and his brothers erected St. John's Episcopal Church, for which he gave land and was the leader in its development. St. John's has become almost a religious shrine and shelters the remains of many people, private citizens and soldiers, important to the history of Maury County. In 1841, Polk became Bishop of Louisiana, and he moved his family to a large sugar plantation in Leighton, LA, while he assumed his new ministry.

Bishop Polk joined the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the war and rose to the rank of General. He served with great distinction and courage and was apparently revered by his men. On June 14, 1864, Gen. Polk was killed at Pine Ridge, GA. Funeral services were conducted in Atlanta, and his body was escorted to Augusta, GA, where he was buried at St. Paul's Church. In the mid 1900s, Polk's body was removed to New Orleans and re-interred in Christ Church Cathedral.

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Major General Richard Winn

Maj. Gen. Richard Winn was perhaps the highest-ranking officer of the Revolutionary War to settle in Tennessee. Of Welsh origin, his family migrated to America in about 1740 and settled in Faquier County, VA. Richard and his brother John later became landowners in South Carolina, where Winnsborough was named for the family.

Richard Winn was a farmer, merchant, surveyer and Justice of the Peace in South Carolina. He entered the Revolutionary War out of that state and served until the close of the war. Afterwards, he was a State Senator and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Southern Department, where he succeeded James White of Nashville, TN. From 1793-1797, he was a Representative in Congress from South Carolina and Lieutenant General of the state from 1800-1803, returning to Congress from 1803-1813.

In the Fall of 1812, before his Congressional term ended, Winn moved his family to Maury County, TN to a 5000-acre tract of land on Duck River, one mile north of Williams Ferry, which became Williamsport. (His brother John had settled in Rutherford County, TN about 1808).

Winn married Priscilla McKinney in South Carolina and had eleven children. His daughter Priscilla married a Blocker. Christine married Dr. William Bratton. Margaret married David R. Evans. Sons Thomas and William served in the War of 1812. His oldest son, Minor, came to Tennessee in 1798 and read law in the offices of Gen. Andrew Jackson. It is said that Minor Winn lived and died in Jackson's home and is buried in the Jackson graveyard.

Gen. Richard Winn died on 18 December 1818 near the Sawdust community in western Maury County. The exact location of his grave is unknown.

Source: History of Maury County, Tennessee by Turner
Notes of Jill K. Garrett
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John Harlan Willis, Congressional Medal of Honor Winner

John Harlan Willis was born 10 June 1921 in Columbia, TN, the son of John and Margaret Harlan Willis, grandson of Austin and Mattie Sue Hunt Harlan. He was inducted into the US Navy, World War II, as Pharmacist's Mate and was awarded his country's highest medal for valor for his brave actions on Iwo Jima, the only Columbian ever to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Paraphrasing the citation conferring the Medal of Honor upon PHM1C Willis: On 28 February 1945, while serving as Platoon Corpsman with the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, Willis gave his own life to save the lives of many of his comrades. Though wounded himself, he continued to give aid to his wounded comrades under constant fire, throwing back eight enemy hand grenades until the ninth exploded in his hands, killing him instantly. His valor and personal sacrifice inspired his comrades, although greatly outnumbered, to launch a fierce and determined attack which repulsed the enemy force. John Harlan Willis had given his life for his comrades and his country.

In President Harry Truman's letter to John's wife, Winifrey Willis, he called "his conspicuous gallantry exceptional and beyond the call of duty." Winifrey Willis, who had been expecting at the time of the telegram with news of John's sacrifice, gave birth to John's son soon after.

John Harlan Willis' name is engraved on a memorial stone on the north side of the bridge on Hwy 31 (Nashville Hwy) in Columbia and also on a memorial at the main gate of Memphis Naval Air Station, Millington, TN. There are reportedly 28 memorials named for him across the United States.

John Harlan Willis' remains lie in Rose Hill Cemetery, where his monument is engraved with his Congressional Medal of Honor citation.

Sources: Reminisces of Lecy Sparkman Dobbins, Maury County Remembers World War II
Gravestone at Rose Hill Cemetery
Medal of Honor Citation

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John Trotwood Moore

John Trotwood Moore, born in Marion, AL, on August 26, 1858, married Florence W. Allen and moved to Maury County, Tennessee. Moore chose his middle name from David Copperfield, first as a pen-name but adopted later as part of his original name. Moore wrote for the Columbia Herald and published several books, including: Songs and Stories from Tennessee, Summer Hymnal, The Old Cotton Gin, and The Gift of the Grass.

In 1905, Moore established Trotwood's Monthly, which featured anecdotes, history, stories and poetry. When he moved to Nashville in 1906, he edited it jointly with Sen. Robert Love Taylor, and it was called Taylor-Trotwood Magazine. After 1911, Moore turned his attention to Tennessee history, and from 1919 until his death he was director of libraries, archives and history of the State of Tennessee. His work was invaluable in the collecting and preserving of original documents, erecting historical markers and memorials, and stimulating general interest in Tennessee history.

In 1923, Moore published jointly with A.P. Foster Tennessee, the Volunteer State in four volumes. His last completed novel, published in 1926, was Hearts of Hickory, which dramatized the accomplishments of Andrew Jackson, his hero. Before Moore's death, the Tennessee Legislature recognized his contributions to state literature and named him Poet Laureate of Tennessee.
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Lindsey Nelson

Nationally-known sportscaster, Lindsey Nelson, was born in Columbia, TN on 25 May 1919, graduating from Central High School in 1938. His college Alma Mater was University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In 1941, after the outbreak of World War II, Nelson was inducted into the US Army at Camp Forrest in Tullahoma, TN and from there reported to the 9th Infantry Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. He served with this unit almost five years on three continents.

While at Ft. Bragg, Nelson was Public Relations officer, escorting many high-ranking civilian and political figures; among them were Generals George Marshall and George S. Patton, and Lord Louis Mountbatten of Britain.

In Sicily, Nelson became friends with war correspondents Ernie Pyle and Tom Henry, both of whom influenced his career. At the end of the war, after serving from Morocco to Sicily to Remagen Bridge to Berlin, Nelson came back home to the peace and tranquility of Columbia, his hometown.

Elected to the Writers' Wing of the Hall of Fame in 1988, Nelson had been an all-purpose broadcaster for NBC's college football, NBA basketball and Major League baseball. He was top announcer for 19 seasons for the New York Mets, working with Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy. His trademark became the brightly-colored plaid sportscoat that he always wore. It seemed to fit his easy manner and energetic personality. In 1965, he broadcasted the Mets-Astros game from a gondola suspended from the roof of the Astrodome.

From 1967-1979, Nelson broadcasted Notre Dame football games. He worked for both CBS and NBC and was elected Sportscaster of the Year four times during 1959-1962. For 26 seasons, Nelson was the "Voice of the Cotton Bowl." He announced for the San Francisco Giants from 1979-1981. Following this, he taught broadcasting seminars at the University of Tennessee. In 1991, Nelson received a Life Achievement Emmy.

After a successful and star-studded life, Lindsey Nelson died on 10 June 1995, at age 76, in Atlanta, GA from complications of Parkinson's disease and pneumonia.

Sources: Maury County Remembers World War II
Reminisces of Mary Sue Nelson
CBS SportsLine, Baseball OnLine Library
National Baseball Hall of Fame
UT Alumnus Obituary

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Frank D. "Denny" Thomas, Volunteer for Maury County
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This page was last updated July 12, 1998.