Knox County Archives is proud to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces through a new series based on military discharge forms known as DD-214. Look for a new article each day this week in the History Center Chronicles and on East Tennessee History Center social media channels. Using these rare and important DD-214s, we hope to share more stories of East Tennessee’s veterans throughout the year.
Knox County Archives team members are digitizing military discharges that were registered in Knox County, Tennessee. These permanent records represent every conflict from the American Civil War through the Vietnam War and reveal a great deal about a veteran’s service. This biographical and historical information may not exist in any other form due to a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1973; it destroyed an estimated 80% of United States Army discharges from World Wars I and II.
At noon on Monday, November 13, the East Tennessee History Center is offering a genealogical program on Interpreting Your Ancestor’s Military Service Records. Myers Brown, author of Tennessee’s Union Cavalrymen and Tennessee’s Confederates will lead the workshop. The program is free and will be held in the Bilo-Nelson Auditorium at the History Center.
Here is the story of Aubrey Lee Totten, researched by Zachary Keith, County Archives Digital Assistant:
Aubrey Lee Totten was born to Riley Totten and Anna Scales Totten on December 5, 1906, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Aubrey moved to Knoxville sometime in the 1930s. On September 11, 1940, he married Knoxville-native Annetha Vineyard. Aubrey worked as a porter at the Andrew Johnson Hotel, and Annetha worked as a cafeteria worker in Knoxville’s public schools. Aubrey enlisted in the United States Army on October 9, 1942, where he served as an automobile mechanic in the 9th Quartermaster Training Company based at Camp Lee, Virginia. He was one of five Totten brothers to serve in World War II.
Following the war, Totten enrolled at Knoxville College where he graduated with a degree in chemistry. In 1950, he, Lincoln Blakeney, Joseph Patterson, Jack Alexander and Gene Mitchell Gray attempted to enroll in the University of Tennessee’s graduate school but were barred by the school’s president and the state attorney general on the grounds of race. Knoxville attorney Carl Cowan represented the men in a court case, but the decision did not go in their favor. Two years later, however, Gray successfully enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee.
Totten went on to work as file clerk for the Tennessee Valley Authority and as a janitor. Aubrey Totten died in December 1987.
If you have questions about accessing the DD-214s registered in Knox County, please call 865-215-8800, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Knox County Archives at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St., Knoxville, TN 37902.
Knox County Archives is the repository of non-current, permanent records created by Knox County government and is administered by Knox County Public Library.
Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development, Knox County Public Library.
Research by Zachary Keith, County Archives Digital Assistant