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Display of selected historical 'documents' to be unveiled at Justice Center today

June 23rd, 2014 10:35 am by Gary B. Gray

Display of selected historical 'documents' to be unveiled at Justice Center today

The Washington County Heritage Committee today will unveil copies of selected historical documents chosen for placement in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center.

A dedication is set for 5 p.m. on the center’s second floor, where the documents can be viewed. A reception will be held following the dedication. Speakers will include Mary Alexander, Heritage Committee chairwoman; Dan Eldridge, county mayor; Greg Matherly, County Commission chairman; Kelly Wolfe, Jonesborough mayor; and Ron Dykes, director of schools.

Eight initial documents were chosen for display that are “historically significant documents related to the American and Tennessee Jurisprudence.” The documents include the Ten Commandments; the Magna Carta; Watauga Petition of 1776; Declaration of Independence; Constitution of the State of Franklin; Preamble of the United States Constitution; The Bill of Rights and other amendments; and the Tennessee Constitution of 1796.

“You will be able to see where our laws came from,” Alexander said. “It gives you foundation. I just think it’s great the full commission had the wisdom to see the importance of educating people about this area. It really is an educational tool.”

Duane Stanton designed the wooden display cases in which the documents will be sealed under glass. William Stout, a cabinet maker, constructed the display cases. Both men are from Greene County.

“Having them made locally saved a little money, but it also gave us better quality,” Alexander said. “The shatter-proof glass is elevated to ease viewing.”

Alexander said Ned Irwin, county archivist and records manager, had to travel to England to secure a copy of the Magna Carta. She also said Shell Media has produced summaries, including each document that will lie inside the cases.

In November, county commissioners unanimously voted to change the name and purpose of the Historical Documents Display Study Committee, which initially was tasked with choosing documents for permanent display in the justice center.

The result: the Washington County Heritage Committee, which includes Alexander; Irwin; Mike Ford, a county commissioner who serves as a liaison between the Public Safety Committee and the Heritage Committee; Judge John Kiener, Washington County historian; Dr. William Kennedy, who serves on the Jonesborough Historic Zoning Commission; Dr. Susan Kiernan, Washington County Schools assistant director; and Herman Tester, a retired educator.

Commissioners unanimously approved the list of documents — more specifically, reproductions. Commissioners also approved a resolution directing the committee to “continue their work by going into the schools with presentations and portable displays to be used to educate students regarding the rich history of our region and state.”

On May 22, committee members voted to replace the word “students” with “citizens.”

Washington County began the process in late 2012 following passage of legislation sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, which allows the display of historically significant national and state documents inside county-owned buildings.

Shortly after the legislation went into effect, County Commissioner Roger Nave, Public Safety Committee chairman, introduced a resolution authorizing the county to form a seven-member committee “charged with implementing Public Chapter No. 686 (House Bill 2685).”

Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter @ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.

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