Although J. Percy Priest Lake and Dam is a familiar landmark to many Nashvillians, they likely don’t know too much about the man whose names is on the building.
That’s about to change, though.
With the help of Harriet Priest, daughter of James Percy Priest, and Rebecca Stubbs, who recently wrote the biography, J. Percy Priest and His Amazing Race, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is building a new collection — set to be available next year — that will provide insight into who Priest was.
Priest donated her father’s papers and Stubbs contributed her own research files to the TSLA collections.
Percy Priest was a U.S. representative for the Fifth Congressional District of Tennessee, which encompasses the Nashville area, from 1941 until his death in 1956. Priest, a major figure in the post-World War II Congress, worked tirelessly to bring public energy to Tennessee through organizations like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which decided to name the lake and dam in Nashville after him.
He was also an avid journalist who enjoyed a long career with The Tennessean. Many of his newspaper articles, photographs and columns will be included in the collection as well as documents from his political life. These documents include letters from dignitaries such as Alben W. Barkley, Lyndon B. Johnson, Frank Clement, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Strom Thurmond, Harry S. Truman and Billy Graham.
Priest’s papers promise to generate a high level of public interest. These papers — as well as documents from hundreds of other Tennesseans — are an excellent resource for scholarly research or personal interest. They are available by visiting the Tennessee State Library and Archives building, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North in downtown Nashville.