Walter T. Durham

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Walter T. Durham
BornOctober 7, 1924
DiedMay 24, 2013
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin
Vanderbilt University
OccupationLocal historian
Spouse(s)Anna Armstrong Coile
Parent(s)George Franklin Durham
Celeste McAlister

Walter T. Durham (October 7, 1924 - May 24, 2013) was an American historian. He was the Tennessee State Historian from 2002 to 2013, and the author of 24 books of local history.

Early life[edit]

Durham was born on October 7, 1924 in Gallatin, Tennessee to George Franklin Durham and Celeste McAlister.[1][2] His paternal grandfather, J. T. Durham, served as a member of the Tennessee Senate.[3] He served in the United States Army during World War II between 1943 and 1946.[1] He subsequently attended the University of Wisconsin, and he graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he earned bachelor of arts and master's degrees.[1][2]


Durham worked as a businessman in Gallatin.[1] He was the founding president of the Tennessee Heritage Alliance, later known as the Tennessee Preservation Trust.[1] He also served as the president of the Tennessee Historical Society, and as the chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.[1] In 2002, he was appointed as the Tennessee State Historian by Governor Don Sundquist.[1]

Durham was the author of 24 books of local history.[1] He wrote about the Antebellum era like Congressman Balie Peyton or the Rose Mont plantation; the American Civil War of 1861-1865 in Tennessee; and the post-bellum era like the forty-niners from Tennessee who took part in the California Gold Rush.

Personal life, death and legacy[edit]

Durham married Anna Armstrong Coile, and they had four children.[1] They resided in Gallatin.[1]

Durham died on May 24, 2013, at 88.[1][3] His funeral was held at the First Methodist Church of Gallatin.[3] He was succeeded as the Tennessee State Historian by Carroll Van West.[4] Durham is the namesake of the Tennessee Historical Society's Walter Durham Award, given annually to scholars.[5] The Walter T. Durham Bridge was named in his honor in 2015.[2][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kingsbury, Sarah; Garrison, Joey (May 26, 2013). "Walter Durham 1924-2013". The Tennessean. pp. 1B, 3B. Retrieved March 31, 2018 – via
  2. ^ a b c Nelson, Josh (May 10, 2015). "SR 109 Bridge named after Walter Durham". Gallatin News. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Hall, Patrick (May 29, 2013). "Community remembers the life of Walter T. Durham". Gallatin News. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  4. ^ Phillips, Betsy (July 11, 2013). "Carroll Van West Is Our New State Historian". Nashville Scene. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  5. ^ "WALTER T. DURHAM AWARD". Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 72 (2): 157. Summer 2013. JSTOR 43825613.
  6. ^ Cross, Josh (May 4, 2015). "State Route 109 bridge name carries honor for Durham family". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 31, 2018.

Selected works[edit]

  • Durham, Walter T. (1997). Volunteer Forty-Niners: Tennesseans and the California Gold Rush. Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 9780585170930. OCLC 44959444.
  • Durham, Walter T. (2002). Josephus Conn Guild and Rose Mont: Politics and Plantation in Nineteenth Century Tennessee. Franklin, Tennessee: Hillsboro Press. ISBN 9781577362883. OCLC 52238267.
  • Durham, Walter T. (2004). Balie Peyton of Tennessee: Nineteenth Century Politics and Thoroughbreds. Franklin, Tennessee: Hillsboro Press. ISBN 9781577363231. OCLC 835774037.
  • Durham, Walter T. (2008). Nashville: The Occupied City, 1862-1863. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781572336339. OCLC 751448051.
  • Durham, Walter T. (2008). Reluctant Partners: Nashville and the Union, 1863-1865. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. OCLC 760156820.

External links[edit]