History lesson

Leadership Blount assignment mushrooms into book on legacy of McCammon-Ammons-Click

The book written by Linda Whitehead will be available for sale with proceeds going to Relay for Life.

The book written by Linda Whitehead will be available for sale with proceeds going to Relay for Life.

Author Linda Whitehead

Author Linda Whitehead

Tom Click

Tom Click

The McCammon Ammons Click Funeral Home as it appeared in the business’ early days.

The McCammon Ammons Click Funeral Home as it appeared in the business’ early days.

Talk about giving more than is requested.

One of the projects Leadership Blount members do each September is a book report on a subject related to Blount County. Class of 2009 member Linda Whitehead over-achieved on the assignment and created a book that will take its place in Blount County history.

Whitehead published a book outlining the history of the McCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home that is a Maryville institution.

Whitehead said her interest when assigned the book report on Blount County as her first Leadership Blount assignment was on downtown Maryville. She said she knew McCammon-Ammons-Click owner Tom Click had plenty of information on the history of the funeral home and how it fit into the landscape of Blount County life.

“When I asked Tom a few questions, he made the comment to me that, ‘down the road, all this history will be lost,’” Whitehead said.

During the interview for the report, Whitehead said Click brought out a box with articles and pictures on the funeral home. “I didn’t realize there was so much history in the funeral home,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’ll do a little report because this is a part of downtown.’ After thinking more about it, I decided to do a book,” she said.

The jump from report to book was kept a secret to surprise Click on his 75th birthday, March 23.

“Tom still thought it was a report until he was presented with the book,” Whitehead said. “He was a little speechless.”

Click said when Whitehead first approached him, he was happy to help although he was surprised at the interest.

“If she had the time to do it, I thought that was great,” Click said. “There’s a lot of history to it. I’ve got a scrapbook, and I gave her all the history I have. Sam McCammon and Roy Ammons started out as competitors. One started in 1910 and the other in 1906, and they merged in 1927 and have been at this location ever since.”

Click said he came to work for McCammon and Ammons in 1956, and although the business has changed with the times, some things have remained the same. “We were the first and oldest funeral business in town and probably one of the oldest businesses,” he said. “The fact is, we have kept the tradition as it was. The main thing is complete service, honesty and integrity. We gave people their money’s worth and kept our noses clean and kept the business on the foundation left for us. (The founders) were great businessmen and made a good foundation for us.”

Click said the funeral home has expanded with the times and kept making improvements. “We’ve had new facilities and new people have been added, and we’ve been doing the things demanded of us at the time,” he said. “Still, we are the same business we were founded on.”

Click said the funeral home is operated with honesty and integrity, and he hopes people see that in the book Whitehead wrote. “We intend to do that as long as we are around, and we are pleased people pick up the book and learn a little about our funeral business and the history of our place downtown,” he said.

Of the book, Click said he was happy with the results. “I love history,” he said. “I think it’s great. I’m proud Linda did it, and she did a superb job. I was surprised when I saw it,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for any thing better.”

Any proceeds from the sale of the $10 book will be donated to Relay for Life.

Whitehead, who is a vice president at First National Bank, said the process for writing the book started in November, and it took about two months to compile all the history, write the book, proofread it and send it to be published. “I enlisted two members of my class who were friends of Tom’s - Jerry Cunningham and Larry Carroll, Tom’s minister. They added to the book also,” she said.

Whitehead said she never set out to write the history on McCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home. “Lots of times you have a dream or inspiration to do a book. I didn’t have that until seeing Tom’s concern that history of the funeral home would be lost,” she said. “This has been a self-fulfilling project. It’s been great to know I have been able to capture that history and know it will remain, and people will be aware of the wonderful history that is in the funeral home.”

Working with Click made the project a pleasure, said Whitehead.

“Tom has been in the funeral home business over 50 years,” she said. “Everyone knows Tom, and most people have become friends with Tom. Those people need to know the history.”

Whitehead said she wants people to know what the heritage of the funeral home is and about the continued, personal service that has been there since the beginning. “I want people to have a feel for the history and know that this is one of the oldest businesses in town,” she said.

Her class was surprised by the scope of the project, she said.

“They were excited to be part of the history and for Tom. The book was finished before it was announced to the class, and I dedicated the book to them,” she said. “They were overwhelmed that someone spent the time to preserve this history, which was very gratifying.”

Whitehead said a project like the book that started as an assignment and grew into a book reflects what Leadership Blount is all about. “Getting to know more about our community and being involved in our community is the premise for Leadership Blount,” she said. “I felt this was a way of preserving some of the history and also a way to help with Relay for Life.”

Leadership Blount executive director Cathy Cate said Whitehead did the project all on her own. “There was no prompting from anyone else. It was all based on a homework assignment, a book report,” Cate said. “She waited until the very end, and it was a surprise to everyone. We were just impressed someone took the time to do this on their own and also impressed with her love of history and her love of Blount County.”

Cate said Whitehead has been in Blount County several years. “She was one of those people who came into Leadership Blount thinking she knew a lot about Blount County and took the program to heart and learned as much as she could and gave something back,” Cate said. “She felt a connection with the subject matter and felt this was her way of preserving some of the history she had learned during the class. She wanted to preserve it and make sure future generations enjoy it as well.”

Whitehead said that initially the plan was to just order a few books and surprise Click. “Then interest started coming along and there were people who said they would love to have the book for its history,” she said.

Talking Click into selling the book wasn’t easy, Whitehead said, because “that wasn’t the intent in the beginning,” she said.

Whitehead, who is going to be the 2011 Relay for Life chair, knew Click was a breast cancer survivor and that his brother, Jimmy Click, had passed away from cancer. Since she was getting so much interest in purchasing the book, she approached Tom with the idea of printing more and selling it.

“I approached Tom and said, ‘Why don’t we do this? There is interest, so let’s make a smaller version of the book, sell it for $10 and donate the proceeds to Blount County Relay for Life,’” she said.

From that June 9th conversation, a flurry of activity began. Now the books are to be available to the public on Tuesday, June 30. They will be available at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, the American Cancer Society office in Knoxville and First National Bank, 1708 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville or by calling Whitehead at 865-273-2405.

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