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East Tennessee History Center renames reading room after two Knoxville historians

The center's microfilm reading room was renamed the "Booker-Neely Microfilm Reading Room" after the hours the two historians spent reading news clippings there.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After spending countless hours reading news clippings saved on microfilm, two Knoxville authors and historians will have their names on the East Tennessee History Center's reading room.

Jack Neely and Robert Booker both said they spent much of their time in the room that's now being dedicated to them — the "Booker-Neely Microfilm Reading Room." They both spent decades preserving Knoxville's history and sharing it with the community and both called it their second home.

Booker is a civil rights and community leader who was the first Black citizen who was elected from Knoxville as a state representative. 

Neely is a journalist and historian and is the executive director of the Knoxville History Project, which works to preserve and educate people about the city's history. 

"I spent weeks, maybe months of my life in that darkened room," said Neely in a post on Facebook about the room's dedication. "This kind of become a second home, in a way."

Booker said that he encourages everyone to learn more about the city's past, partly since taxpayers are helping preserve it whether they realize it or not.

"I'm always mentioning the McClung Collection and the Knox County Archives to let people know their tax dollars pay for this and any information they want to know about their families, about their neighborhoods or anything about the history of their city," said Booker.

Anyone can visit the East Tennessee History Center which is located directly across from the Tennessee Theatre, in downtown Knoxville.

Robert Booker and Jack Neely have devoted decades to digging into our past at the McClung Historical Collection. Now the...

Posted by Knox County Public Library on Tuesday, June 1, 2021