The school colors of orange & white date to April 12,1889, when Charles Moore, president of the University's athletic association, chose the colors for the first field day. His inspiration came from the orange and white daisies which grew profusely on the Hill. In 1891, students again wore orange and white to the Sewanee football game. In 1892 students endorsed the colors at a special meeting called for the purpose, but two years later were dissatisfied with the choice and voted to drop the colors. After a heated one-day debate no other colors proved satisfactory, so the students returned to orange and white.
One recent student has called Moore "color-blind" after checking with a UT instructor of
ornamental horticulture and design landscape who has never seen such a daisy, wild or hybrid.
Several local florists concur. At any rate, PMSO21 from the Pantone
Matching System is the official University of Tennessee, Knoxville, orange
color with white.
Even before Tennessee became a state the residents were quick to respond: John Sevier and other "overmountain men" volunteered during the Revolutionary War and were key factors in the battle of King's Mountain in October 1780.
Although newspapers published during the War of 1812 do not specifically use the term "Volunteer State" when referring to Tennessee, there are numerous references to "the volunteers from Tennessee" or "the Tennessee Volunteers."
Newspapers referred to Tennessee as the "Volunteer State" during the Mexican War after Governor Aaron Brown issued a call in May 1846 requesting 2,800 volunteers for military service and 30,000 responded.
A UT athletic team was dubbed the Volunteers for the first time in
1902 by the Atlanta
Constitution following a Tennessee-Georgia Tech football game. The
Knoxville Journal and
Tribune did not use the name until 1905. By the fall of 1905 both the Journal and the
Knoxville Sentinel were using the nickname.
The first Homecoming was held in conjunction with the November 11, 1916, UT-Vanderbilt football game. Three thousand invitations were extended and three hundred alumni responded representing class years as early as 1872. The first Homecoming parade consisted of the University cadet corps in dress uniform, led by the band. The first Homecoming game proved to be exciting as the Volunteers staged a come-from-behind upset victory, winning 10-6.
World War I prevented Homecoming from becoming an annual event until 1925; UT has had a Homecoming every year since 1925 except for 1943, when students donated funds that would have been spent on Homecoming to the Red Cross or used them to purchase war bonds.
The first Homecoming Queen was crowned in November 1950. This tradition lasted until 1970
when Daily Beacon columnist Vince Staten began a write-in protest campaign against the
domination of Homecoming Week by Greek organizations. Photographed with a paper bag
over his head, Staten won with twenty-five hundred votes but the Homecoming Advisory
Board refused to crown him queen. Staten brought suit with the Student Tribunal which
declared the election invalid. The tradition of electing a queen was briefly reinstated from 1982
through 1985 when it was permanently discontinued due to student apathy. Significantly, the
last Homecoming Queen in 1985 was African American Shannon Whittington, the first time
the contest had ever been won by a black coed.
The Nahheeyayli Club was organized at UT in the fall of 1924 by the Men's Panhellenic
Council to promote a better spirit of fellowship among the students. Nahheeyayli is the
Cherokee word for "dance of the green corn. " The club's membership was composed of both
fraternity and non-fraternity men who sponsored two formal events, the Mid-Winter series of
dances held in January and the Finals dances which were held at the close of the school year.
A Homecoming Dance was added later. The dances grew to be one of the University's biggest
social occasions with prominent orchestras of the Big Band sound--Tommy Dorsey, Glenn
Miller, and Harry James--coming to the campus. The dances, not held since 1969, were
revived in 1992 for Homecoming. Although the Homecoming Dance in 1993 was not called
the Nahheeyayli Dance, the Big Band sound was featured.
The model for Torch Night was a candlelight ceremony for seniors at the University of South Carolina. The idea was adapted at UT by Vic Davis, alumni secretary, and Ralph Frost, head of the campus YMCA, who wanted to establish more traditions on the campus. Initiated on October 9, 1925, as the Freshman Pledge Ceremony, the event had been redesignated as Freshman Torch Night by 1929.
The freshman class was called to the Hill by a bugler in Ayres Tower; the class then proceeded to the main entrance of the campus to "give a yell" for the sophomores; they continued up the hill stopping to "give a yell" for the juniors. Seniors met the freshmen at the top of the hill where the underclassmen took the oath of loyalty and pledged allegiance to the University. The freshmen were formally declared part of the student body and candles were lit to symbolize the "Torch of Preparation." Students left the hill in silence and placed their candles along an iron fence bordering Cumberland Avenue where they continued to burn into the night.
By the early 1980s the ceremony had become a much more subdued affair with a select senior
passing the torch to a select freshman at the half-time of a basketball game. In 1984, a
ceremony reminiscent of the first one was reinstituted at the beginning of the academic year at
Alumni Memorial Gym. It has continued with the chancellor, vice chancellors, and deans in
attendance and the president of the Student Government Association passing the symbolic
torch to scholastically superior freshmen representatives from each of the colleges.
The companion event for Torch Night was the senior candlelight ceremony, Aloha Oe, initiated May 17, 1926. The first Aloha Oe, with a band and a muddy tug-of-war, was not the serious event into which it later evolved. By 1935, senior women in white dresses and senior men in suits marched through Grecian columns installed on Shields-Watkins Field for the ceremony. Initially, a senior toga was given to the junior who had served UT during the three years he/she had been at the University. The junior, who came to be known as the Volunteer, in later years was presented a small model of the Volunteer statue. Each senior class member was then given a lighted candle, the "Torch of Service," which signified a pledge to serve both the University and their community as responsible and loyal adults. The seniors processed up the side of the hill where they formed a "T" and extinguished their candles in unison to bid farewell to their alma mater.
The tradition was set aside in 1967 and revived as Torch Night on April 28, 1994. The class of
'94 gathered around the Volunteer statue in Circle Park to try to "build back a little of UT's
tradition." After a brief history of the ceremony was given and a poem entitled "The Torch"
was read, seniors sang the alma mater and once again formed a "T" which signified the end of
their college career.
UT's Alma Mater was officially adopted in 1928 after a yearlong contest
sponsored by the school's musical organizations. A Chattanoogan, Mary
Fleming Meek, won the $50 prize with her song entitled "On a Hallowed
Hill." The words were taken from the Torch Night and Aloha Oe ceremonies.
Although Mrs. Meek was not an alumna of UT, both her husband, John Lamar
Meek, and her son were graduates, and her father was a former trustee of
the University. Mrs. Meek's great-grandfather was the designer of one of
the Hill's earliest buildings, Old College, which was razed in 1919 in
preparation for the construction of Ayres Hall. Mary Meek died in 1929
shortly after her composition was selected.
Another tradition, conducted in the springtime, is Carnicus. In the early part of this century,
UT students celebrated the end of the year's classes with an event called the June Jubilee. It
evolved into a carnival with the Glee Club performing, vaudeville
shows by the students, and
side shows. In 1912, a circus was added with students dressing as elephants, cows and other
animals. By 1925, the carnival had become a mid-winter carnival held indoors and the circus
an outdoor event held in the spring. In 1929, the All Campus Events Committee combined the
two activities and George Abernathy, a member of the All Students' Club, coined the word
Carnicus. The event ended with the crowning of a Carnicus Queen. As Carnicus evolved over
the years, emphasis was placed on the skit competitions, and the parades, dances, and queen
crowning were eliminated. Today's Carnicus allows a total of eight groups, single or mixed,
from any student organization.
In 1953 the campus Pep Club sponsored a contest to have a live mascot. The hound was chosen since it is a native breed and its small stature and loud baying represent a unique combination. Announcements in the local newspaper read, "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dawg' in the best sense of the word." The Rev. William C. Brooks entered his prizewinning bluetick hound which won over the other eight contestants. Smokey was the last hound to be introduced at the half-time contest. When his name was called out, he barked. The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and howled again and UT had its new mascot.
Smokey I was hit by a car after a few years and his three-month-old son took over as mascot.
Smokey II may have lived the most exciting life of all the mascots as he was dognapped by
Kentucky students in 1955 and survived a confrontation with the Baylor bear at the 1956 Sugar
Bowl. After providing mascots for 33 years, Rev. Brooks died in 1986. His wife continued the
tradition of supplying UT with hounds. Smokeys II, III, and IV were descendants of the
original Smokey. An ad in the newspaper supplied Smokey V. Smokey VI died in December
1991 of untreatable brain cancer. Smokey VII proved to be a bit temperamental to be a college
mascot; he was relieved of duty after biting one of the band's tuba players. Smokey VIII now
fills the paws of his predecessors. He is looked after by two student trainers from Alpha
Gamma Rho, a national agricultural fraternity.
"Rocky Top" was written in only ten minutes by songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in
1967. The Bryants were working in Gatlinburg on a collection of slow tempo songs for a
project for Archie Campbell and Chet Atkins. Writing the fast-paced "Rocky Top" served as
a temporary diversion for them. Later recorded, the song did not become popular until after
1972 when the Pride of the Southland Band used it for one of their drills. The football crowd
loved the tune and its words; the more the band played it, the more people wanted it. It has
now become one of UT's best-known traditions. Its popularity also extends beyond the
campus of the University of Tennessee; "Rocky Top" became one of the Tennessee state songs
The classes of 1928 through 1932 gave $1,000 to be used as a prize for a sculpture that would capture "the spirit of University youth and its ideal of service." The contest winner who was announced on May 12, 1931, was a Yale School of Fine Arts student, Theodore Andre Beck. Complaints from faculty and students caused the design to be modified. The middle--aged man was made younger-looking; the Grecian hairstyle and tunic were changed to something of more indeterminate character so as to avoid relating the figure to any particular culture; instead of a lamp in his right hand he held aloft a torch representing the maxim "One that beareth a torch standeth in shadow to give light to others"; on his left side, partially hidden, hung a "sword of protection"; and in his left hand was held the Goddess of Winged Victory, the symbol of success. Later, the design was modified to include a globe upon which Winged Victory rested--to suggest that victory over the challenges of the world, in times of both war and peace, lay in the individual's own hands. The depression and World War II prevented the statue from being cast and placed on campus, although the design was adopted as the official symbol of the University, copyrighted in 1932, and began appearing on some official stationery, class rings, commencement programs, The Volunteer and The Torch.
In 1937, the senior class gave a silver-plated model of the torchbearer to the outstanding member of the junior class; the first recipient was John Fisher. For the occasion sculptor Beck prepared a three-foot high plaster version complete with built-in flame which, on its first use, malfunctioned and completely destroyed the outstretched hand.
With the physical expansion of the University in the 1960s, there were ample sites for a large statue. The class of 1967 spearheaded a project and raised the necessary funds to cast a nine-foot-tall Volunteer. The trustees allocated money from grounds maintenance for a broad stairway, walk, and landscaping to complement the statue. There was again controversy about the design of the statue which delayed its expected 1967 Homecoming dedication. Again modified, the statue was finally cast, placed in Circle Park, and unveiled on April 19, 1968. In attendance were two members of the classes of 1930 and 1931, the president of the class of 1967, and the 1967 Volunteer of the Year.
In 1987, the Torchbearer was again chosen for its symbolism when the UT Knoxville
Chancellor's Office had a twelve-inch-high version cast and awarded to a distinguished
alumnus at the annual meeting of the Chancellor's Associates. The 1988 honoree was the same
John Fisher who had fifty years earlier received the first Torchbearer.
Barnwarmin' was one of the major social events of the University for many years. Begun in
1921, the dance predated Homecoming (1925) and was sponsored by the Ag Club, with
assistance from the Home Economics Club. The first dances were held in November on the
agricultural campus in Morgan Hall; hay wagons shuttled attendees from the Hill to the Ag
campus. There were two dance rooms--one for "modern" dances (jazz, charleston, or whatever
dance was popular at the time) and another for square-dancing. In 1925 (in conjunction with
the first Homecoming) a third dance room was added for waltzes. At the second Barwarmin'
in 1922, ladies were given blue bandannas and "gents" received red ones. In 1923 a
Barnwarmin' queen was elected for the first time, and thereafter became part of the festivities.
Because of the large attendance at the dances, the location was moved in 1935 to the Alumni
Gym on the Hill. Barnwarmin' was last held in 1962, the same year of the demise of the Ag