Tennessee Historical Commission Board Members

Derita Williams

Derita Coleman Williams – is an independent scholar in American material culture and a private dealer in American fine art and decorative arts.  She holds a Master of Arts from the University of Memphis, with post-graduate studies at the Universities of Memphis, North Carolina, and Delaware, at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Henry Frances DuPont Winterthur Museum Summer Institute.  Williams taught at the University of Memphis and Northwest Mississippi Community College for 15 years, served as guest curator and lecturer for numerous museum groups, and, in addition to contributing to journal and magazine articles, co-authored The Art and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture and Its Makers Through 1850, and authored A View of Tennessee Silversmiths


Beth Campbell – is owner of Rock Island Foods, a distributor for Frontier Soups, is a member of the Republican State Executive Committeewomen, former chair of the Northport, Alabama Historic Preservation Commission, and was vice chairwoman of the Heritage Commission of Tuscaloosa County.


Sam Elliott – is a member of the Chattanooga law firm of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon, PLLC.  He graduated cum laude from the University of the South and received his law degree from the University of Tennessee.   Appointed to the Tennessee Historical Commission in 2005, he served as chairman from 2009 to 2015.  He is a past president of both the Tennessee and Chattanooga Bar Associations and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Tennessee Bar Foundation. He has served on the board and as president of the Friends of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (now National Park Partners), and on the boards of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association and the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society.  Mr. Elliott is the author or editor of four books, all relating to Tennessee during the Civil War:  Soldier of Tennessee: General Alexander P. Stewart and the Civil War in the West (1999), Doctor Quintard: Chaplain C. S. A. and Second Bishop of Tennessee (2003) Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator (2010, co-winner of the Tennessee History Book Award) and John C. Brown of Tennessee:  Rebel, Redeemer and Railroader (2017, winner of the Tennessee History Book Award), and also was the editor of the Chattanooga volume of the Tennessee Historical Society’s Tennessee in the Civil War series.   He has written a number of essays and articles on Tennessee history, and occasionally speaks on matters pertaining to his research. 


Allen Carter –is owner of Athens Insurance Agency.  He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and obtained the Certified Insurance Counselor designation in 2005.  He has served on Boards for the United Way of McMinn County, the McMinn Living Heritage Museum, the Athens McMinn Family YMCA, the Board of Trustees for Baylor School in Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee Alumni Legislative Council.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Athens Federal Foundation, The Grace House (Homeless Shelter), The Pat Summit Foundation, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, the Board of Trustees for Tennessee Wesleyan University and the Tennessee Credit Life Board.  Mr. Carter is a member of the First Families of Tennessee.


Bill Kennedy – is an Independent Medical Examiner in Orthopedic Surgery and member of the Washington County Records Commission, as well as the Jonesborough Traffic Advisory Committee.  He holds two degrees from Emory University: the first in Humanities from the College of Arts and Sciences and the second, his doctorate, from the School of Medicine.  He served eight 5-year terms on the Jonesborough Historic Zoning Commission, culminating in service as Chairman from 1983 to 2020.  He has served on the Board of Trustees for the Jonesborough Washington County Heritage Alliance, an organization he helped establish, and held the presidency from 2005-2008.  He holds an Honorary Lifetime membership in the Jonesborough Civic Trust and has chaired nine annual Historic Preservation Conferences for the organization.  Long active in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he has been a Forum member; served on the Trust’s Board of Advisors; and served on the advisory committee to form the Tennessee Preservation Trust. 


Bill Lyons – is a Political Science Professor Emeritus, who recently retired from serving as Deputy to the Mayor for the City of Knoxville.  He holds a PhD from the University of Oklahoma.  Dr. Lyons served as Director of the University of Tennessee's Social Science Research Institute and Director of the Bureau of Public Administration, and Associate Director of the Office of Institutional Research.  He authored or co-authored numerous articles in professional journals, including the Journal of Politics, American Politics Quarterly, American Journal of Political Science, Social Science Quarterly, Judicature, State and Local Government Review, and Political Behavior. Lyons also co-authored American Government: Politics and Political Culture, 4th edition (2006), with John Scheb; and Government and Politics in Tennessee (2002), with John Scheb and Billy Stair. He has served as a consultant to numerous government agencies, political candidates, businesses, nonprofit organizations and interest groups. Lyons also served for over twenty years as Political Analyst for WBIR-TV in Knoxville.

Ray Smith

Ray Smith – is the Historian for the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  He is also Board Member of American Museum of Science and Energy Foundation; and Y-12 National Security Complex Historian (retired), photographer, film producer, newspaper columnist and author.  Smith graduated from the United States Air Force electronics technical school, attended the University of Tennessee, and holds a certificate from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.  He has written a weekly local newspaper column on the history of Oak Ridge, Historically Speaking, since 2006. He has published hardback books of annual volumes of these articles each year. For nine years he also wrote a second weekly newspaper column, Y-12: Oak Ridge Treasure, National Resource.  He has produced or co-produced several documentary films, some of which are available online at https://www.y12.doe.gov/about/history/video-gallery Ray’s most recent documentary film, produced in January 2018, is Ed Westcott – Photographer, a tribute to the famous Manhattan Project and Department of Energy photographer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYvzw9f8M8A. Smith has served on the American Museum of Science and Energy Foundation Board of Directors for several years, and presently chairs the Nominating Committee and is on the Executive Board.


Hanes Torbett – is the owner of Torbett Insurance & Finances Services in Johnson City, Tennessee.  He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Kelly Wolfe – owns a homebuilding and development company. He served as mayor of Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, for nine and a half years.  Knowledgeable in historic zoning matters, rules and regulations, Wolfe has undertaken several historic renovation projects including a home built in 1864 sitting on the corner of Main and Second in Jonesborough that was in violation of the town’s Demolition by Neglect ordinance before his restoration efforts.

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Kent Dollar – is Professor of History at Tennessee Tech University. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, a master’s from Mississippi College, and a PhD from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  He joined the faculty at Tech in 2005, specializing in 19th-century America and the Civil War.  He teaches courses on the American Civil War, Colonial America, the Early Republic, and American Religion.  Dr. Dollar wrote Soldiers of the Cross: Confederate Soldier-Christians and the Impact of War on Their Faith, published by Mercer University Press in 2005. He co-edited Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee, which was published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2009. His most current book, which was released in 2015 by Kent State University Press, is Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky, a follow-up volume to Sister States that he co-edited with Larry Whiteaker and Calvin Dickinson.

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Jeremy Harrell – is co-founder and principal of Stones River Group, an award-winning, full-service public affairs firm with statewide and national reach.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Harrell served as a member of Governor Haslam’s administration, where he was involved in numerous policy initiatives and oversaw the appointment process for boards and commissions.  He is the former director of the non-profit Tennesseans for Student Success, ran the 2008 statewide senate campaign for U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and the 2014 re-election campaign for Governor Haslam, served on the board of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and serves on the Personnel Committee for Concord Community Church of the Nazarene.

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Kem Hinton – is an architect, LEED professional, urban designer, author, historian, graphic designer, lecturer, and visual artist.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in Architecture from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.  In 1984, Hinton and Seab Tuck established Tuck-Hinton Architects, and there he was responsible for award-winning projects including Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Center, Vanderbilt University Admissions Building, Tennessee World War II Memorial, Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Public Library, Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Tennessee State University Campus Center, Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Center, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and MTSU Sports Hall of Fame.  Mr. Hinton was the designer of the Tennessee Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville, and he authored A Long Path:  The Search for a Tennessee Bicentennial Landmark which documents the design of the 19-acre state park and Tennessee’s grand 200th birthday celebration.  In 2019, Kem Hinton Design was established, as the reins of Tuck-Hinton Architects was handed over to younger owners.  Hinton is the lead designer of the new Tennessee State Library & Archives, Wings of Liberty Military Museum at Fort Campbell, Tennessee Gulf Wars Monument, and the Votes for Women Room in the Nashville Public Library which honors the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.  In 2019, he received the AIA Tennessee William Strickland Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a member of the AIA College of Fellows and serves on the board of both the Nashville Downtown Rotary Club and the Leadership Nashville Alumni Association.

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Doris McMillan – is Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management at New Hope Academy in Franklin and owner of Seams by Doris, LLC.  With wardrobe credits for Hallmark Chanel movies and the Oprah Winfrey Show, Mrs. McMillan has worked with Country Music icon Naomi Judd for over two decades and helped to outfit numerous celebrity shows—including performances by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Tim McGraw, Sheryl Crow, and Tyler Perry.  Mrs. McMillan’s advocacy work for women and children has received recognition in the form of awards and the title, “Williamson County Trailblazer.”  In 2002, the Ford Motor Company’s annual report paid homage to her preservation efforts in behalf of the African American Heritage Society and McLemore House Museum.  Mrs. McMillan established the “The Black Tie Affair” and Pioneer Family program to celebrate African American contributions in Williamson County, and has served on the boards of Herstory, Mercy Children Clinic, African American Heritage Society, Haiti Hospital Foundation, Inner City Coalition, Franklin Tomorrow, 4H of Williamson County, and the Williamson County Library.  She is a Jack and Jill of American Associate.  The Franklin Breakfast Rotary, City of Franklin Parks and Recreational Advisory Committee, National Federation of Colored Women, National Council of Negro Women, Top Ladies of Distinction, Golden Hour Bible Study Club, and the Mt. Zion Church of God Holiness Young Ladies Christian League also benefit from her community service.

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Ann Toplovich – is the retired Executive Director of the Tennessee Historical Society, a post she held since 1990.  She holds a B.A. in English and Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute.  Her career in public history has included stints as first director of the Tennessee Main Street Program, deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, and Assistant Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Conservation (now TDEC).  She has directed National Endowment for the Humanities projects and other state humanities projects, served as a consultant on research projects, published articles, and appeared on PBS, CNN, and History Channel productions, in addition to directing the effort to create The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.  Toplovich served as curator for “Preserving Our Stories: 150 Years of the Tennessee Historical Society,” exhibit for the Tennessee State Museum.  She has served the Tennessee Public Records Commission (1990-2020), Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission (2010-2016), Tennessee War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission (2012-2015),  Tennessee Great War Centennial Commission (2016-2018), Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Legislative Task Force (2019-2020), and is on the board of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (2004-ongoing).  Toplovich recently completed terms as an officer of the American Association for State and Local History and the Tennessee Preservation Trust and Historic Nashville, as well as the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance and the Neighborhood Resource Center, Inc.

Loni Harris

Loni Harris – is a master gardener who is interested in historic horticulture and historic gardens. Following the devastating tornado of 2003, she served on the restoration committee for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church she served on Bishop and Council for the Diocese of West Tennessee. Mrs. Harris is a member of the Tennessee Preservation Trust, the Tennessee Historical Society, and the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.


Cato Johnson – is Senior Vice President of Public Policy/Regulatory Affairs & Chief of Staff for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System in Memphis, providing leadership within the system since 1985.  Prior to Methodist, Johnson was Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Regional One. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree from the University of Memphis.  His community commitment is evidenced in decades of activity in legislative affairs and leadership service to numerous professional and civic organizations, including: Chairman, TennCare Medical Advisory Committee; Alumni, Leadership Tennessee Class IV; Former Chair, Tennessee Higher Education Committee; Former Member, Tennessee State Board of Education; Executive Committee, University of Memphis Board of Trustees; Co-Chair, Memphis City Mayor’s Community Engagement Committee; Executive Board, YMCA Cordova; and South City Executive Committee.

Keith Norman – is Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Memphis and First Vice President of Government Relations for Baptist Memorial Healthcare.  He is a graduate of Morehouse College.  Since completing the Doctorate of Ministry Program at the Memphis Theological Seminary in 2016, Dr. Norman has served as a guest speaker and evangelist across the nation and abroad. Norman sits on the board of directors of the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission, is a Board Trustee at Christian Brothers University, and is a Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Commissioner.  He is past president of the Memphis Chapter of the NAACP.


Beverly Robertson – is President & CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, the first female in the Chamber’s 182 year history and the first African American to hold this position.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Memphis State University and completed graduate level management courses through the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.  Robertson was recently named as one of the “Women of the Century”  in Tennessee by USA Today.  Her career began in the corporate offices of Holiday Inn Worldwide, where she worked her way through the ranks to become acting Vice President of Marketing Communications.  Under her leadership as President of the National Civil Rights Museum, the institution raised $43M, which was used to complete an $11M facility expansion and secure the museum’s future with $32M toward capital and endowment assets.  Mrs. Robertson has a solid reputation as a focus group facilitator, having led numerous groups for Fortune 500 companies.


Don Roe – serves as Head of School at the University School of Jackson in Jackson, Tennessee, after eighteen years of teaching with Jackson-Madison County Schools and working as an adjunct professor for UT Martin, Lambuth, and Union University.  He holds a B.S. in History and Political Science from Lambuth University in Jackson and a M.A. in History from the University of Memphis.  Roe served as a Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) Accreditation team member, chaired USJ's Strategic Planning Committee, and was the 2011 Teacher of the Year for Madison Academic Magnet High School. He has served as a Board member for the Tennessee Academic Decathlon, the Tennessee Council for History Education, and served on the Madison County Superintendent's Committee on Cultural Diversity.


Gerald Parish – is Director, Recreation Educational Service Division (RES), Tennessee Division of Environment and Conservation.  He has more than 40 years of experience in the recreation field, including 16 years with RES and five years of service as division director. He also handles technical assistance and grant program requests for West Tennessee communities. Parish holds an undergraduate degree from Lambuth University.

Pillip Hodges

Phil Hodge – Phil Hodge is the Tennessee State Archaeologist and Director of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology. In this role, he leads the Division of Archaeology’s staff of professional archaeologists in a statewide program of archaeological research, planning, and education. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Southern Mississippi. With twenty-five years of experience in Tennessee archaeology, Hodge has worked on archaeological sites across the state. Motivated by a commitment to professional and community service, he served for a decade as an elected Board member to the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology, including a term as President, seven years as editor of Horizon & Tradition, the newsletter of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, and as a long-term volunteer with the Wilson County Black History Committee. Hodge has published peer-reviewed research on Middle and Late Gulf Formational Period pre-contact cultures and contributed many articles to state and regional publications.  His current research interests include Reconstruction-era African American archaeological sites and the use of geographic information systems and technology in archaeology.

Carroll Van West – is the Tennessee State Historian. Dr. West has been with the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) since 1985, where he was appointed director in 2002.  He holds a B.A. from MTSU, a M.A. from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD from the College of William and Mary.  West is also the director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.  West was the longtime editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, a collaborative partnership between the Tennessee Historical Society and Tennessee Historical Commission. He was also Editor-in-Chief of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture and authored Tennessee’s Historic Landscapes.

Chuck Sherrill

Charles Sherrill – is the State Librarian and Archivist of Tennessee. He holds a master’s degree in History and Library Science from Case Western Reserve University.  He is responsible for a vast collection of state historical records and providing support for more than 200 public libraries across Tennessee. He has served for 20 years as a public library director, first in Cleveland Tenn., and then in Brentwood. In between, he spent seven years as Director of Public Services at the State Library and Archives. Active in genealogical research and publishing, he has authored two family histories and books on several Tennessee counties, as well as the Guide to Research in Tennessee, published by the National Genealogical Society. Sherrill has been the editor of The Middle Tennessee Journal of History and Genealogy since 2002 and is a frequent speaker at genealogical seminars and conferences.