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Disclaimer: While the advice and information contained within this website is believed to  be true and accurate, the Tenarky District does not accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may have been made.
The Tenarky District makes no warranty, expressed or implied with respect to the material contained here

Tenarky District History

In the early years, what is now the Tenarky District was called "The TenKy District."  It is believed the district was formed in the early 1950s. The first confirmed ARS Silver Honor Medal was awarded in 1955. Sometime after 1974, several societies from Arkansas joined the district and the name was changed.  The first district rose show of the new district was held Sept. 23-24, 1978 at Cheekwood in Nashville.

We know when some of the societies were formed:  Knoxville in 1926, Chattanooga in 1932 (a women only group followed by a men's group in  the late 1940s which later merged) and became Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga about 1950,  Memphis in 1946, Tennessee in 1946, Louisville in 1953, Bowling Green in 1961, Dixie in 1964, Blytheville in 1965, Cookeville in 1993, Lexington in 1996, Capitol City in 2002, Greene County in 2005.  Sadly, in 2006, the Knoxville Society, the oldest in Tenarky, voted to disband due to the small number of members left and their age.  In 2008, Lexington disbanded as did Greene County in 2009.  In 2010, Dixie and Memphis decided to merge and became the Memphis and Dixie Rose Society. In 2015, we learned that the local society in Blytheville, AK, had disbanded. In 2019, the Memphis and Dixie Rose Society changed its name to Memphis Rose Society. 

From a document submitted by Peggy Bingham, it was learned that in 1991 there were 18 rose societies in the Tenarky District:  Blytheville Rose Society (Joe Kea, president), Bowling Green Rose Society (V. L. Almond, Jr., president), Tri-State Rose Society (Janice Brady, president), Maury County (Columbia, TN) Rose Society (Lyle Worsham, president), Dixie Rose Club (James Reedy, president), Memphis Rose Society (Aliene Eilertsen, president). Bluegrass (Danville. KY) Rose Society (Nancy Estes, president), Fort Smith (AK) Rose Society (Wanda Daniels, president), Golden Circle (Jackson, TN) Rose Society (Cindy Weaver, president), Knoxville Garden Club (Mrs. James O'Neal, president), Holston Rose Society (Brandy Bennett, president), Tennessee Rose Society (Kaye Rodgers, president), Wilson County (Lebanon, TN) Rose Society (Sherry Carr, president), Greater Little Rock Rose Society (Don Henderson, president), Louisville Rose Society (Richard Hartke, president), Nashville Rose Society (John Brevard, president), Pennyrile (Hopkinsville, KY) Rose Society (Trudy Morris, president) organized in 1948, Northwest Arkansas (Rogers, AK), Rose Society (Dorothy Wallace, president).

District Directors  

1958 - 1961-  Harry L. Burgess
1961 - 1964 - Harry L. Burgess
1964 - 1967 - Luther S. Keeton
1967 - 1970 - Roy L. Graff - BGRS
1970 - 1973 - Roy L. Graff - BGRS
1973 - 1976 - Robert Whitaker - NRS
1976 - 1979 - Robert Whitaker - NRS
1979 - 1982 - Judge T. Mack Blackburn - NRS
1982 - 1985 - Judge T. Mack Blackburn - NRS
1985 - 1988 - Peggy Bingham - MRS
1988 - 1991 - Peggy Bingham - MRS

1991 - 1994 - Bill McMahon - BGRS
1994 - 1997 - Ted Mills - TSRSC
1997 - 2000 - Donna Tarrant - LRS
2000 - 2003 - Robbie Tucker - NRS
2003 - 2006 - Dr. Kent Campbell - BGRS
2006 - 2009 - Dr. Kent Campbell - BGRS
2009 - 2012 - Dr. Sam Jones - NRS
2012 - 2015 - Dr. Sam Jones - NRS
2015 - 2018 - Mary Ann Hext - BGRS
2018 - 2019 - Richard Anthony - TCRF
2020  Interim  Mary Ann Hext - BGRS

Bob Whitaker served as ARS President from 1991-1994.

Historical Articles


District Conventions

Six national conventions have been hosted by Tenarky societies: Nashville, 1982 and 1990; Louisville, 1999; Memphis, 1971 and 2005. In all cases, these were fall nationals and the district show was included in the national show.  In 2019, the Tipton County Rose Friends hosted the ARS Fall Miniature National Convention with the Tenarky and Deep South District Conventions.
1968 - Louisville RS
1969 - Memphis RS
1970 - Bowling Green RS
1971 - Memphis
(National) RS
1972 - (No information)
1973 - Nashville RS
1974 - Louisville RS
1975 - (No information)
1976 - Memphis RRS
1977 - Pennyrile RS at Lake Barkley
1978 - Nashville RS (
1st district show of 3 states)
1979 - Knoxville RS
1980 - Little Rock RS
1981 - Bowling Green
1982 - Nashville RS
1983 - Memphis RS
1984 - Knoxville RS
1985 - Chattanooga
1986 - Louisville RS
1987 - Little Rock RS
1988 - Memphis RS
1989 - Ft. Smith RS
1990 - Nashville RS (National)
1991 - Knoxville (three societies)
1992 - Chattanooga RS
1993 - Louisville
RS (National)
1994 - Little Rock RS
1995 - Memphis RS
1996 - Nashville RS
1997 - Tennessee, Knoxville, Holston RS
1998 - Fort Smith RS
1999 - Louisville RS
2000 - Conway RS
2001 - Chattanooga RS
2002 - Fort Smith RS
2003 - Nashville RS
2004 - Louisville RS
2005 - Memphis RS (National)
2006 - Tennessee & Holston RS
2007 - Chattanooga RS
2008 - Nashville RS
2009 - Louisville RS
2010 - Memphis & Dixie RS
2011 - Tennessee & Holston RS
2012 - Nashville RS
2013 - Louisville RS
2014 - Memphis & Dixie RS
2015 - Tennessee & Holston RS
2016 - Nashville RS
2017 - Louisville RS
(held in Bowling Green)
2018 - Memphis & Dixie RS
2019 - Tipton Co. Rose Friends
(Mini National)
2020 - Nashville Rose Society

District Winter Workshops

The Tenarky Winter Workshop started in February 1979 and was hosted by the Golden Circle Rose Society of Jackson, Tennessee, for the next twenty years through 1999.
1979-1999 - Jackson
2000 - Memphis
2001 - Memphis
2002 - Nashville
2003 - Nashville
2004 - Bowling Green
2005 - Bowling Green
2006 - Bowling Green
2007 - Bowling Green
2008 - Bowling Green
2009 - Bowling Green
2010 - Franklin
2011 - Franklin
2012 - Franklin
2013 - Franklin
2014 - Franklin
2015 - Franklin
2016 - Bowling Green
2017 - Bowling Green
2018 - Bowling Green
2019 - Franklin
2020 - cancelled

Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga

In 1932, the Chattanooga Rose Society was formed. Dr. J. Horace McFarland, for whom the national ARS trophy is named, came to Chattanooga to help get it started. It was composed of ladies only. Their interest waned as time passed. Rose growing was admired by them, but age caused their actual involvement in the hobby to cease. It was in the late 1940's that a group of Chattanooga men formed the Men's Rose Society which was accredited by ARS. Actually, in 1950, the ARS National Convention and Rose Show were held in Chattanooga. The late Lester Smith, a distinguished Chattanooga rosarian, won the coveted Nicholson Bowl. A Silver Honor Medal winner, he was the man who taught me rose culture, as well as Jeff and Cindy Garrett and many others. It was about 1950 that the name was changed to Tri- State Rose Society of Chattanooga. This was due to the fact that we had members from bordering states of Georgia and Alabama as well as Tennessee. However, one might say that Chattanooga's rose membership was first recognized by ARS in 1932. The name changes evolved as the Society grew in numbers.  See additional history below under Chattanooga Rose Society.

Holston Rose Society

Two rose growers, namely Mr. and Mrs. U. S. Cate, conceived the bright idea of organizing a rose society in their neighborhood. They carried out that idea by inviting to their home a group of other rose growers from their vicinity, on Jan. 27, 1949, 7:30 PM. Mr. U. S. Cate was nominated and elected as President. The committee on selecting a name reported that they suggested “The Holston Rose Society.” This was accepted.

Tennessee Rose Society

In 1946 Mrs. J. E. Darr had a dream needing to be fulfilled. She and her close gardening friends wanted to learn as much as they could about growing roses. So, after many thoughtful conversations regarding the subject, they formed the Tennessee Rose Society under the rules of the American Rose Society. Using the ARS guide, they wrote TRS’s constitution and set up the monthly meetings.

Bowling Green Rose Society

The effort to form a rose society in Bowling Green began at 7:30 p.m. on November 28, 1960, when a group of approximately 25 men and women met at Snell Hall on the Western Kentucky University Campus. These interested rose growers heard a talk on roses given by Mr. Charles Dawson of Louisville. (Ed. Note: Mr. Dawson was the author of “Uncle Charlie’s Corner,” a regular feature in The American Rose for a number of years.) Mr. Haywood Brown was chosen as temporary Chairman. The first regular meeting of the new local society was convened on January 9, 1961, again in Snell Hall. Mr. Brown was elected the group’s first president. The treasury began with a balance of $29. As noted above, it was less than a year later that the first rose show was presented. The original ten members enrolled at this first meeting were: Dr. T. O. Hall; Mrs. Earl Rabold; Mr. Claude Rose; Mr. Paris Pillion; Mrs. Richard Peete; Mrs. J. C. McCubbin; Mrs. Edith Kolair; Mrs. Opal Kirk; Mrs. Tena Borders; and Mrs. John Collet. Some of this information came from a program presented to the Bowling Green Rose Society on September 10, 1994, by Jim Bennett and some from Paris Pillion, the only living charter member of the BGRS at the time of this writing (October 2010) (Mr. Pillion died Nov. 30, 2014).

Memphis Rose Society

On August 23, 1946, a group of people met to organize a rose society.  They chose Memphis and Shelby County Rose Society as its name.  The first president was Dr. Neumon Taylor. At the first meeting, membership of the society voted to affiliate with the American Rose Society as well a to work with the Park Commission to establish a public rose garden in Overton Park. At the second meeting, the society voted to publish a bulletin by November.  Twenty-seven people had contributed rose bushes to the Rose Bowl.  Some members had contributed for entire beds. The first year of inception, the society held a rose show.  After the show, the roses were taken to Kennedy Veterans Hospital.  In 1952, the name was changed to the Memphis Rose Society.  In March 1955, members voted to contact their congressmen and ask that they support the bill to make the rose the national flower.  The Memphis Rose Society hosted the ARS Convention in 1971.

Dixie Rose Club

The Dixie Rose Society was organized in 1964.  The first president was Bren H. Rose who served two years. The Dixie Rose Society and the Memphis Rose Society merged in 2010 to become the Memphis and Dixie Rose Society.

Chattanooga Rose Society

Evolution of the Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga

by Ted Mills

 Did you ever stop and admire the beauty of a butterfly in flight?  Its majestic wing spread reflects brilliant colors that almost hypnotize you with indescribable beauty.  When we think about it, these creatures were not always blessed with such brilliance.  They had to evolve into this gorgeous state.  First it was the egg, then the grub stage, and finally the beautiful adult stage evolves.  This metamorphosis patterns the journey that the Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga traveled.  Let’s talk about it.

Although roses are as old as time, the mention of them in the Old Testament proves that statement.  These beautiful flowers have been admired down through the ages.  The Roman Empire made great use of them.  Their ladies of royalty were joyfully stricken by their fragrance and beauty.

 As to the beginning of our local society, it was a trail of starts and stops along the way. Fortunately, the foundation of what we are today was blessed with people who really loved roses.  These individuals are the real saviors of the hobby we all love.  Although these early leaders are now deceased, their instruction has lingered on in a state of permanence.    

Strangely, our society was not always blessed with male members.  A group of dedicated women brought rose growing to Chattanooga.  The beginning started in the most unlikely period of despair.  The great depression of the 1930s was rampant in the area.  It was a time when the economy suffered most in its history.  Millions of Americans were unemployed.  A small band of dedicated women sought a ray of sunshine to alleviate the pain of a depressed populace. 

 Coinciding with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration, plans were made to organize a local rose society.  Just being in the talking stage in 1931, it was not until March 3, 1932 that the Chattanooga Rose Society came into being.  In the prior year the renowned J. Horace McFarland came to the City to assist in the Society’s formation.  At that time he was serving as President of the American Rose Society (ARS).  One of ARS’s chief awards is named in his honor.    

Mrs. Terrell Clemons was the first District Director.  She was the driving force that established the city’s first rose organization.  The first president was Mrs. T. C. Betterton, followed in order by Mrs. Clemons, Mrs. O. L. Mitchell, and Mrs. W. G. Oehmig.  Over 100 ladies made up the group.  It was a distinguished group that led the Society in its infant years.   

Interest in the group was very encouraging and thereby prompted a project to establish a municipal rose garden.  With the expert assistance of Mr. J. F. Brizzie, referred to as the godfather of the Municipal Garden, a small group gathered to make plans for the rose garden.  Invited to this meeting was the aforementioned Mr. McFarland.  City fathers became interested and in 1938 an original planting of 700 bushes was made.  The bushes were donated and funds were raised to maintain the garden.  The city looked with favor on the garden and a full-time gardener was hired.  It was not long until the entire city took great pride in the bountiful display of roses in the heart of Chattanooga.  As in Pasadena today, roses became a featured display in downtown parades.  With 3,000 bushes in bloom, the citizenry soon forgot the pangs of the deep depression.  The rose garden was Tennessee’s first and soon enjoyed AARS designation.  The garden also made Warner Park take on a more inviting appearance.   

The all-lady Chattanooga Rose Society continued as wives of industrialist, bankers, physicians, and city leaders eagerly participated in the work of the garden.  During the 1980s the demise of the Society took place.  It literally became a social event with afternoon teas, etc.  Reason for its folding was the advanced age of the members and declining health of some.  Then too, another vibrant society entered the scene. 

 At the conclusion of World War II a small group of very interested men showed great interest in growing roses.  To its credit the group formed the Men’s Rose Society of Chattanooga.  Initially the organization was men only.  The year was 1947 and soon the Society grew in number.  Affiliation with the American Rose Society was accomplished.  The members began to stage rose shows.  Just two years later, in 1949, ARS held its national rose show in Chattanooga at Memorial Auditorium.  It was at this show that the beloved local rosarian, Lester Smith, won ARS’s top award, the coveted Nicholson Bowl.   

It was only natural that the ladies scrambled to join the Society.  Husbands experienced harsh prodding by persistent wives.  It was not long until the men capitulated and allowed women to join the ranks.  In January, 1958 this change in by-laws occurred.  With this action the Society decided to change the name to include female designation as well.  After much discussion the current name, Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga was chosen.  It was natural since it includes the three states, Tennessee, north Georgia, and north Alabama.  Society members lived in these three bordering states.   

Shortly after the name change, ARS conducted a drive to have Congress establish the rose as the national floral emblem.  In 1986, after much persuasion on the part of ARS leadership, President Ronald Reagan, by proclamation, effected this designation.  It is something that all rosarians cherish.   

It would be risky to enumerate the early pioneers who played a great part in establishing a rose society in the Chattanooga area.  However, it is essential that we memorialize those who are now departed but did much to create our hobby in an organized fashion.    

Although she was not the first president of the Chattanooga Rose Society, Mrs. Edna Thomas stands tall in performance among her peers.  My research kept running across the name of this active lady.  She was undoubtedly the guiding light for all rosarians.  Her rose culture knowledge placed her at the pinnacle among local rose growers.  Her daughter, Marianne Ozmer inherited her mother’s expertise and still remains a member of the local society.  Although her health prohibits her from being active, she still remains a star with fellow members.  Her mother is truly the “matriarch” of all rosarians in the Chattanooga area.   

To list the men who were the guiding force in the early years would be a monumental task.  However some were super stars and their names need special mention.  Deserving recognition are these past leaders who have gone on to that garden in the sky.  They are George Hudson, H. O. Hastings, Reese Bull, Jerry Perry, Dr. W. K. Butts. Grady Long, Jimmy Paul, Eldon Lunsford, and Jimmy Chamberlain.  These were truly the pioneers of the hobby we now enjoy. However, in my humble experience with rose growing, no person has touched my life and the lives of many living rosarians as the beloved Lester Smith. Many rose enthusiasts have benefited from the unselfish instruction of this quiet man.  Being one of the Men’s Rose Society’s original members and later a member of the Tri-State Rose Society of Chattanooga, he gave countless hours of instruction to his students.  His knowledge of rose culture was superior. Although he has passed on, his dedicated leadership in rose education stamps him well as Chattanooga’s “patriarch” of roses.   

It is evident that rose growing as a hobby is waning in popularity.  It adversely affects the youngsters who are bombarded with all types of recreation.  We, as dedicated rosarians, must do everything in our power to blunt this urge to abandon the hobby we love.  It would be remiss to allow the work performed by the rose pioneers to have been done in vain.  Moreover, it would be a disaster to see our hobby fall into oblivion. 





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ARS Tenarky District, All Rights Reserved
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Webmaster:  Claire Campbell 2003-2012
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Mary Ann Hext
Revised: March 18, 2024.