Friday, April 7, 2017

Helping to Preserve the Great Smokies: Paul Jay Adams

By Dr. Kevin Cason

On Sept. 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived at Newfound Gap to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains as a national park. In front of crowds of people, Roosevelt came to the podium and stated: “Here in the Great Smokies, we meet today to dedicate these mountains, streams, forests to the service of the American people.” While the celebration was a momentous occasion, it had taken many years and many people’s efforts to reach that point. One of the people who played a significant role in promoting the conservation and appreciation of the Great Smoky Mountains region was Paul Jay Adams.

View of Mt. Le Conte at the Great Smoky Mountains
Paul Jay Adams Papers, Box 8, Folder 9
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Adams was born in Paxton, Illinois in 1901 to Nittie Elizabeth Vanderhoff and Rev. Clair Stack Adams. As a young boy, his father encouraged him to explore outside and take notes in journals of what he observed. In 1914, his family moved to Burnsville, North Carolina. While living there, Adams began to develop his interest in wildlife and exploring the mountains. By 1918, his family moved to Knoxville and his attention turned to the Great Smoky Mountains after he hiked to the summit of Mount Le Conte.

Paul Jay Adams and his dog Smoky Jack, Sept. 1926
Paul Jay Adams Papers, Box 8, Folder 9
Tennessee State Library and Archives

During the 1920s, the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association was organized with the mission of advocating for the establishment of a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains. Adams, who was a member of the organization, was appointed as custodian of Mount Le Conte. After learning of his appointment, he purchased a large German shepherd that he named “Smoky Jack.” The dog served as his only constant companion on the mountain. During his nine-month tenure as custodian of Mount Le Conte, Adams made some improvements to the area, such as building a camp and cutting a path to the popular scenic view known as Cliff Top.

With many people supporting and promoting the conservation of the Great Smokies, the region eventually became an official national park. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains continues to attract a wide variety of visitors who want to view the natural beauty and landscape of the mountains.

Cover Drawing of Mt. Le Conte book by Paul J. Adams
Paul Jay Adams Collection, Box 8, Folder 8
Tennessee State Library and Archives

The Library & Archives is fortunate to house the Paul Jay Adams collection that provides photographs, personal journals and booklets pertaining to his experiences as custodian of Mount Le Conte. In addition, his self-published accounts entitled Mt. Le Conte and Smoky Jack: The Adventures of a Dog and His Master on Mount Le Conte are part of the library collection.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article and good insight re Paul Jay Adams.