Tom Scott—photographer for the Oak Ridge Fire Department who kept historic fire trucks, equipment, and literature at his home—died Saturday. He was 88.
Scott was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, but he spent the last three decades in Oak Ridge serving as the fire department’s official photographer, the City of Oak Ridge said Thursday. Scott also took photos at other fires and crashes in the area, including in Blair, Marlow, and Oliver Springs.
Scott had moved to Oak Ridge in the 1970s to work on the development of the gas centrifuge process for enriching uranium.
In 1974, he joined the Oliver Springs Volunteer Fire Department, and in 1990, he joined the Oak Ridge Fire Department as their official photographer, the city said. That happened after ORFD responded to a large structure fire where Scott was taking pictures. When the fire chief at the time, William “Bo” Harris, saw the pictures, he decided the ORFD needed to have an on-site photographer at all incidents to document the fires for training, media, and historical preservation, the city said. Harris asked Scott to lead the effort.
Scott also served on the faculty of the University of Tennessee College of Engineering from 1986 to 2008, the city said. There he received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year in the Nuclear Engineering Department. He was also selected as the Outstanding Advisor in the College of Engineering and was given the Chancellors Award for Advising. When he retired, he was designated associate professor emeritus.
Thomas Howard Scott had been a member of First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge since 1973. He served as chairman of trustees, on numerous committees, and ushered for 42 years, including being head usher for 20 years and Sunday School greeter, the city said.
Before he moved to East Tennessee, Scott had been designated a lifetime honorary member of the Aiken (South Carolina) Fire Department.
Scott wrote a column for the “Enjine! Enjine!,” a quarterly journal of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in America (SPAMFAA), for 42 years. All 145 columns were typed and proofread by his patient wife, Janet. He was awarded the SPAMFAA member of the year award in 1992, and he was also given The President’s Award in 2017, the city said. He has been the only member to receive both national awards.
In April 2019, the Oak Ridge Fire Station Number 4 was named in honor of Scott. In 2016, the Oak Ridge Firefighter’s Association named their annual ball the “Tom Scott Firefighters Ball.”
Scott was known by many in the area for the fire museum at his home. It included three fire engines, an assortment of antique equipment, and an operating GameWell Fire Alarm system. Some of the antique pieces now live at the Fire Station Number 4 Training and History Room.
The Oliver Springs Fire Department said Scott affectionately called his department “Oliver’s”.
“In recent years, Tom has been the man behind the camera, capturing many different incidents and department functions,” the OSFD said. “In addition to being the department photographer, he was passionate in passing on knowledge of firefighting and mentoring members of the department. He will be truly missed, but his legacy will live on.”
Scott had received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Auburn University in 1958, served three years in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, and earned a master’s degree in nuclear science from Auburn and a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Florida.
He worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and its successor agencies at the Idaho Falls, Savannah River and Oak Ridge Operations Offices. He retired as the deputy director of the Enriching Operations Division in 1985.
Scott also refereed high school football games for 40 years in four states, and he was selected to referee two TSSAA state championship games.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Oak Ridge TORCH, 152 Bus Terminal Rd., Oak Ridge, TN 37830. To leave a note for his family or to share a memory, you can sign the online guest book at jacksonfuneralservices.com.
Services for Scott are set for Saturday, January 30, at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge.
Several local agencies will participate in a last ride on the apparatus from Jackson’s Funeral Services in Oliver Springs to the First United Methodist Church. The Oliver Springs Fire Department and the Oak Ridge Fire Department will travel with Scott’s urn down Highway 61 to the church, the city said.
His family and loved ones will receive his urn there. Due to COVID, the service is not open to the public but it will be streamed on the First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge Facebook page.