Kingsport is an industrious community in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Along with two other comparably-sized cities within a 20-mile radius, Kingsport is part of a 12-county area in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia known as the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia region.
Initially chartered in 1917, Kingsport was the first city with a modern urban design and among the first municipalities with a city manager form of government and a school system built on a model developed at Columbia University. Kingsport, 'the Model City', has become known as a progressive and orderly community.
For many years Kingsport enjoyed great industrial and economic growth, due largely to visionary leadership from business entrepreneurs. Photographic pioneer George Eastman, of Eastman Kodak, purchased a wood distillation plant (now Eastman Chemical Co.) in 1920 to produce methanol for Kodak's photographic base. Kingsport also became the home of several other large industries, including the Kingsport Press (now Quebecor), the world's largest Bible manufacturer; Holliston Mills, which produced cloth needed for the Press' books; Mead Paper Company (now Weyerhaeuser ), which produced paper for the Kingsport Press; and American St. Gobain (now AFG), one of the world's leading glass manufacturers. With such a large industrial base, Kingsport and its residents enjoy a comfortable standard of living.
The Kingsport Spirit
Here is J. Fred Johnson's explanation of the "Kingsport Spirit" from the book "Kingsport: The Industrial CIty" by the Rotary Club of Kingsport, Tennessee. Copyright, 1937
"This little book is the response to the oft-repeated request of visitors to Kingsport for a concise story of the origin, development and present status of this somewhat unique industrial community. An earnest attempt has been made to keep it free from any trace of the bombastic and to portray a bit of the real romance which it is believed exists in the hitherto untold stories of business.
Frequently we are asked what motivating spirit has been most apparent in the building of this city of industries, schools, churches and homes. Were I to undertake to define the spirit underlying every step in the growth and development of Kingsport, from the days of its humblest beginnings until now, I could not avoid the assertion that the spirit, if it be a spirit, is one of mutual helpfulness and a willingness to submerge selfish interests beneath the individual effort to assure the greater good for the greater number.
Rotary has a slogan "Service above Self he profits most who serves the best." Without attempting to eulogize, it is my firm conviction that those words truly epitomize what may be said to be the spirit of Kingsport. It matters not what we endeavor to accomplish, in the words of a one-time visitor to Kingsport "the humanics are more important than the mechanics."
So it has been and will continue to be with Kingsport if it is not good for the community, it is not good for the individual or for the business activity within that community in that we have a fundamental truth."
J. FRED JOHNSON
February 15, 1937