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State of Tennessee
State flag of Tennessee State seal of Tennessee
(Flag of Tennessee) (Seal of Tennessee)
State nickname: Volunteer State
Map of the U.S. with Tennessee highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Nashville
Largest city Memphis
Governor Phil Bredesen (D)
Senators Bill Frist (R)

Lamar Alexander (R)

Official language(s) English
Area 109,247 km² (36th)
 - Land 106,846 km²
 - Water 2,400 km² (2.2%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 5,689,283 (16th)
 - Density 53.29 /km² (19th)
Admission into Union
 - Date June 1, 1796
 - Order 16th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4 (eastern counties)
Central: UTC-6/-5 (central and western)
Latitude 35°N to 36°41'N
Longitude 81°37'W to 90°28'W
Width 195 km
Length 710 km
 - Highest point 2,025 m
 - Mean 275 m
 - Lowest point 54 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-TN
Web site www.tennessee.gov

Tennessee is a Southern state of the United States.


Origin and history of the name Tennessee

The earliest variant of the name that became Tennessee was recorded by Captain Juan Pardo, the Spanish explorer, when he and his men passed through a Native American village named "Tanasqui" in 1567 while travelling inland from South Carolina. European settlers later encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or "Tanase") in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. The town was located on a river of the same name (now known as the Little Tennessee River). It is not known whether this was the same town as the one encountered by Pardo.

The meaning and origin of the word are uncertain. Some accounts suggest it is a Cherokee modification of an earlier Yuchi word. It has been said to mean "meeting place", "winding river", or "river of the great bend".[1][2]

The modern spelling, Tennessee, is attributed to James Glen, the Governor of South Carolina, who used this spelling in his official correspondence during the 1750s. In 1788, North Carolina named the third county to be established in what is now Middle Tennessee "Tennessee County". When a constitutional convention met in 1796 to organize a new state out of the Southwest Territory, it adopted "Tennessee" as the name of the state.


The area now known as Tennessee was first settled by Paleo-Indians nearly 11,000 years ago. The names of the cultural groups that inhabited the area between first settlement and the time of European contact are unknown, but several distinct cultural phases have been named by archaeologists, including Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian whose chiefdoms were the cultural predecessors of the Muscogee people who inhabited the Tennessee River Valley prior to Cherokee migration into the river's headwaters.

When Spanish explorers first visited the area, led by Hernando de Soto in 1539–43, it was inhabited by tribes of Muscogee and Yuchi people. For unknown reasons, possibly due to expanding European settlement in the north, the Cherokee, an Iroquoian tribe, moved south from the area now called Virginia. As European colonists spread into the area, the native populations were forcibly displaced to the south and west, including all Muscogee and Yuchi peoples, including the Chickasaw and Choctaw. From 1838 to 1839, nearly 17,000 Cherokees were forced to march from Eastern Tennessee to Indian Territory west of Arkansas. This came to be known as the Trail of Tears, as an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died along the way.1

Tennessee was admitted to the Union in 1796 as the 16th state, and was created by taking the north and south borders of North Carolina and extending them with only one small deviation to the Mississippi River, Tennessee's western boundary. Tennessee was the last Confederate state to secede from the Union when it did so on June 8, 1861. After the American Civil War, Tennessee adopted a new constitution that abolished slavery (February 22, 1865), ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on July 18, 1866, and was the first state readmitted to the Union (July 24 of the same year).

Tennessee was the only state that seceded from the Union that did not have a military governor after the American Civil War, mostly due to the influence of President Andrew Johnson, a native of the state, who was Lincoln's vice president and succeeded him as president, due to the assassination.

In 1897, the state celebrated its centennial of statehood (albeit one year late) with a great exposition.

The need to create work for the unemployed during the Depression, the desire for rural electrification, and the desire to control the annual spring floods on the Tennessee River drove the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, in 1933.

During World War II, Oak Ridge was selected as a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory, one of the principal sites for the Manhattan Project's production and isolation of weapons-grade fissile material.

Tennessee celebrated its bicentennial in 1996 after a yearlong statewide celebration entitled "Tennessee 200" by opening a new state park (Bicentennial Mall) at the foot of Capitol Hill in Nashville.

Law and Government

Welcome sign in Memphis, Tennessee
Welcome sign in Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee's governor holds office for a four year term and may serve any number of terms, but not more than two in a row. The speaker of the state Senate has the title of lieutenant governor.

The General Assembly (the state's legislature) consists of the 33-member Senate and the 99-member House of Representatives. Senators serve four year terms, and House members serve two year terms.

The highest court in Tennessee is the state Supreme Court. It has a chief justice and four associate justices. The Court of Appeals has 12 judges. The Court of Criminal Appeals has nine judges.

Tennessee's current state constitution was adopted in 1870. The state had two earlier constitutions. The first was adopted in 1796, the year Tennessee joined the union, and the second was adopted in 1834.

Tennessee politics, like that of most U.S. States, revolves around the Democratic and Republican Parties. Democrats are very strong in metropolitan Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga. The Party is also relatively strong in most of Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee north of Memphis.

The Republicans have the most strength in East Tennessee, which is arguably made up of some of the most Republican counties in the entire U.S.A. The people of East Tennessee have not elected a Democrat to represent them in Congress since 1878, and is the most consistently Republican region in the South, which has historically been very Democratic. The Republicans also have much strength in West Tennessee's southern region east of Memphis.

See also: List of Tennessee Governors, U.S. Congressional Delegations from Tennessee


Map of Tennessee
Map of Tennessee

Tennessee lies adjacent to 8 other states, matched only by Missouri which also borders 8 states. Tennessee is bordered on the north by Kentucky and Virginia, on the east by North Carolina, on the south by Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and on the west by Arkansas and Missouri. The state is trisected by the Tennessee River. The highest point in the state is the peak of Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters), which lies on Tennessee's eastern border. The geographical center of the state is located several miles east of Murfreesboro on Old Lascassas Pike; the site is marked by a roadside monument.

The state of Tennessee is traditionally divided by its people into three, culturally distinct grand divisionsEast, Middle, and West Tennessee. The Tennessee River is generally considered the dividing line between Middle and West Tennessee. The Cumberland Plateau is generally considered the dividing line between East and Middle Tennessee.

Tennessee features six principal geographic regions. Roughly from west to east, these are:

See also: List of Tennessee counties, List of Tennessee state parks


According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2003 Tennessee's Gross State Product was $199,786,000,000, 1.8% of the total Gross Domestic Product.

In 2003, the per capita personal income was $28,641, 36th in the nation, and only 91% of the national per capita personal income of $31,472. Total earnings were $167,414,793,000. (BEARFACTS)

Major industries/products...

State sales tax is 7.0% (6% on nonprepared food), while the counties charge an additional 2.25% for a total of 9.25% across Tennessee. Some cities charge additional 0.50% sales tax, leading to a total of 9.75%: some of the highest sales taxes in the United States. The overall state tax rate is relatively low, however, as Tennessee does not tax wage and salary income (although it does tax unearned income).

Tennessee is a right to work state.


Historical populations

1790 35,691
1800 105,602
1810 261,727
1820 422,823
1830 681,904
1840 829,210
1850 1,002,717
1860 1,109,801
1870 1,258,520
1880 1,542,359
1890 1,767,518
1900 2,020,616
1910 2,184,789
1920 2,337,885
1930 2,616,556
1940 2,915,841
1950 3,291,718
1960 3,567,089
1970 3,923,687
1980 4,591,120
1990 4,877,185
2000 5,689,283

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, Tennessee's population was 5,841,748 people.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The five largest ancestry groups in Tennessee are: American (17.5%), African American (16.4%), Irish (9.3%), English (9.1%), German (8.3%).

African-Americans once made up 28 percent of the state's population and are 16 percent today. The state's African-American population is concentrated mainly in West Tennessee and the city of Nashville.

6.6% of Tennessee's population were reported as under 5, 24.6% under 18, and 12.4% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51.3% of the population.


The religious affiliations of the people of Tennessee are:

Important cities and towns

The current capital is Nashville, though Knoxville, Kingston, and Murfreesboro have all served as state capitals. Memphis has the largest population of any city in the state, but Nashville has a larger metropolitan area. Chattanooga and Knoxville, both in the eastern part of the state near the Great Smoky Mountains, each have approximately a third of Memphis or Nashville's population. The three cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City make up a fifth significant population center, often called the "Tri-Cities", in the far northeast of the state. As of 2000, the population is 5,689,283.

Major cities

Secondary cities

  • Kingsport
    • Corporate headquarters of Eastman Chemical Company
    • Chartered in 1917 as "the Model City"


Rhodes College, Memphis.
Rhodes College, Memphis.
Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Colleges and universities

Professional sports teams

The Memphis Grizzlies in action.
The Memphis Grizzlies in action.

National Basketball Association

National Hockey League

Southern Professional Hockey League

National Football League

Minor League baseball teams

Minor League basketball teams

Minor League soccer teams

Famous Tennesseans

See the List of famous Tennesseans and the List of Governors of Tennessee.

Miscellaneous information

See: Tennessee State Flag

See: Seal of Tennessee

See: Music of Tennessee


  • 1 Satz, Ronald. Tennessee's Indian Peoples. Knoville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1979. ISBN 0870492853

External links

Flag of Tennessee

State of Tennessee




East Tennessee | Middle Tennessee | West Tennessee | Blue Ridge Mountains | Ridge-and-valley Appalachians | Cumberland Plateau | Highland Rim | Nashville Basin

Major Metros:

Chattanooga | Clarksville | Johnson City | Knoxville | Memphis | Murfreesboro | Nashville

Smaller Cities:

Athens | Bristol | Brownsville | Cleveland | Columbia | Cookeville | Crossville | Dickson | Dyersburg | Greeneville | Harriman | Jackson | Kingsport | La Follette | Lawrenceburg | Lebanon | McMinnville | Morristown | Mount Juliet | Newport | Oak Ridge | Paris | Sevierville | Shelbyville | Tullahoma | Union City | Winchester


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