Harvey Benjamin Broome

Copyright (2002) * All rights reserved
J.C. (Jim) Tumblin, OD, DOS
3604 Kesterwood Drive, East
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2557
(865) 687-1948

Fountain Citians Who Made A Difference

Harvey Benjamin Broome


Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection

Harvey Broome -- a gifted man in the law -- was also in the forefront when it came to ecology. In hiking, backpacking, and camping he was a joyous companion. When it came to the preservation of unique wildness which this continent once knew, he was an advocate extraordinary. And when it came to writing about the outdoors and the wilderness, I always rated him along with Henry Thoreau and John Muir. (William O. Douglas, Associate Justice, U. S. Supreme Court, 1972) (1).

James Harvey Smith (1840-1932) inherited the land at the intersection of North Broadway and Tazewell Pike from his father, John Smith (1795-1883). The land, part of John Adair’s Land Grant No. 28, was given by the State of North Carolina in recognition of Adair’s services to his country. John Smith, grandson of John Adair, had bought 474 acres from his grandfather for one thousand dollars and built his hand-made brick home there in 1839. The attractive old home served descendants of the family until 1960 when it was demolished to make way for commercial development (2).

Adair’s daughter, Mary, married Captain Robert Christian. In 1819 Marie A. Christian, the granddaughter of John Adair, Jr., Revolutionary War soldier, married John Smith who was of Irish descent as were the Adairs.  Adeline Smith (1868-1954) was the oldest of four children of John and Marie Christian Smith.

George William Broome (1867-1943) was born in Shropshire, England. He came to America with his parents in 1872, because of the controversy in England over whether they would have free public schools. George married Adeline Smith on October 27, 1898 (3).

George W. and Adeline (Smith) Broome became parents of their second of three children, Harvey Benjamin, on July 15, 1902. During Harvey’s elementary and high school years, the Broomes lived at first 511 East Clinch Avenue and later at 228 East Hill Avenue (4).

Harvey Broome would later write of his childhood with fond memories of his grandfather’s farm in Fountain City (5):

About once a month my parents, brother, sister, and I took the steam "Dummy Line"—a miniature train—five miles toward Fountain City to Grandpa Smith’s farm, where there were a two-storied brick house, two barns, several horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, fields, rabbits, an orchard, a springhouse, a smokehouse, woodhouse, and outhouse, each carrying its own odor, delectable or pungent. There were free-flowing springs from which clear pure water was dipped.

Grandpa was someone special. He had been a cavalryman in the Civil War. But he was always a farmer. He could shoe a horse, cradle a field of wheat, make a pair of shoes, slaughter a pig, milk a cow, chop wood, grind a blade, grease a wagon, and handle a horse with certitude. … On Sundays Grandpa hitched up the surrey and spring wagon and we drove three gritty miles to church. … In the later afternoon, before the pigs had to be fed and the milking done, if we were lucky we could persuade Father and Grandpa to climb the wooded ridge to the east, whence five long miles away we could just make out the red standpipe on the hill above our house in town. I was astounded that one could see five whole miles.

Harvey also recalled looking out from the upstairs window of his home at an early age and seeing the pale blue line of the Smoky Mountains 40 miles away. Those mysterious first views of the mountains produced an unconscious stirring that a person might experience when first looking up into the Milky Way Galaxy on a cloudless night and beholding the immensity of the universe. Late in life he declared, "I don’t recall when I became aware that there were mountains to the south of Knoxville, but I could not have been very old." Only later, after his father introduced him to the backcountry on a camping trip, did his yearning become identifiable as a love of the Smokies’ wilderness. That first camping trip was to Gregory’s Bald in 1917 (6).

After graduating from Knoxville High School in 1919 and the University of Tennessee in 1923 (Liberal Arts), where he was elected to Phi Kappa Phi, Harvey then attended Harvard Law school graduating in 1926 with his LLD degree. He would later say modestly when asked, "I graduated from a law school in the East (7)."

He became law clerk for U.S. Circuit Court Judge Xen Hicks in 1930, then entered private practice in 1949, working in the Oak Ridge office of the firm—Kramer, Dye, McNabb and Greenwood. When the opportunity arose in 1958, he left the private law firm to again become law clerk, this time to Federal Judge Robert L. Taylor. He explained this decision to a fellow-lawyer, "I have been disturbed this past year at the relentless demands upon my time from the law practice, with a consequent inability to do the things I should be doing for The Wilderness Society. When the opportunity offered to return to my old interest--the judiciary--with the hope of more free time and much more control of my time, I decided to make the break." His love of the great outdoors had won again (8).

In 1935 Broome and eight others founded The Wilderness Society. He served on the original Governing Council and eventually became president of the group dedicated to preservation in 1957, continuing in that capacity for the remainder of his life (9).

Appropriately, he married Anna (Anne) W. Pursel in June 1937 in the Massachusetts home of Benton MacKaye, a wilderness advocate who conceived the idea of the Appalachian Trail. Harvey and Anne had shared a love for the outdoors from the time they met when he was a law student at Harvard and she was a secretary there. Their marriage became a true partnership. They eventually purchased a cabin in Emerts Cove at the edge of the Smokies and most weekends found them either in the cabin or on the trails. From 1941 to his death, he kept a "mountain journal" and the collective "we" he used frequently nearly always referred to his beloved wife.

Harvey and Anne made their first home in a house built on a part of his maternal grandfather’s property in 1937, the former site of one of his grandfather’s barns—3730 North Broadway. In 1960, when the ancestral home was demolished to enable commercial development, they also were required to demolish or move their home. They were able to move the house to Mountain Crest Drive. Harvey had loved living on land on which his great-grandfather had lived. However, the new location on the crest of Black Oak Ridge gave him a view of the Great Smoky Mountains where he had spent so many happy hours and for which he had devoted so much effort in establishing the Park and preserving the wilderness.

On April 30, 1941, observing the world situation and an impending war, he wrote in his Mountain Notebook:

Civilization began to vie for the right to use the natural world and turmoil and confusion swept the face of the earth. That’s where we are now--nervously, ruthlessly protecting our society, our customs, our luxuries, instead of lovingly, with the sublime understanding of people of the earth, protecting our bit of earth.

And, at the end of that war, he wrote:

... This day also the Charter of the United Nations was signed. ... If it does not succeed, there is no other power that can save the world from another holocaust of war. ... Why shouldn’t men who are thrown together for a passing span, existing here for a few swings of the earth ... covenant to live together in peace so that they might turn all their energies to freeing themselves for the greatest occupation of all--the reconciliation of men and mankind, mentally, physically and spiritually with the surrounding universe (10)?

Revealing his intimate knowledge of the park, Broome wrote a chapter on the Great Smokies in one of his books. In that chapter he described a sublime moment during one hike (11):

The forest on Snake Den Mountain was magnificent--virgin, all of it. ... We had descended for a couple of miles when I noticed that the spruces were unusually large and gnarled and that we had reached the elevation of the hemlocks. The fog, shrouding those trees, as they loomed on the steep slopes below the trail, created an eerie world of matchless enchantment. Several bends of the trail brought us to a further transition zone where we saw spruce, hemlock, and pine, all near each other. The only other place I know of in the Smokies where this triple growth obtains is on the Greenbrier Pinnacle.

In another descriptive passage in Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies he described the Chimney Tops and the surrounding scenery in these words:

Yesterday we hiked again to the Chimneys, to a spot which in one way or another has been a part of my life for over 40 years. I believe it was in 1918 that I took my first trip up the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River and caught my first view of the Chimneys. No one had warned me of the precipitous and distinctive peaks. I was hiking along on a fishing trip, trying to keep up with the others, and glanced up, "What are they?" I cried, astounded by their sharp points and vertical slopes. Someone said, "The Chimney Tops." I am sure that I resolved right then and there to climb them, although it was more than two years before I had the opportunity.

I climbed the Chimneys first with Uncle Charley Mooers and his son George in 1920. Since those first climbs, the Chimneys, the Road Prong, the dark silent pools, the gleaming foam of the little cascades -- Alum Cave, LeConte, the whole general area – have become deeply involved in my life. These wonderful, beautiful mountains are as much a part of me as my bloodstream, or the hand which traces out these words.

In 1954, when a super parkway was proposed alongside the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Maryland, Broome joined in an eight-day, 189-mile protest trek. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas promoted the trip to dramatize his belief that the route should be preserved in its natural state. George Washington had surveyed the route that roughly parallels the Potomac River between Cumberland, Maryland and Washington. Again in 1958 Broome and a group of 70, including Justice Douglas, walked 22 miles of the State of Washington coastline protesting the building of a coastal highway encroaching on scenic Olympic National Park (12).

During his presidency, The Wilderness Society had been a major force behind passage of the Wilderness Act, which authorized designation of several areas to remain unspoiled. For the two or three years prior to his death, he and the Wilderness Society had been battling to prevent the transmountain road through the Great Smokies, which they saw as further despoiling of the beauties of the mountains (13).

On March 8, 1968, Harvey Broome died at his home on Mountaincrest Drive, following a heart attack. Thinking of nature’s creatures to the last, he had just sawed a hollow log with which he planned to make a wren’s house. Only five months before his fatal heart attack, he had made his last climb to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, where the Appalachian Trail begins (14).

Harvey Broome was one of the eight organizers of the Wilderness Society in 1935, was a member of the Governing Council from the beginning, becoming vice president of the Society in 1948, and president from 1957 to his death. He became a trustee of the Robert Marshall Wilderness Fund in 1948 and was appointed a member of the Advisory Council of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ACORRRC) in 1959. The ACORRRC was instrumental in stimulating the establishment of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He was president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club in 1932, a director of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association from 1932 to1935 and president of the East Tennessee Historical Society from 1945 to 1947.

He was a talented author who wrote Chapters 6, 14 and 15 in Mary U. Rothrock’s book, The French Broad-Holston Country (A History of Knox County, Tennessee), which discusses the evolution of Knox County governmental activity as revealed in County Court records. He also wrote Chapter 26 which briefly summarizes the outstanding events of county history from 1930 to 1945. His "Mountain Notebooks" and other writings appeared periodically in The Living Wilderness magazine (15).

Although portions of the journals her husband had written about his hikes and travels had been published, his wife, Anna, edited them and published them in three books posthumously. They became very popular with wilderness enthusiasts. The first, Harvey Broome: Earth Man was published in 1969. It was followed by Faces of the Wilderness in 1972 and Out Under the Sky in the Great Smokies in 1975. Having survived her mate by 15 years and having made his landmark work available to readers, Mrs. Anna Pursel Broome died in 1983 (16).

In his afterword to Broome’s book Faces of the Wilderness, S.M. Brandborg, Executive Director of the Wilderness Society paid tribute in these words (17):

Harmony between man and nature was the dream of Harvey Broome. This ideal, of which wilderness was the foundation, he held to tenaciously. He thought of wilderness as "islands in time," "And," he wrote in a 1948 essay, "the generations to come need them for the same breath-taking vistas into the past and into the future. May they remain for all time--islands in time and space, where living men can detach themselves from their civilization and walk into eternity."

Harvey Benjamin Broome was a Fountain Citian who made, and continues to make, a vast difference in many lives by introducing others to his Wilderness—the Wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains. His dream was fulfilled in his lifetime with many achievements that will preserve his legacy and preserve our Wilderness.

w-broome.doc (8/15/02, 9/10/02, 8/26/05)

1.  Harvey Broome (with Anne Broome), Faces of the Wilderness (Missoula, Montana, 1972).

2.  Nannie Lee Hicks, The History of Fountain City (with sections on Smithwood and Inskip), Knoxville, 2000; Lucille Deaderick (Editor), Heart of the Valley (A History of Knoxville, Tennessee), Knoxville, 1976; John Smith is buried in the Smithwood Baptist Church cemetery.

3.  ibid. (Deaderick, 1976); Knoxville City Directory (1921-32): George W. Broome was the superintendent of the Riverside Lumber Company, 302-308 West Front Avenue.

4.  The children were William Smith Broome (19__-____), Harvey Benjamin Broome (1902-1968) and Mrs. Robert W. (Margaret) Howes (1907-____).  Personal Communication with William S. Broome, Jr., August 20, 2002; Obituary: George W. Broome, Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 4, 1943.

5.  Harvey Broome, Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies, Greenbrier Press (Knoxville, 1975).

6.  Arthur McDade, "Harvey Broome: ‘I Have Never Wanted to Leave the Top of a Mountain,’" The Tennesseee Conservationist, November-December, 1999; Chambliss Pierce, "Distinguished Hiker Harvey Broome Sets Example for State Conservationists," Knoxville News-Sentinel, March 17, 1960.

7.  Carson Brewer, "This Is Your Community," Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 12, 1970 and December 10, 1972.

8.  "Harvey Broome," The Living Wilderness, Vol. 31, No. 99, Winter 1967-68.

9.  Lucy Templeton, "Conservationist Honored," Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 26, 1958.

10.  Chambliss Pierce, op.cit., 1960; Harvey Broome, Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies: a Personal Journal (Knoxville,  c1975).

11.  op. cit. (Harvey Broome, 1972).

12.  "Harvey Broome Joins Hikers for 189-Mile Canal Trek," Knoxville News-Sentinel, March 14, 1954; "Broome to Join New Douglas’ Protest Hike," Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 10, 1958.,

13.  The National Park Service persisted for 5 1/2 years in attempting to obtain authorization for another transmountain highway in spite of the insistent demand of the people to preserve the remaining wilderness.  In February 1971, the NPS withdrew the highway proposal.

14.  Carson Brewer, "Harvey Broome, Law Aide, Dies," Knoxville News-Sentinel, March 9, 1958.

15.  Mary U. Rothrock, Editor, The French Broad-Holston Country (A History of Knox County, Tennessee), (East Tennessee Historical Society, 1946 and 1972).

16.  "Anna Broome, 79, Widow of Conservationist, Dies," Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 13, 1983.

17.  op. cit. (Harvey Broome, 1972).

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