“Old News” brings together historical newspaper stories and other artifacts of Nashville’s past, most of them gleaned from my work as a local journalist and historian since the late 1980s. I have frequently had occasion in recent years to put digitized and (sometimes) transcribed versions of bygone Nashville news items online to accompany articles on NashvillePost.com, in the Nashville Scene and elsewhere. I want to make that material broadly available from one location online, and I would welcome contributions of material from anyone who shares that goal.
A word of caution to readers unaccustomed to reading old Nashville news accounts: They reflect the social mores of their times. You will see material here that would be widely considered racist or offensive in other ways if published in today’s newspapers. I try not to include it without a good reason, but I don’t try to edit it out either. History is untidy.
About me: I have been writing about local history since 1993, when I had a year-long series of brief sketches in the it-happened-this-week vein for the Scene. Later in the 1990s, I wrote a few historically oriented stories for The Tennessean while on staff as a business and investigative reporter — none of which, sadly, I feel able to post here for copyright reasons.
In 2001, longtime mentor John Egerton and I published Nashville: An American Self-Portrait, a multi-author book meant to serve as an intentional artifact of Nashville in its eventful year 2000, from the “Music City Miracle” in January to Bush v. Gore at year’s end. Much of our work on that book was about Nashville history and how it was bound into the present as of the turn of the millennium.
I have also contributed chapters, introductions or sidebars to the Terry Livingstone’s 2000 photo book on the Warner Parks, the 2005 history of Montgomery Bell Academy by Ridley Wills II, Fiona Soltes’ 2007 book Nashville: Amplified and my wife Nicki Pendleton Wood’s 2010 work Nashville: Yesterday and Today, for which I wrote several chapters and sourced most of the archival images. In 2010, I have also completed a centennial history of the Nashville School of Law, to be published late in the year.
Since 2005, I have been a staff reporter and sometime-editor with NashvillePost.com and associated publications. I write a weekly column for The City Paper on local legal developments, and I cover a variety of other news for online and print outlets of SouthComm Inc., owner of the Post, the CP and the Scene.
Over the years, my historical interests beyond Nashville have extended to several topics in European history. I co-wrote the biography of Holocaust hero Jan Karski in 1994 and have served on the state-sponsored Tennessee Commission on Holocaust Education since 1998. In 2001-02, I completed a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in which my primary research focus, influenced by the events of 11 September 2001, was the late-19th-century “War on Terror” against anarchist terrorism. My dissertation on the topic has been cited in several books and scholarly papers.
Since 2004, I have been fitfully at work on a biography of Lieutenant General Frank Maxwell Andrews, a Nashville native who rose to become commander of all U.S. troops in Europe during the Second World War before his untimely death in 1943. I also have compiled intriguing material since 2008 about a previously unknown cadre of maritime pirates, con men and domestic terrorists that worked for the Confederate States of America, one being the beau of a certain Martha O’Bryan, who never married after the Yankees hanged him in 1865. More to come on those fronts.
I’m a Nashville native, married to same, and our daughter was the three-week-old babe-in-arms who appeared front and center in the staff shot that led the last issue ever published of the Nashville Banner.
I hope you enjoy the site.