Founded in 1989 as a service organization of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Tennessee Presidents Trust supports financially the work of a unique documentary editing center dedicated to the publication of the papers of Tennessee’s three American presidents, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. The trust also assists in building statewide awareness and support for the university’s historical research program as well as fostering a greater appreciation of the Tennessee presidents’ legacy of civic responsibility. Both the trust and the documentary editing center are located on the second floor of Hoskins Library.
All three editorial projects undertake the same tasks of collecting, transcribing, researching, annotating, and publishing the papers of their respective presidents. Under the direction of Harold Moser, Wayne Cutler, and Paul Bergeron, the three projects have published a total of twenty-seven volumes: five on Jackson, nine on Polk, and thirteen on Johnson. Each of the projects has received prestigious research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Publications and Records Commission. The Tennessee Historical Commission also makes modest continuing grants in support of the center.
In addition to support for the editorial projects, the trust publishes a numbered issue in its Occasional Pamphlet Series and provides instructional aids for teaching American and Tennessee history in the state’s primary and secondary schools. In 1992 the trust prepared and distributed an illustrated Tennessee Presidents Portfolio which provides classroom teachers with materials suitable for grades four to six. Through generous grant support from First Tennessee Bank, the trust produced and distributed gratis a twenty-six-minute video entitled Voices for Union to some fifteen hundred secondary schools in the state. The video distribution, the bank’s bicentennial gift to the people of Tennessee, included a printed guide with text, graphic descriptors, glossary of terms, and map exercises for further study. In addition to its educational projects, the trust hosts commemorative programs for its members and recognizes distinguished civic leaders in Tennessee through its newsletter, The Legacy.
Within eight years of its founding the trust had reached a membership of over nine hundred. In 1993 the trust began a new tradition of celebrating “Tennessee Presidents Month” in February of each year to coincide with the national Presidents Day. In addition to individual memberships, the trust offers corporate membership to civic clubs wishing to affiliate and undertake local educational and commemorative work. To date, eleven Civitan Clubs have brought their three hundred members into affiliation to assist in preserving the Tennessee presidents’ legacy.