Tennessee has a State Geographer?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

I am assuming there are not too many people who read the Tennessee Code Annotated (that’s the name for the collection of all Tennessee specific laws) for leisure. If you did, even if you are an attorney, you may come across some that are head scratching and you think, “Why is that a law?” I know little to nothing about the Tennessee legislature and how they work or why they do what they do. I am sure there is some explanation, that made perfect sense at the time, of why each and every law we have exists.

One I came across recently was the five laws that came into existence in 1993 that created the position of the Tennessee state Geographer. These laws can be found at TCA 4-43-101 – 105.

Here they are, in full:

4-43-101 – Creation – There is hereby created the office of state geographer

4-43-102 – Appointment – Term of Office – The state geographer shall be appointed by the governor to serve a term of three years and may be reappointed to serve additional terms. The state geographer shall serve at the pleasure of the governor and shall report to the governor or the governor’s designee and to the appropriate official of any agency for which such geographer has contracted to perform work.

4-43-103 – Qualifications – The state geographer shall hold a graduate degree in geography, have the confidence of professional colleagues and possess a record of public service.

4-43-104 – Duties – The state geographer shall be available at all times to serve as a consultant, advisor or director of research on geographic matters of interest to, and at the request of, appropriate officials in state government on a task-by-task contract basis.

4-43-105 – Service without staff, expenses or salary – The state geographer shall serve without staff, expenses, or salary.

You have just read all of the state laws in existence in Tennessee that pertain to the state geographer. Why were these laws passed or this position created? I have no idea. Who is the state geographer anyway?

I apologize if this information is completely wrong, but this information does not even appear to be listed on a state website anywhere. My search of the internet led me to discover a note on the University of Tennessee library website that stated in 1997 Governor Don Sundquist named UT Professor Sidney Jumper as Tennessee State Geographer. I have no ideas what the duties entail or if there are any, but it appears the state Geographer has not changed since the appointment of Professor Jumper in 1997 (25 years ago at the time of the writing of this article).


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information.