SmithDRay Blog
Friday, 24 November 2023
Ed Westcott book and documentary film


Ed Westcott was the photographer hired to document the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN. His black and white images enable me to tell the history of Oak Ridge much better than would be possible without them. He was a good friend.

I wrote a book about Ed Westcott using the Historically Speaking columns I wrote about him. The book is available at The Oak Ridge History Museum .  It is also available from me directly at Email:  

The documentary film Ed Westcott: Photographer is available on YouTube. It also runs on a loop at three museums in Oak Ridge, The American Museum of Science and Energy, The Oak Ridge History Museum and The Children's Museum of Oak Ridge.

Posted by smithdray at 8:56 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 24 November 2023 8:59 PM EST
Monday, 20 November 2023
The Oak Ridge Boys get a Tennessee Music Pathways Marker

The Oak Ridge Boys Tennessee Music Pathways Marker was unveiled near the entrance to the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, TN, on Monday, November 20, 2023. William Golden and Richard Sterban were there representing the group. The marker recognizes that Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers entertained in the Grove Theater during the Manhattan Project. When the group was invited to appear on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Wally suggested changing the name of their quartet, The Harmony Quartet, to the Oak Ridge Quartet. He did this because when World War II ended, the name Oak Ridge was "going to be a big thing."  So they announced the name change and Wally kept the name until he sold the rights to it and eventually the Oak Ridge Quartet evolved into The Oak Ridge Boys. 

The group appeared in Oak Ridge in 2007, and I gave them a tour of Y-12 including the Calutrons inside Building 9204-3 (Beta 3) and took them up on Chestnut Ridge to overview the Y-12 National Security Complex. 



Posted by smithdray at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2023 8:33 PM EST
Sunday, 8 October 2023
New book on University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge


The title of a new book being published now is,

Critical Connections

The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge from the Dawn of the Atomic Age to the Present


I am delighted to tell you it will be available in 2024. Lee Riedinger, Al Ekkubus, William Bugg, and Ray Smith are the authors.


The book will be a history of the involvement of the University of Tennessee with most all of the facilities at Oak Ridge over time and will feature the most recent major collaboration between UT and Battelle to manage and operate Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as other collaborative efforts with the Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the city. 


Look for the book being printed by UT Press in early 2024. 


Posted by smithdray at 4:04 PM EDT
Los Alamos National Laboratory Historian and Dick Groves in Oak Ridge

During the week of October 2, 2023, Alan Carr, Brye Steeves, Julie Maze (all from Los Alamos National Laboratory with Alan being the Historian), and Dick Groves (Grandson of General Leslie R. [Dick] Groves,) all visited Oak Ridge. I was pleased to be their host.

Dick toured museums on Tuesday, while I taught a Life Long Learning class at Crossville's Roane State Community College location.

Alan presented a talk and toured Y-12's production facilities. At 7pm Tuesday evening, Alan and Brye spoke at the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association at the Oak Ridge History Museum. Here is a link to Alan and Brye's presentation:

Wednesday, we formed a panel at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to serve as the wrap up event for their 80th anniversary year activites. We also toured the Graphite Reactor, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, the Spallation Neutron Source (where the panel was held for 150 ORNL employees in person and over 200 people online).

Thursday began with Alan and I doing an interview with Alan Lowe, Director of the American Museum of Science and Energy for their AMSE Cast podcast. Then we joined Dick and Julie for a tour of Y-12's Buidling 9731 and the Chestnut Ridge overlook. Dick was able to confirm details needed for his 13 one-hour documentary programs focused on the years just prior to the Manhattan Project and the years during World War II. 

It was a delight to host these special guests to Oak Ridge. Here is a link to some photos from the time they were in Oak Ridge:


Posted by smithdray at 3:52 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2023 3:56 PM EDT
Sunday, 29 March 2020

As you know, if you follow me on this blog, I do not write often and I attempt to keep the entries to significant events or something of special meaning to me and hopefully to you who read it.


Feedback is always appreciated. Send email to me at: Ray's web site to send him email  

So, this is an attempt to bring attention to some recent history related activities in Oak Ridge.


1. K-25 History Center opened February 27, 2020. The K-25 Virtual Museum is online.  

 Link: K-25 Virtual Museum

2. American Museum of Science and Energy is doing well at its new location.

Link: AMSE 


3. The Oak Ridge History Museum is doing GREAT as well.

Link: Oak Ridge History Museum 



Posted by smithdray at 9:50 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2020 10:22 PM EDT
Trip to Vail, CO

 PHOTO: Vail, CO, ski slopes

Here is a link to a presentation about this amazing opportunity:

Fanny and I were honored to be invited to a special private four-day Roundtable in Vail, CO, of 25 of the most amazing individuals. They included doctors, sports champions, Blue Angel pilots and US Navy Seals  

I routinely provide tours of Oak Ridge to all who request them. The tours range from family groups that bring their grandmother, who worked at Y-12 during the Manhattan Project as a cubicle operator (now affectionately known as a Calutron Girl), back to Oak Ridge for a birthday present, to 65 passenger tourism buses.

It is also not unusual to get specific requests from small groups. One such group of four couples turned into much more than a one-time tour.

While I understood this tour was special, I certainly did not expect it to result in Fanny and me getting invited to Vail, CO! But we did, for a roundtable conference where 25 people met to share life experiences.  A most amazing event is all I can say!

Let me tell you just a bit about that special Wednesday to Sunday experience we just finished. First, Vail is a beautiful small city of approximately 5,000 residents nestled in the Vail Valley with mountains on both sides of the valley. It is located in Eagle County, CO.

The Vail Ski Resort for which the town was developed is recognized as the largest ski area in CO. Vail mountain rises to over 11,000 ft in elevation while the city is just over 8,000 ft above sea level.

While there, I was able to enjoy a dogsled ride through the snow and forest as well as a snowmobile trip that included some amazing views of surrounding mountains. Fanny did not participate in the outdoor events, but had a wonderful time in a book review group and just relaxing in the beautiful surroundings. The elevation did cause her breathing problems because of her chronic lung condition.

The roundtable was held daily in the morning, late afternoon and evening.  While exploring in the snow was fun, the presentations and discussions at the roundtable were most exciting and enlightening. The reason for this was the selection of individual participants.

The variety of individuals ranged from magicians, to doctors, adventure sports men and women, retired Navy Seals, retired Blue Angel pilots, a shark researcher, a geologist who discovered the world’s largest dinosaur, the first person to do a bungie jump from a bridge, climb a new route on Mt Everest and do cataract surgery in Nepal, a 16-year old girl whose legs had no muscle below the knee from birth and were amputated who is now an ice hockey player, a horse trainer who is a bull fighter on horseback, an underwater explorer who located and recovered some of the world’s largest treasure ships, a guitar manufacturer, a zookeeper, an Olympic gold medal winning ski racer, a sculptor of animals for the Smithsonian museums and Fanny and me representing Oak Ridge history. See why it was an amazing experience?

The host and hostess are great people who have held these roundtables annually for over 20 years. Each year they seek out unusual places they have not seen and people of interest they have not met. They then bring the individuals together to share their life story or expertise in the supportive group setting in beautiful Vail, CO.

Fanny and I count ourselves extremely fortunate to have been included in such a collection of accomplished individuals. The intriguing history of Oak Ridge is what caused the host and hostess to select us. We were able to tell our Oak Ridge story to these individuals whose lives have focused in many areas other than the history of the Manhattan Project and technological advances such as nuclear medicine.

They were intensely interested in learning about this small city in East Tennessee about which they only knew somehow was connected to the atomic bomb. We were pleased to show them all aspects of Oak Ridge including its role in the Manhattan Project but also the amazing technological advances in the years since.

Posted by smithdray at 8:59 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 5 October 2020 1:08 AM EDT
Wednesday, 8 August 2018
Pellissippi and Clinch RIver

Periodically the origin of the word Pellissippi and the name for the Clinch River that flows along the east, south and west border of Oak Ridge comes to my attention. Here are two documents where I researched those two things some years ago: 


The origin and meaning of the word “Pellissippi” is a subject that has occupied my research periodically since the 1970’s.  In the mid-1970’s Cub Scout Pack 220 was formed in Oak Ridge, TN.  I was honored to be the first Cubmaster and continued in that capacity for the next 16 years.  Cub Scout Pack 220 was in the Pellissippi District of the Great Smoky Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America.  My first interest in the word “Pellissippi” came from this connection and I wrote to the National Geographic Society, The Museum of the American Indian in New York and The American Association for State and Local History asking for information.

In May of 1976, The Oak Ridger’s “Ask Inky” column contained a question regarding the origin of the word “Pellissippi.”  Pellissippi was commonly known to have been on early maps as the name for the river currently known as the Clinch River. This question also came at about the time the Pellissippi Parkway was being developed and was also in the name of Camp Pellissippi, a Boy Scout Camp in north Anderson County.   As I was already involved in researching the origin of the word, I provided the following answer that was published on May 31, 1976 in the Oak Ridger’s Ask Inky column:

“The Cherokee have no ‘P’ sound in their syllabary.  The Choctaw Indian Agency says the work is not Choctaw.  National Geographic published an article on Thomas Jefferson where he used ‘Pelisipia’ as a suggested place name for use in the western lands.  George R. Stewart in ‘Names on the Land’ says these place names of Jefferson’s were Greek, Latin, Iroquoian, Algonquian and patriotic in origin.

“The Museum of the American Indian states that in the Smithsonian Institute Bureau of American Ethnology a ‘Circular of Information Regarding Indian Proper Names,’ 1926, says on page five that ‘Sipsis’ meant ‘little river’ or ‘brook.’  ‘American Place Names’ by George R. Stewart gives the following for Mississippi – the ‘Algonquian – Mesipi – big river.’  The museum concludes that the word seems to be ‘Pelli’ or ‘Peli’ with ‘river’ or ‘brook.’

Periodically over the past several years, the same question has been raised…”What is the origin and meaning of the word – Pellissippi?”  No one has presented any research to definitively answer the question and I have found no better answer than my original research in the 1970’s.

D. Ray Smith

July 12, 2004


Pellissippi or Clinch River

Information taken from Dr. Thomas Walker’s 1750 Journal and notes 

In my research to locate the origin of the name “Clinch” River, I have found the following reference, which seems to confirm that the Clinch River is named for a Long Hunter named “Clinch” who evidently was in the area prior to 1750 when Dr. Thomas Walker made his travels. 

The following is quoted from Walker’s Journal:

April 9th, We travelled to a river, which I suppose to be that which the Hunters call Clinches River from one Clinch a Hunter, who first found it. (23) we marked several Beeches on the East Side. we could not find a ford Shallow eneugh to carry our Baggage over on our Horses. Ambrose Powell Forded over on one horse and we drove the others after him. We then made a raft and carried over one load of Baggage, but when the raft was brought back, it was so heavy that it would not carry anything more dry.

April 10th. we waded and carried the remainder of our Baggage on our shoulders at two turns over the River, which is about one hundred and thirty yards wide, we went on about five miles and Camped on a Small Branch.

The following are the notes on the above section of Walker’s Journal:

23 The 1751- Fry-Jefferson map lists this river as the "Pelesippi or Clinches River," and Williams identifies the location as "Clinch River, crossed near Sneedville, the county seat of Hancock County, Tenn." Summers describes the Clinch as "A tributary of the Tenn. running paralell with the Clinch Mountain, rising in Tazewell and Bland Cos. Va. and interlocking with the Bluestone River and Wolf Creek, tributaries of New River."

Both Williams and Summers comment on the fact that Haywood's Civil History of Tennessee mistakenly states that the Clinch wasn't so named until 1761, Haywood having ascribed its naming to a tradition that the river was named by a party of hunters: "They named Clinch River and Clinch Mountain from the following circumstance. An Irishman was one of the company; in crossing the river he fell from the raft into it, and cried out clinch me, clinch me; meaning lay hold of me. The rest of the company unused to the phrase amused themselves at the expense of the Irishman and called the river Clinch."

Williams adds that "Notwithstanding the fact that Walker describes the river as being one hundred and thirty yards wide at the place of crossing, Justin Winsor has him crossing "to the head of Clinch River and entering Cumberland Gap." The Mississippi Basin, 277," and Summers notes that Walker's "correct nomenclature of the River indicates that he had received information concerning the route travelled from Stalnaker or other source."

Compiled by David Ray Smith


Posted by smithdray at 11:37 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2018 11:41 AM EDT
Friday, 2 February 2018
Photos placed in "Through the Looking Glass"

I have placed for sale a framed photo of the Elza Railroad Bridge in fall on consignment at Through the Looking Glass in Jackson Square, Oak Ridge, TN.



I have also placed just the matted photograph there as well: 




























There is also a matted photograph of the August 2016 solar eclipse:


Posted by smithdray at 10:57 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 2 February 2018 11:02 PM EST
Sunday, 22 November 2015
Manhattan Project National Historical Park




On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park was established in Washington, DC, at the Memorandum of Agreement Signing Ceremony held in the Department of Interior building on Constitution Avenue! I was proud to be there and to wear a bow tie in honor and memory of Bill Wilcox, Oak Ridge Historian, who worked so hard for years to preserve the history of Oak Ridge. He would have been so proud to see the nation's 409th new National Park established in Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA, and Los Alamos, NM. 

I was also privileged to be selected as one of 20 people to meet for two days in a Scholar's Forum to determine the main themes for the interpretation of the new park.
Here is are links to photographs made while in DC:  

Here is a link to the full set of photo albums on Picasa and there are a couple other albums of images made while in DC:


Posted by smithdray at 12:30 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2015 12:31 AM EST
Some of my Favorites - Photoshow



At the request of the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge I created a 40 image Photoshow that was presented there for a three month period. It was then requested to be presented in the Oak Ridge Public Library for two months.

Here is a link to the photographs included in the Photoshow:


Posted by smithdray at 12:13 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2015 12:24 AM EST

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