Veterans museum pavilion named after Tanner’s mother

Veterans museum pavilion named after Tanner’s mother

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 8:47 pm
By: John Brannon, Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Staff Reporter
Sunday was homecoming day for Congressman John Tanner. About 2 p.m. he turned his head and car south toward the place of his birth — Dyersburg Army Air Base near Halls.
On Sept. 22, 1944, he was born at the small infirmary on the air base.
His mother, the late Edith (Sumners) Tanner, was a major in the Reserve Officers Training Corps Sponsors Brigade at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she was a student 1941-43.
“She came here from Ridgely, where she was living with her father, to have me,” Tanner said. “She stayed about a week.”
When Tanner arrived in this world, his father, the late E.B. “Buzz” Tanner, a UTK ROTC graduate, was serving with the 84th Infantry Division in Europe.
A few months ago, Pat Higdon, curator of Dyersburg Army Air Base Veterans Museum, contacted Tanner about naming a new addition under construction for him.
“I thought about it and said, ‘If you want to do something, name it for my mother. She did all the work. All I did was show up,’” Tanner said. “So that’s how they came to name it the Edith Sumners Tanner Center.”
Sunday afternoon, with his family standing beside him, Tanner presented Mrs. Higdon with a large oil portrait of his late mother.
“I wanted to have something visual of her and we found a 1942 UT-Knoxville yearbook with her picture in it,” Tanner said. “It was a black and white. I took it to Dr. Paul Marsidi, who is quite an accomplished artist, and asked him if he could paint a portrait from it. And he did. It will hang in the museum along with a formal plaque.”
Mrs. Higdon said the air base was a training base for U.S. Army Air Corps B-17 bomber crews 1941-45. “There were quite a number of deaths due to  aircraft crashes — 115,” she said. “Most of  it was pilot error. We lost 16 in one crash — an entire crew of 10 on one plane, and six of the 10 on another  plane. During its time, the air base trained 7,700 crewmen.”
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John Brannon may be contacted by e-mail at jbrannon@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.23.10

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