Basic 6: Cities

The Nashville skyline


Nashville used to have the second highest population of any city in Tennessee. But in 2017 it passed Memphis and now, with 692,000 people, it is the largest city in the state.

Nashville is also the state capital and the only large city in Tennessee with a metropolitan form of government. What that means is that Davidson County and Nashville have one big government, with one mayor, one council, one school system, one police force and one library system.

The Parthenon in Nashville

Nashville’s main claim to fame these days is as “Music City, U.S.A.,” which mainly means country music. However, there was a time when more people knew of Nashville by the nickname “Athens of the South,” in reference to Athens, Greece.

There is, in Nashville, a replica of the Greek Parthenon that was originally built in 1896 and rebuilt in 1929.

A Titans game

Today Nashville’s largest industry is health care, and the most important company in that sector is HCA, which owns about 200 hospitals. It used to be that the biggest company in Nashville was the National Life & Accident Insurance Company, which owns WSM radio and the Grand Ole Opry.

Nashville has two pro sports teams — a football team called the Titans and a hockey team called the Predators.

The riverfront in Memphis


With a population of about 655,000, Memphis is the second largest city in Tennessee. It has always been linked to the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary.

Memphis was once referred to as “Bluff City”┬ábecause it was originally located on a bluff over the river. Today it is known as the “Home of the Blues.”

Grizz, the mascot of the Memphis Grizzlies
PHOTO: Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has produced some important companies, such as Holiday Inn and Piggly Wiggly. Today the largest companies in the Memphis area are Federal Express, First Tennessee Bank and AutoZone.

Memphis is the home of the University of Memphis, the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team, the Liberty Bowl and the National Civil Rights Museum.

The Sunsphere in Knoxville


When people think of Knoxville they often think of the University of Tennessee. But there’s a lot more to this town, which used to be known as “Marble City” because of the amount of marble sold here.

About 185,000 people live within the boundaries of Knoxville. Knoxville is the headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the corporate headquarters for the Goody’s clothing chain, and the home of HGTV (a home and garden channel you might have seen on television).

A UT Vols game PHOTO: Mark Finchum

A lot of people pass through Knoxville on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. What few realize is that it was largely because of business leaders in Knoxville that the Great Smoky Mountains was formed. People from Knoxville, in the 1910s and 1920s, launched a campaign to have the Smokies made into a national park.

The University of Tennessee and its 27,000 students are a huge part of Knoxville. When the Volunteers play a sold-out football game, about 105,000 people pack into Neyland Stadium — giving the stadium a larger population than every town and city in Tennessee except four.

The view of Chattanooga from Lookout Mountain


It wasn’t easy to get through southeastern Tennessee in the days before highways and bridges.

The main reason Chattanooga exists is because it is easier to get through the mountains, and across the Tennessee River, here than it is anywhere else around here.

Some of the residents of the Chattanooga aquarium

Chattanooga has a population of 175,000, making it Tennessee’s fourth largest city. For a city its size, Chattanooga has a lot for kids to do. Among the things you’ll find in Chattanooga are the Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City, the Chattanooga Discovery Museum and a minor league baseball team named for a mountain (the Lookouts, named for Lookout Mountain).

For some reason, Chattanooga has produced many food products that kids love. Among the things that were created in Chattanooga: Coca-Cola in bottles, the Moon Pie and Krystal hamburgers. It makes you hungry just thinking about Chattanooga.

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