Scott County

A view insides one of the many museums at Scott County High School

The USS Tennessee Museum at Scott High School


The USS (that is, United States Ship) Tennessee was a battleship commissioned in 1919 and taken out of service 40 years later.

It was one of the battleships damaged, but not sunk, at Pearl Harbor, and later in World War II. The USS Tennessee took part in battles in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, at Tarawa, Iwo Jima and at Okinawa, where a kamikaze attack killed 22 of its sailors. (A kamikaze is an airplane intentionally crashed by a Japanese pilot.

The USS Tennessee
PHOTO: U.S. Navy

Today there is a museum devoted to memory of the USS Tennessee next to Scott County High School, of all places. It exists mainly because of the devotion of Paul and Karen Dawson.

Dawson’s father Lee was a Navy photographer aboard the USS Tennessee during World War II. Inspired by his father’s photography collection, Dawson began collecting memorabilia and stories about the old battleship. He and his wife decided to put the museum in Scott County because many of the original ship’s sailors were from Scott County.

The museum was built as a joint effort between students at Scott County High School and a local company called Barna Log Homes. Students built the museum and now help run it. They also built and run several other museums on high school property, including the Scott County Museum and the local children’s museum.

Baker with North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin
PHOTO: Library of Congress

Also related to Scott County: In the late 20th century Tennessee shifted from a state dominated by Democrats to one dominated by Republicans. The most important person in this shift was Howard Baker of Huntsville, Tenn.

Baker, a lawyer, defeated former Tennessee Governor Frank Clement in 1966 in what turned out to be a huge turning point for Tennessee politics. He remained a leader in the U.S. Senate for years, and was the vice-chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.

A Republican moderate by standards of his time, Baker ran for president in 1980 and lost to Ronald Reagan but was later named Reagan’s chief of staff. He later served as ambassador to Japan.

Here’s the Scott County Courthouse.