Along the Alcoa Highway south of Knoxville sits I.C. King Park. With a boat ramp, fishing dock, and several miles of biking and hiking trails along the Tennessee River, the park is one of the largest in Knox County.
The park is named for a man with a prodigious resume and a large family in Knox County during the first half of the 20th century. Inslee Columbus King was known in the community and political circles as "I.C." King.
"He was my grandfather and we called him 'Papa King.' He was one of a kind," said Ben Byrd of Knoxville.
"My mother was one of his 12 children. All of his children had a lot of kids, too. There were so many grandchildren back in the 1920s and 30s, I don't think he could keep track of all of us until I was about 15 years old," laughed Byrd. "He operated a grocery store in the southern part of Knoxville most of his working life, but his real love was politics."
King's political career included serving as a Tennessee delegate for the 1920 Republican National Convention as the G.O.P. tried to choose a presidential candidate for the upcoming election.
"It has always been my understanding that he [King] was the first southern delegate to change his vote to Warren G. Harding, the senator from Ohio," said Byrd. "Harding won the nomination. Papa King was credited with being the one whose vote swung the nomination in Harding's favor. I don't know how much of an exaggeration that was, but that's the way the story was always told."
Harding won the nomination and went on to become the 29th president of the United States. Harding then appointed I.C. King as the U.S. Marshal in East Tennessee. King held onto the appointed position under the administrations of two other republican presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
"He was a U.S. Marshal during a difficult time. It was during prohibition and there was quite a bit of liquor flowing through East Tennessee," said Byrd.
King's reign as the politically appointed U.S. Marshal ended in 1932 when the democrats and Franklin D. Roosevelt won back the White House. King continued operating his grocery store and remained a prominent part of just about everything when it came to Knox County government.
"He was a justice of the peace. He was also a magistrate, even though he didn't have a law degree because it was not required in those days," said Byrd. "At one point he was welfare commissioner and then he was also the Register of Deeds."
King also served several years as Knox County commissioner. He was a member of the commission in 1952 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. The county held a special election to fill the position. King's wife threw her hat in the political ring in an attempt to fill the seat vacated by her husband's death.
"We called her 'Mama King' and she was a really talented lady," said Byrd. "She did not win the election, but it was something for her to run for office in that era."
A few years after I.C. King's death, Knox County decided to pay tribute to the South Knoxville icon by naming a new park in his honor. I.C. King Park opened in the late 1950s, complete with a boat access ramp and even a large fiberglass ski jump for water skiers.
"I think they wanted to name something south of the river downtown for my grandfather," said Byrd. "South Knoxville was almost like its own small community. Everyone knew each other and he had a real impact here."
Send your Namesake suggestions
If there is a place or landmark with a name you would like us to
research, send your suggestions to 10News reporter Jim Matheny using the
"Namesake Suggestions" form on this page. Be sure to include your name
and a note on how to pronounce it in case we use your suggestion
on-air. Likewise, please let us know if you do not want us to use your
You can also submit suggestions on Jim Matheny's WBIR Facebook page as well as on Twitter @jimmatheny.
Note: Namesake is the renamed title of the series formerly known as 'Why do they call it that?'
Other Namesake Segments
- November 15, 2012: Holy Butt
- January 6, 2012: Princess Theater
- December 23, 2011: Bethlehem
- November 29, 2011: Turkey Creek
- November 11, 2011: Kinser Bridge & Kinser Park
- November 4, 2011: Shields-Watkins Fields
- October 28, 2011: Punkin Center
- October 21, 2011: Rockford
- September 30, 2011: Kimberlin Heights
- September 23, 2011: Conasauga Falls
- September 16, 2011: Pittman Center
- September 9, 2011: Concord
- August 19, 2011: LaFollette
- August 12, 2011: House Mountain
- July 29, 2011: Mosheim
- July 15, 2011: Place of 1,000 Drips
- July 1, 2011: Tellico Plains
- June 17, 2011: Vestal
- June 4, 2011: Maynardville
- May 27, 2011: Sandy Bonnyman Bridge
- May 14, 2011: Bonny Kate
- May 7, 2011: Ozone Falls
- Apr. 22, 2011: Mechanicsville
- Apr. 15, 2011: Revenue Hill
- Mar. 18, 2011: Irish Cut
- Mar. 11, 2011: Oneida
- Feb. 25, 2011: Dixie Lee Junction
- Feb. 18, 2011: Devil's Breakfast Table
- Feb. 11, 2011: Odd Fellows Cemetery
- Feb. 4, 2011: Inskip
- Jan. 8, 2011: Frost Bottom
- Dec. 31, 2010: Henley (Street) Bridge
- Dec. 10, 2010: Tuckahoe
- Dec. 3, 2010: Sharp's Ridge
- Nov. 26, 2010: Coker Creek
- Nov. 19, 2010: Sugarloaf Mountain
- Nov. 12, 2010: Mitchell W. Stout Memorial Bridge
- Nov. 5, 2010: Tazewell and New Tazewell
- Oct. 29, 2010: Mellinger Death Ridge
- Oct. 22, 2010: Farragut
- Oct. 15, 2010: Mascot
- Oct. 8, 2010: Allardt
- Oct. 1, 2010: Greenback
- Sep. 24, 2010: Boogertown
- Sep. 17, 2010: Chapman Highway
- Sep. 10, 2010: Niota
- Sep. 3, 2010: Neyland Stadium
- Aug. 27, 2010: Ten Mile
- Aug. 20, 2010: Heritage High School
- Aug. 13, 2010: Old Gray Cemetery
- July 29, 2010: Sweetwater
- July 23, 2010: I.C. King Park
- July 16, 2010: Stinking Creek
- July 9, 2010: Bean Station
- July 2, 2010: Loudoun and Loudon
- June 25, 2010: X-10, Y-12, K-25 Oak Ridge Plants
- June 18, 2010: Frozen Head State Park
- June 11, 2010: Buck Karnes Bridge