Love of history and a ball cap brought Bill Rhodes to Farragut

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Sometimes, the best stuff happens randomly. For instance, if Bill Rhodes had chosen another ball cap four years ago, he might not have become a docent for the Farragut Museum or chair of the Farragut Museum Committee.

Bill doesn’t even live in Farragut. He lives in the Cedar Bluff area. But he encountered former Farragut Alderman Dot LaMarche at Town Hall in 2018, and Bill’s Clemson cap caught her eye. Her husband, Lou, attended the South Carolina university – like Bill.

The conversation turned to the Farragut Museum, where Dot and Lou serve as docents. She asked Bill if he would be interested in volunteering as a docent, and he agreed. (If you know Dot, this is no surprise.) He also chose to serve on the Farragut Museum committee and will soon conclude a two-year term as chair.

Bill, a retired marine biologist who hails from South Carolina, is a lifelong history buff.

“Being from Charleston, I can’t help but be interested in the Civil War,” he says.

He’s also a U.S. Navy veteran, so he’s an Admiral Farragut fan. Even before his volunteer work, he donated items to the museum, including a matchbook cover from the third USS Farragut, built in the 1934. The matchbooks could only be purchased from the ship’s store, he says.

He enjoys meeting people at the museum, especially those from other places. But he also likes telling residents the story of Admiral Farragut, who was born in the Farragut area and was the first rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral in the Navy.

Bill expanded his volunteer efforts last week when he provided a history lesson about the Battle of Campbell’s Station to this year’s Introduction to Farragut class. The town offers the class about Farragut’s history, government and departmental structure once a year. The Battle of Campbell’s Station was significant because it delayed Confederate forces as they marched toward Knoxville in 1863. It took the Confederates a week to get from Campbell’s Station to Fort Sanders, he says.

Here’s another example of a random circumstance that might’ve influenced Bill’s interest in Civil War history: his middle school bus driver was Micah Jenkins, a descendant of Brigadier General Micah Jenkins, who fought in the Battle of Campbell’s Station.

The Farragut Museum is always looking for volunteer docents. If you enjoy local history or meeting new people, please consider volunteering. For more information, contact Historic Resources Coordinator Julia Barham at [email protected].

The Farragut Museum, located in Farragut Town Hall at 11408 Municipal Center Drive, is open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Town of Farragut communications manager Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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