Madisonville and ‘A Boy Named Sue’

A Day Away By Mike Steely

What in the world would link Madisonville to the Johnny Cash hit song, “A Boy Named Sue?”

There is no obvious connection except that a prominent male attorney from Monroe County who took part in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was, in fact, named Sue Kerr Hicks. Born in 1895 and named for his mother, who died in childbirth, Hicks had many notable occupations in his life including serving as a circuit court judge and as one of the prosecutors in that famous 1935 trial held in Dayton, Tennessee.

Shel Silverstein, the author of the Cash radio hit, had attended a judicial conference in Gatlinburg where Sue Hicks was a speaker. Hicks passed away in 1980 and is buried at the Haven Hills Memorial Garden in his hometown of Madisonville.

The town of Madisonville boasts of many influential people born and raised there including statesman Estes Kefauver and country music star Emily Sunshine Hamilton, known professionally as EmiSunshine. The city also has the historic Monroe County Courthouse, an active courthouse square, and the now closed Hiwassee College. About 4,000 residents call Madisonville home and the city also has a thriving commercial district along Highway 411 which passes just south of town.

Nearby attractions include the Lost Sea, a large commercial cave between Madisonville and Sweetwater, the little historic town of Tellico Plains, the Bald River Falls and the scenic Cherohala Parkway.

If you’re looking to make a day of your Madisonville visit, you might plan on starting in Maryville and following  Highway 411  south to Vonore, where you’ll find the reconstruction of the British Fort Loudoun and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.

After stopping in Madisonville you can head north on Highway 68 to the Lost Sea and into Sweetwater and check out that town’s antique downtown. From there you can continue on Highway 68 to I-75 back to Knoxville or take Highway 11 north to Sweetwater Valley Farm for some homemade cheese. If you stay on Highway 11, you’ll pass through the little town of Philadelphia, then Loudon and Lenoir City where the highway turns into Kingston Pike.

You can find more about Sue Hicks and Madisonville online at”or you may call the visitor center at (423)253-8010.