Wesley T. Kennerly Papers
Series I: Correspondence and Other Materials, 1891 June 8-1943 May (Bulk 1938 January-1943 May) houses letters written between W. T. Kennerly and his numerous correspondents, including Senators Kenneth McKellar and Tom Stewart and Tennessee governor Prentice Cooper. The earliest letters document Kennerly's service in the U. S. Army during the Spanish American War, including his bout with spinal meningitis in San Francisco and his ongoing friendship with several of his nurses. After Kennerly's return to Tennessee, his correspondence discusses his studies at a stenographic school in Nashville, his employment at Pickle & Turner, and his legal studies at the University of Tennessee. Later letters describe Kennerly's unsuccessful run for Assistant Clerk of the Tennessee House of Representatives and his efforts to help friends and supporters secure employment with such agencies as the WPA and the TVA. They also chronicle his everyday life, including Robert Kennerly's illnesses (the most dramatic of which involved brain surgery in 1939) and his efforts to cope with the rationing begun as a result of World War II.
Series II: Speeches and Related Papers, 1900 November 12-1941 July 31 consists primarily of addresses that Kennerly made on such occasions as Flag Day, Memorial Day, monument unveilings, and meetings of patriotic clubs like the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The majority of these materials are composed of exact transcripts of the speech that Kennerly planned to make, but outlines, notes, and supporting materials are also included. Among Kennerly's most frequent topics are American history (especially the American Revolution and the Confederate States of America), Christianity, and prominent Tennesseeans.
Series III: Legal Papers, 1916, 1930 May 24-1939, undated houses handwritten legal glossaries regarding criminal and civil law in addition to court opinions. Of particular interest are those opinions that Kennerly authored while serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court between 1938 and 1939.
Series IV: Other Papers, 1855 February 21-1937 July 30 (Bulk 1906 December 10-1937 July 30) houses materials documenting other aspects of Kennerly's life, including meaningful quotes, jokes, a newspaper, and an essay written by his son Warren.
- 1855 February 21-1943 May (Bulk 1891 June 8-1943 May)
Conditions Governing Access
Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.
Conditions Governing Use
The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.
11.25 Linear Feet
The bulk of this collection houses correspondence written to and by W. T. Kennerly between 1891 and 1943. Among his correspondents are the nurses that he met while hospitalized in San Francisco during the Spanish-American War and such political figures as Senators Kenneth McKellar and Tom Stewart and Tennessee governor Prentice Cooper. Many of the letters document Kennerly's efforts to help friends and supporters secure employment with such agencies as the WPA and the TVA. The collection also houses copies of and notes for speeches that Kennerly made on special occasions, glossaries and opinions showing his legal work, and other items illustrating his personality and family.
Wesley Travis Kennerly was born to Charles Mattison and Sarah (Travis) Kennerly in Henry County, Tennessee on August 29, 1877. He was one of three children to live to adulthood, including Carrye (Kennerly) Weatherly (1879-1954) and Charles J. Kennerly (1881-1944). After studying in the public schools and at a business college in Nashville, Kennerly matriculated at the University of Tennessee on September 10, 1895. He interrupted his education to join the Army during the Spanish-American War but developed spinal meningitis in San Francisco and was never deployed abroad. Kennerly returned to the University on September 29, 1899 and graduated first in his class with his LLB on June 18, 1901. While still a student he began his legal career as a stenographer in the office of Pickle & Turner, who later added him to the partnership under the name Pickle, Turner & Kennerly. Kennerly married Ola Dell Robertson in Knoxville on March 15, 1906 and the couple had two sons, Robert Travis (1908-1951) and Warren Wesley (1909-1998). Kennerly left his firm (by then called Turner, Kennerly & Cate) in 1923 and practiced law independently for three years before forming Kennerly & Key with fellow UT graduate Clyde Winston Key (1904-1979). This firm endured until Kennerly's death.
In addition to his legal practice, Kennerly participated in a number of local and national political and legal activities. He was involved in the notable case of Knoxville v. Knoxville Water Company (decided by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1909) and served as Knoxville's City Attorney from 1912 to 1916. He also represented Knoxville in Tennessee Public Service Company v. City of Knoxville (decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1936), served as the United States District Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee from 1917 to 1921 (where he acquired the title General), and drafted the Tennessee Primary Law of 1917 at the request of Senator K. D. McKellar. Politically, Kennerly was a staunch Democrat. He chaired the Knox County Democratic Executive Committee from 1906 to 1910, served as the Second District's member of the Democratic State Executive Committee from 1910 to 1918 and again from 1922 to 1924, acted as a democratic elector from the Second Congressional District in 1932, and operated as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1932 and 1940.
Throughout his life, Kennerly remained devoted to the University of Tennessee. He was an avid football fan and rarely missed a game, even traveling to Pasadena, California to attend the 1940 Rose Bowl. He was also active in the Alumni Association, where he served as president from 1925 to 1926. In addition, Kennerly involved himself in the Knoxville community, serving with the Knights of Pythias, the Kerbela Temple, the Sons of the Revolution, the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Tennessee Historical Society, the United Spanish War Veterans, and the Knights Templar. Kennerly died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee on January 29, 1944 and is buried in the Highland Memorial Cemetery.
This collection consists of ten boxes divided into four series:
- Series I: Correspondence and Other Materials, 1891 June 8-1943 May (Bulk 1938 January-1943 May)
- Series II: Speeches and Related Papers, 1900 November 12-1941 July 31
- Series III: Legal Papers, 1916, 1930 May 24-1939, undated
- Series IV: Other Papers, 1855 February 21-1937 July 30 (Bulk 1906 December 10-1937 July 30)
- Series V: Oversized Materials, 1855 February-1943 May
Lucy (Kennerly) Gump donated these papers to Special Collections in November of 2009.