Portrait unveiling

Scott, first African-American mayor of Maryville, honored with portrait

The City of Maryville commemorated the first black mayor of the city Monday, Feb. 25, during the unveiling of a painting of William B. Scott, Sr.

Scott was mayor of Maryville in 1869 when he filled the unexpired term of a fellow alderman and was mayor until the next election.

Alcoa city commissioner George Williams said there were towns across the South at that time when it was illegal for blacks to even vote, more less hold office. In Maryville, Williams said, four of the seven commissioners were black.

“To have a majority black commission at that time, these were outstanding people,” he said.

Scott’s portrait joins four others already hanging in the Maryville Municipal Center, all painted by Maryville artist Amy Campbell. Scott’s painting joined those of Sam Houston, Isaac Anderson, Dr. Samuel Pride and Gen. William McTeer.

Shirley Carr Clowney, who advocated to have the painting commissioned by city council, was on hand for the unveiling and welcomed visitors. “To finally get to the day when the painting was unveiled was a labor of love,” Clowney said. “I didn’t think it would ever happen. Someone told me, ‘Maryville’s not going to do that,’ but it happened after two years.”

Clowney said it took a plenty of research to learn about Scott. There was no image of him in the archives, and she spoke with some of his descendants who also were looking for a picture of him.

Mayor Joe Swann praised Clowney for her efforts. “I wish I had half the energy,” he said.

Campbell said she was just blessed to have been able to do the painting. “I claim no ownership. I give glory to God,” she said.

Not having an image of Scott was a challenge. “It was really hard.”

Maryville City Councilman Tom Taylor said he was glad Clowney won the disagreement the two had when the idea of commissioning this portrait was first discussed. Taylor was against the idea because there was no historically accurate image to use for the painting. “Her assertion was it was more important to have an image of him as a man of color than what he exactly looked like,” Taylor said. “I told her, I’m glad she won.”

Sharon Hannum said three of her ancestors served on the Maryville City Council but she didn’t know for a long time was that all three were on the council that voted Scott as mayor.

“I wasn’t aware all three of those ancestors were part of the council at the time W.B. Scott was voted in,” she said.

Hannum said she enjoyed the event at the municipal building. “I thought the whole event was very nice,” she said. “I was pleased with the turnout. It’s a great thing.”

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