Merritt W. Potter, of Kingsport, retired from the Eastman Company in 1950. Upon retirement, he returned to an occupation that he had practiced in the State of New York from 1903 to 1915; Real Estate.
In attendance at a 1963 real estate convention in Kingsport, Mr. Potter participated in a contest sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Real Estate Boards. Real estate brokers and salesmen were asked to come up with a slogan that could represent the State of Tennessee and be used by the Board of Realtors for promotional purposes.
Over 60 entries were reviewed. As it turned out, Mr. Potter's entry, "Tennessee--American At Its Best," won the contest. He was awarded a $21.00 savings bond as a prize.
In 1963, an attempt was made in the Tennessee General Assembly to secure wider recognition for the slogan. The initiative failed.
But, in 1965, supported by local realtors, the Tennessee Board of Realtors, and Tennessee Holiday Inns, an effort to make "Tennessee--America at its best" the official slogan of the state gained traction.
F. E. McGlaughon, president of the Kingsport group, said the local realtors are joining the Tennessee Board of Realtors in promoting the new slogan.
("Kingsport Times-News" 6-A)
McGlaughon also said the slogan, if adopted, would
"be valuable in promoting tourism and industrial development in our state."
("Kingsport Times-News" 6-A)
On January 21, 1965, Senator Mack Ray, Kingsport, introduced legislation proposing that Merritt Potter's contest-winning slogan take another prize and be adopted as the official slogan of the State of Tennessee.
The legislation moved quickly and by spring, 1965, the General Assembly had passed Sen. Ray's bill and Governor Frank Clement had signed it into law.
Merritt Potter, originator of the state slogan, "America—Tennessee at its Best," was honored Friday at the regular monthly dinner meeting of the Kingsport Board of Realtors at Skoby’s Restaurant.
("Kingsport Times-News" 8-A)
The following information was excerpted from the Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3, Section 4-1-304.
Title 4 State Government
Chapter 1 General Provisions
Part 3 State Symbols
Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-304 (2011)
4-1-304. State slogan.
The following is hereby adopted as an official slogan for this state: "Tennessee -- America at Its Best." This slogan may be used in advertising the state and its attractions for industry, recreation and pleasant living.
HISTORY: Acts 1965, ch. 33, § 1; T.C.A., § 4-114.
"Kingsport, State Realtors Ask New Tennessee Slogan." Kingsport Times-News 07 Feb 1965. Page 6-A. Print.
"Winning Slogan Taken In Stride." Kingsport Times-News 18 Feb 1965. Page 1. Print.
"Realtors Honor Potter." Kingsport Times-News 11 Apr 1965. Page 8-A. Print.
The State of Tennessee. Tennessee Code Annotated. Nashville: The State of Tennessee, 2011. Web. 18 Aug 2011.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.