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Robert Houk

Opinion Page Editor
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Almanac, Blue Book still valuable resources

August 26th, 2014 12:02 pm by Robert Houk

Almanac, Blue Book still valuable resources

I was pleased last week when our newsroom received an advance copy of the 2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac, which will go on sale in a few weeks. It’s exciting to be privy to the almanac’s long-range weather forecast before it hits general circulation.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been a favorite of mine since childhood. While the publication is a bit more colorful these days (specifically, on its weather pages), not much has changed over the years.

The 2015 edition has the assorted science facts, nature stories and history trivia that readers have come to expect. It also predicts trends for the new year, such as a return of double-breasted suits for men.

Of course it’s the monthly weather forecasts, which I have found to be just as reliable as long-range forecasts spit out by computers, that many people most enjoy. Be warned: The almanac is predicting another arctic blast this winter.

Before Google and the Internet, the Old Farmer’s Almanac was a very valuable reference tool. It still is. I can also say the same about another publication — the Tennessee Blue Book.

When I began working for this paper 27 years ago, one of my editors handed me a copy of a Tennessee Blue Book (which actually has blue binding) and told me I would be given a test on it.

There was no test, but I did learn many things about Tennessee from reading it. I learned there are 95 counties in this state. I learned how each branch of government works in this state, as well as the names of the people who make state government work.

Within its pages were listings of 32 historic sites in Tennessee (Rocky Mount in Piney Flats and the Chester Inn in Jonesborough are among them), a rundown of all the governors of this state and the origins behind the name of each county in Tennessee. (Washington County, by the way, was the first county in any state to be named after this nation’s first president.)

The Blue Book is published by the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office every two years. It is released at the beginning of the second year of the state General Assembly’s two-year legislative term. Tennessee is one of just 12 states that produce such free guidebooks.

The most recent edition of the Blue Book was released in January. It’s been very popular because some of the 68,700 copies printed were released with a Volunteer Orange binding to honor former Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt. The Blue Book contains photos and biographies of all 132 members of General Assembly, which makes it very popular on Capitol Hill. State lawmakers often distribute copies to schoolchildren, libraries and civic clubs. You can obtain one of the limited number of remaining Blue Books (sorry, no Vol Orange versions are left) by contacting your legislator, or by calling the Secretary of State’s publications office at 615-741-2650. You can also go the Secretary of State’s website at and click on publications to get a hard copy or read one online.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at Like him on Facebook: Follow him at

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