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Tennessee State Poem

"Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee"

Written by Naval Adm. William Lawrence

Adopted in 1973 .

The poem entitled "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by Naval Adm. William Lawrence was designated and adopted as the official state poem by Public Chapter 111 of the 88th General Assembly in 1973

This poem was composed by William Lawrence, in his head, while held in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. During the Vietnam War, Lawrence spent almost six years as a prisoner of war (POW) at the infamous Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton).

Tennessee State Poem:
"Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee"

"Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee"

What Love and Pride I Feel for Thee.
You Proud Ole State, the Volunteer,
Your Proud Traditions I Hold Dear.
I Revere Your Many Heroes
Who Bravely Fought our Country's Foes.
Renowned Statesmen, so Wise and Strong,
Who Served our Country Well and Long.
I Thrill at Thought of Mountains Grand;
Rolling Green Hills and Fertile Farm Land;
Earth Rich with Stone, Mineral and Ore;
Forests Dense and Wild Flowers Galore;
Powerful Rivers that Bring us Light;
Deep Lakes with Fish and Fowl in Flight;
Thriving Cities and Industries;
Fine Schools and Universities;
Strong Folks of Pioneer Descent,
Simple, Honest, and Reverent.
Beauty and Hospitality
Are the Hallmarks of Tennessee.
And O'er the World as I May Roam,
No Place Exceeds my Boyhood Home.
And Oh How Much I Long to See
My Native Land, My Tennessee."

Origin of Poem: "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee"

The poem entitled "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by Naval Adm. William Lawrence was designated and adopted as the official state poem by Public Chapter 111 of the 88th General Assembly.

VADM William Porter LawrenceThe poem entitled "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by Naval Adm. William Lawrence

VADM William Porter Lawrence was born in Nashville TN on January 13, 1930.As a boy in Nashville, he graduated first in his high school class and was President of the Student Body.

Upon receipt of his Naval Aviator Wings in Pensacola FL in November 1952, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 at the Naval Air Station Moffeft Field CA during the Korean War, and deployed twice to the Far East aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany. He next attended the Naval Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California, and the U. S. Naval Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River MD.

Lawrence, as a Lieutenant, served as Personal aide to RADM Thomas H, Moorer, USN, Commander Carrier Division Six, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, deploying to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. He next served as Assistant Operations Officer of Fighter Squadron 101, Naval Air Station, Oceana VA responsible for the introduction of the new F4H Phantom jet to the fleet, followed by a tour as Navigator of the gun cruiser USS Newport News.

As Maintenance Officer of Fighter Squadron 14, Naval Air Station, Cecil Field FL, he deployed to the Mediterranean aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. He next served as Executive Assistant to General Paul D. Adams, USA, Commander-in-Chief US Strike Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base FL.

VADM Lawrence made combat deployments to Vietnam aboard the aircraft carriers USS Ranger and USS Constellation. While Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 143, he was shot down over North Vietnam in June 1967 and held as a Prisoner of War until March 1973.

Lawrence composed this poem while enduring a period of 60 days of solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Lawrence, who spent six years as a POW during the Vietnam War, is a Nashville native and is retired from the United State Navy.

Tennessee Law

The law designating the  poem entitled, "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee," by Admiral William Lawrence as the official Tennessee state poem is found in the Tennessee Code Annotated, title 4, chapter 1, part 3, section 4 -1-303

Title 4 State Government
Chapter 1 General Provisions
Part 3 State Symbols

Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-303 (2014)

4-1-303. State poem.

The poem entitled, "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee," by Admiral William Lawrence, is designated and adopted as the official state poem for this state, which poem reads as follows:

"Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

What Love and Pride I Feel for Thee.

You Proud Ole State, the Volunteer,

Your Proud Traditions I Hold Dear.

I Revere Your Many Heroes

Who Bravely Fought our Country's Foes.

Renowned Statesmen, so Wise and Strong,

Who Served our Country Well and Long.

I Thrill at Thought of Mountains Grand;

Rolling Green Hills and Fertile Farm Land;

Earth Rich with Stone, Mineral and Ore;

Forests Dense and Wild Flowers Galore;

Powerful Rivers that Bring us Light;

Deep Lakes with Fish and Fowl in Flight;

Thriving Cities and Industries;

Fine Schools and Universities;

Strong Folks of Pioneer Descent,

Simple, Honest, and Reverent.

Beauty and Hospitality

Are the Hallmarks of Tennessee.

And O'er the World as I May Roam,

No Place Exceeds my Boyhood Home.

And Oh How Much I Long to See

My Native Land, My Tennessee."

HISTORY: Acts 1973, ch. 111, § 1; 1977, ch. 329, § 1; T.C.A., § 4-116.

 

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