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University presents Jim Claborn with Service to Appalachia Award

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C-N Artist in Residence Bill Houston, left, and Appalachian Center Director Ernest Lee, right, present Jim Claborn with artwork of a Tennessee landscape by Houston.

C-N Artist in Residence Bill Houston, left, and Appalachian Center Director Ernest Lee, right, present Jim Claborn with artwork of a Tennessee landscape by Houston.

Carson-Newman University presented the 2013 Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia to Jim Claborn on Tuesday, April 23, during a special evening ceremony at C-N’s Appalachian Center. The honor, which celebrates those who have worked for the betterment of the Southern Appalachian region, is cosponsored by C-N’s Appalachian Studies Committee and the Bonner Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement.

“Jim Claborn is an extraordinary man who has enriched East Tennessee and the broader Appalachian region through his years of work as a teacher, writer, historian, storyteller, entertainer, and archivist,” said Dr. Ernest Lee, director of C-N’s Appalachian Center, who helped present the award. “He is a humble man who cares deeply about Appalachia and its people, and he cares about the traditions and history of this area and has helped to foster and preserve our cultural and historical heritages. He has a great sense of humor and a passion for the life and times of East Tennessee.”

A Morristown native, Claborn received his associate’s degree from Walters State Community College in 1973 before attending the University of Tennessee, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1975. He continued graduate work at UT, Rutgers University, Harvard University, Tennessee Technological University, and Carson-Newman University.

His contributions to education in East Tennessee and particularly Hamblen County are extensive. Claborn’s journey as a teacher in Hamblen County began in 1975 when he accepted a position as a social studies teacher at Meadowview Middle School. It was a position he held until 2002. He also has served as a teacher or instructor at Walters State, Morristown-Hamblen High School West, and All Saints Episcopal School.

His love for history is contagious. His ability to weave stories about East Tennessee and Appalachia has garnered him a reputation of being “the go-to-guy” for regional yarns and anecdotes. Claborn’s mountain storytelling has led him to present at such venues as the Museum of Appalachia, Morristown’s Mountain Makins Festival, and locations across the country.

Along with appearing locally on WBIR’s “Heartland Series,” he has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, A&E’s “Biography,” History Channel’s “Battle of Athens,” as well as making an appearance in the 1992 film “Last of the Mohicans.”

A Vietnam Veteran, Claborn is an active member of the community, having served as president of the Hamblen County Historical Society from 1980-82, and currently volunteers with the Davy Crockett Tavern Museum in Morristown. He is also a columnist for the Morristown Citizen Tribune.

Claborn’s heart for education has earned him numerous award and honors including the Tennessee Teacher Appreciation Award and Hamblen County Teacher of the Year for 1988 and 2001. In 2001 he was also a finalist for Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year. He received the “Golden Apple” Teacher Award in 2005 and was 2011’s VFW Teacher of the Year.

Claborn’s most recent project has him joining a gifted story-telling team for the “Talk is Cheap Tour.” The tour features Claborn alongside three fellow East Tennesseans: “Heartland Series” Co-Producer Billy Landry, News Sentinel’s Sam Venable and long-time educator and gifted storyteller Elizabeth Rose.

Along with the award, Claborn was presented an original drawing of an East Tennessee landscape created by C-N Artist in Residence Bill Houston.

This is the 24th year of Carson-Newman’s Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia. Past recipients include: Eliot Wigginton, James Still, Billy Landry, John Rice Irwin, Lee Smith, Helen Lewis and Jeff Daniel Marion.

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