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A Day Away: Knoxville’s Presidential Streets

By Mike Steely

Seems Jimmy Carter can’t get much respect, doesn’t it? Although the peanut farmer and nuclear scientist from Georgia is one of the presidents of our nation to get a street named for him in our fair city, the street is only a couple of blocks long and, with the construction there, the street has more or less disappeared.

There are a couple of dozen streets in town named for our presidents. Does the length and condition of each street have anything to do with how our community feels about the past commander-in-chiefs? Maybe.

Carter can take some pride in knowing that his street isn’t the shortest presidential street in Knoxville. That “honor’ goes to Gerald Ford. That brief president, the non-elected successor to Richard Nixon, has a little byway in Bearden, off Kingston Pike, that runs less than a block and connects with Dean Hill Drive. A brief street for a brief president.

Around town you’ll find Lincoln Street and Lincoln Road.  You’ll find a Nixon Road, but I don’t know if that’s for Richard M. Nixon, the local Nixon family, or Nixon’s Deli.

And there’s Washington Pike, apparently for George Washington. Roosevelt Street is in Maryville, and there are others, although the streets may also be named for local early families with similar names: Wilson Street, Monroe Street, Jackson Avenue, Reagan Avenue, Clinton Street and Madison Street. There’s a Jackson Avenue in the Old City.

Since not all of the presidents get a street, there’s an all encompassing Presidential Lane in the Karns Community. And, if you’re wondering, there’s always the Eisenhower Interstate System that includes Interstates I- 75, I- 140, I-80 and I-275.

What’s the longest street named for a president?

That honor goes to East Tennessee’s own Andrew J. and if you are thinking Andrew Jackson you are wrong. It’s for Andrew Johnson of Greeneville. The AJ highway stretches through Knoxville to Greeneville.  The Tennessean had some grit about him. Impeached for his soft attitude about the defeated South in the Civil War, saved by one vote, returning home and later serving as a U. S. Senator back in Washington, Johnson was persistent and proud.

It is said that Johnson was buried in Greeneville wrapped in a U.S. Flag and clutching a copy of the Constitution.

So don’t just say the “AJ Highway,” give it some recognition.

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