Many people who live in Maury County don’t know that the first race riot in America after World War II happened in the county seat of Columbia.
A fight between a African-American navy veteran and a white shopkeeper started things, and later that same day there was shooting, fighting and rioting between whites and blacks in a part of Columbia known as Mink Slide.
Several people were eventually charged with rioting and attempted murder. The lead attorney who came to Columbia to defend the African Americans in the case was Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Click on the item on the far right — a front-page article about the Maury County Race Riot which was published in the Kingsport Times on February 26, 1946.
Maury County is also the site of the James K. Polk’s Home and Museum, which is restored and open to visitors.
Polk was president of the United States from 1845 until 1849. As such, he was responsible for the acquisition of large chunks of land by the United States (including the modern-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, and Washington).
During his lifetime, Polk lived in about half a dozen different houses. But the one in Columbia is the only one standing today (other than the White House in Washington, D.C., or course.)
In Maury County you will also find one of Tennessee’s most revered cemeteries. The Zion Presbyterian Church and Cemetery is located where there used to be thriving community known as Zion. The community is mostly gone now, but people still migrate to the cemetery to see the graves of no less than 15 Revolutionary War veterans who fought at engagements such as the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Civil War veteran Sam Watkins is also buried at Zion. Watkins was not famous during the war. But his memoirs of the war (Company Aytch) have since become a classic. In fact, some people regard Company Aytch as the best account of a common soldier ever published.
And at the western edge of Maury County, you will find the Gordon house, which was built in 1818 by a friend of Andrew Jackson’s named John Gordon.
When the Natchez Trace was still the main route from Middle Tennessee to New Orleans, the official trace actually started (and ended) here, where Gordon operated a ferry across the Duck River.