CLINTONâ€”Anderson County government has received a $3,100 archives grant from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett last Tuesday personally presented the grant award to Mary Sue â€œSusieâ€ Harris, Anderson Countyâ€™s longtime archivist and historian.
State Sen. Randy McNally and State Rep. John Ragan, both Oak Ridge Republicans, and State Rep. Dennis Powers, a Jacksboro Republican who represents part of Anderson County, joined Hargett and Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank for the presentation.
A full-time historian and part-time sleuth, Harris has dedicated more than 50 years of service to Anderson County as a historian, archivist, author, and genealogist. She has helped thousands of citizens track the history of their ancestorsâ€”and even find long-lost relativesâ€”in Anderson County and East Tennessee.
â€œThe importance of history can never be overstatedâ€”and Mrs. Harris is one of the best ambassadors we have for keeping the flames of the past alive,â€ Frank said.
â€œWe are all just so thankful that Secretary Hargett, Sen. McNally, and representatives Ragan and Powers were able to help us preserve more of Anderson Countyâ€™s past,â€ Frank said. â€œMrs. Harris puts every penny to good use, and their partnership and faith in what she is doing means so much to her and all of us here in Anderson County.â€
During the presentation, Harris also presented McNally with a copy of the book, â€œTennessee 200 Bicentennial History of Anderson County 1796-1996,â€ which she compiled and wrote on behalf of the Pellissippi Genealogical and Historical Society.
Harris said she is using the grant funds toward the restoration of two books of permanent records housed in the countyâ€™s Records and Archives Vault on the third floor of the Anderson County Courthouse.
â€œThe books cost about $1,500 each to have restored,â€ she said.
The recent $3,100 grant from the Tennessee State Library and Archives isnâ€™t the only grant award Harris has received on the countyâ€™s behalf; the county received its first State Library and Archives grant in 1996. Those funds were used to purchase a computer Harris used to properly log the countyâ€™s historical documents, which date back to 1802.
In 1993, Harris became the full-time Anderson County archivist, a position she still holds today. She currently serves as the county historian and is often consulted by those citizens looking for a window to their familiesâ€™ pasts.
â€œI cherish these books and records,â€ Harris told Hargett during his Tuesday afternoon visit to the Courthouse.
â€œWe donâ€™t get to do these grants for everybody,â€ Hargett said, praising Harris for her efforts to restore and maintain Anderson Countyâ€™s historical records.
â€œThe challenge is to find young people in the next generation who have that love for history,â€ Hargett said of Harris and the future of records preservation.
â€œI always stress to my grandchildren the importance of knowing who you are, where your family comes from,â€ she said.
Harris, who has traced her family tree back to Germany and Ireland, said her ancestors came to America from Germany in 1700. She said sheâ€™s proud to help anyone trace their family roots.
Prior to being named the county archivist and historian, Harris worked from 1961 to 1974 in the Anderson County Clerk and Masterâ€™s Office.
She has authored, compiled, and/or published seven books on Anderson and Marion counties in Tennessee. Harris has served on the Anderson County Public Records Committee, Slover Chimes Restoration Committee, and the Pellissippi Genealogical and Historical Society, and she worked with the committee for the Tennessee Bicentennial Program.
Harris was inducted as a member of the Anderson County Hall of Fame in 2013.