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Past Intellectual Freedom Winners
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1988  Faye Taylor, Principal, Greenbrier Middle School

Faye Taylor served as the director of elementary education and the director of curriculum development K-12 at the Tennessee Department of Education during the Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education lawsuit. In 1983, a group of parents and students in Hawkins County brought a lawsuit against the local education board, challenging the required use of certain readers that promoted values offensive to their religious beliefs. Claiming compelling state interest, the state intervened, and Taylor acted as the State Commissioner of Education’s designee and chief state witness in the case. At the time Taylor received the TLA Freedom of Information Award, she was principal of Greenbrier Middle School, which she designated as recipient of the financial award. Faye Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, a Master of Science and Education Specialist degrees from Austin Peay State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Tennessee State University. See Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education, 827 F.2d 1058 (6th Cir. 1987). 

 

1990  Bernard Schweid, Co-Owner, R.M. Mills Book Stores, Award Presented Posthumously

 Bernard (Bernie) Schweid was known as a champion of intellectual freedom, literacy, and civil rights. Soon after arriving in Nashville in 1945, Schweid founded an interracial chapter of the American Veterans Committee. During the early 1960's, Schweid, co-owner of Mills Book Stores, was one of the few white businessmen in downtown Nashville who spoke publicly against segregation and supported sit-in participants. Schweid joined the American Booksellers Association's 1978 challenge to Tennessee's new obscenity law, and in 1990, he continued to combat censorship as a spokesperson for the Nashville Coalition for the Constitution, a group formed to counter efforts of the Nashville Coalition Against Pornography. At the time of his death , Schweid was tutoring a 65-year-old student in Metro Nashville's literacy program. For more information about Bernie Schweid's contributions to Nashville's literary culture and interracial climate, see R. Waddle, "Community Mourns Bookseller Schweid" in the Tennessean, July 26, 1990, 1A. 

 

1991  Hedy Weinberg

In the late 1980’s, as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-TN), Hedy Weinberg spearheaded the formation of the statewide ACLU-TN Committee Against Censorship in response to the release of  "Censorship in the South,” a report detailing the results of a survey of censorship in four southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee).  The report recommended the adoption of policies and procedures that challenged censorship in the selection of instructional and library materials. TLA was a co-sponsor of the report. 

The newly-created committee, composed of librarians, educators and civil libertarians, focused on monitoring censorship attempts in public schools and libraries; increasing awareness of censorship; and mobilizing opposition to censorship attempts.

In addition, Weinberg lobbied the Tennessee General Assembly in support of the first amendment’s free speech guarantees and, joined by others, successfully defeated censorship proposals. Weinberg engaged TLA in the lobbying process, sharing information with the Intellectual Freedom Committee and frequently calling upon TLA to lend its voice in support of or opposition to legislation.    

 

1993  Charles Sherrill and Evealyn Clowers, Cleveland Public Library

Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist (2010- ), was the director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL)  in Bradley County, Tennessee, 1985-1993. Evealyn Clowers was the Chair of the CPL Library
Board. In the summer of 1993, a local representative of Concerned Women for America requested that the Bradley County Commission withhold funding from the public library until 18 offensive juvenile and young adult books were removed from circulation. The group checked out the books--deemed pornographic or satanic--and refused to return them to the library for review according to established procedures. When these tactics failed, the citizen group took the issue to the Bradley County Grand Jury. The issue received much media coverage and incited a heated public debate about the suitability of the library's resources for young readers.

Chuck Sherrill remembers the two-month censorship battle:  "After many weeks of wrangling, petitions, a Grand Jury hearing, pulpit-pounding, public meetings and other excitement, the entire Library Board appeared before the County Commission with 400 supporters. The Commission passed 10-2 a motion 'To support the Library Board and to stay out of their business in the future.'"

 

1995  Donna Hoffman and Tom Novak  

Professor Hoffman, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University and her colleague Professor Novak, an associate professor of marketing, took the lead in facilitating the discussion and criticism of both the now-discredited Marty Rimm study on marketing pornography on the Internet and a Time magazine article that cited the Rimm study. Specifically, they established the Cyber-Porn Debate Page, an online forum, and co-authored a critique of the Rimm study. The Rimm study purported to document the extent of pornography on the Internet and was cited by the Department of Justice in defense of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

In recognition, Internet World named Professors Hoffman and Novak Internet Heroes for 1995 and Newsweek named Professor Hoffman one of the "50 People Who Matter Most on the Internet" for 1995. 

 

1997  C. Lamar Wallis, Former Director, Memphis/Shelby County Public Library and Information Center

Lamar Wallis received the Freedom of Information award for his career-long support of intellectual freedom. As Director of the Memphis/Shelby County Public Library and Information Center (MSCPLIC), Wallis faced several book challenges, including a highly public 1969 challenge to Portnoy's Complaint by Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb. Wallis also defended intellectual freedom in the face of protests against the use of library meeting rooms by alleged "communist" groups. Wallis designated MSCPLIC as the recipient of the $500 award provided by SIRS. For more information about Lamar Wallis' devotion to intellectual freedom, see M. R. Lambert, "And the Award Goes To..." in Tennessee Librarian 50(2), Fall 1998, 6-17.

 

1999  Jerry Ward Thompson

Jerry Thompson was a distinguished and beloved investigative reporter and columnist for the Tennessean, known for his courage, intelligence, toughness and sensitivity.  In 1979, willing to take on the toughest assignments, he went undercover to investigate the Ku Klux Klan, putting himself in danger and taking himself away from friends, family and colleagues for 16 months. For this investigation and the articles and book that resulted, he won a National Headliner Award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Another of his outstanding investigations resulted in exposure of fraud in the Medicare program and a U.S. Senate committee hearing.

A man of faith, Thompson nonetheless took members of the tel-evangelical community to task for what he considered hypocritical, irreverent, and money-grubbing, inspiring regular calls for censorship of his columns. His colleague and friend Frank Ritter said of Thompson:  "He disliked pretense and made no pretense about it. He disliked bigotry and hatred and didn’t mince words when speaking about his convictions.”  

Jerry Thompson died in January 2000, after an eleven-year fight with cancer.

 

2004  Dr. Douglas Raber

 

2005  Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Director, and Aaron Shapiro, Senior Editor, One River Foundation for the Study of the World's Religions

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, an award-winning poet and essayist, devotes himself to writing, teaching, and directing the One River Foundation. Aaron Shapiro is a poet, essayist, teacher, and spoken word performer, as well as the senior editor of the One River Foundation. One of the major projects of the Foundation is the Spiritual Legacy Project. This project promotes "spiritual literacy, a basic knowledge of and familiarity with the sacred texts of the world's religions" and "is a profound way of working toward global understanding, respect, and peace."

 

2007  Jan Allen, Director, Marshall County Memorial Library, and John Rawe, Chair, Marshall County Memorial Library Board of Trustees

Jan Allen and John Rawe defended the Marshall County Memorial Library's obligation to provide materials and services that meet the needs of all the county's residents when in September 2006, local citizens protested against the library holding Spanish language story hours and collecting non-English language materials. Both Allen and Rawe displayed the highest level of professionalism in the face of a situation that received state and national press attention.

 

2008  Nashville for All of Us

Nashville for All of Us, a nonpartisan, community coalition composed of numerous individuals, organizations, companies, and four other coalitions, conducted a public campaign in 2008-2009 opposing proposed amendments to the Metro Nashville charter that would have made English the government's official language. Among other objections to the amendments, Nashville for All of Us noted that "a charter-driven reduction of foreign language use across Metro government would amount to forced isolation of immigrants during the English learning period" and could negatively impact the safety and health of non-English speakers in the community (http://www.nashvilleforallofus.org/2009/Issues.html).

 

2009  Karyn Storts-Brinks, Librarian, Fulton High School, Knox County Schools

Karyn Storts-Brinks challenged the Knox County Schools' Internet content filter configuration which was blocking access to gay-positive themed material while not blocking gay-negative material. When her challenge was not successful, Ms. Storts-Brinks pursued the issue by contacting the ACLU and persisted in the face of stern opposition until her challenge was successful. Meanwhile, she stood by her students and supported them through the storm of personal attacks aimed at them from people who wanted to suppress a gay-positive point of view.

 

2011  Devon Hicks

Devon Hicks, a young man with vision and drive, received the IF award in recognition of his tireless work in keeping the issue of LGBT discrimination at the forefront of public consciousness in Tennessee.  He championed opposition to Tennessee Senate Bill 049, Senator Stacey Campfield's infamous "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would limit any materials about or discussion of human sexuality to heterosexuality in Tennessee public schools in grades K-8. In 2011, as a 17-year-old Knoxville resident and straight ally of the LGBT community, Hicks organized two rallies, one in Nashville and one in Knoxville, garnering local and national media attention.He actively expressed his passion for the issues relevant to freedom of information online, both with his own website and on Facebook, including a "Don't Say Gay" protest group page and an "It's Ok to Say Gay” Facebook page.

 

2012  James Yoakley 

James Yoakley, Lenoir City High School English teacher and faculty advisor to the student newspaper and yearbook, defended the rights of students when they were reprimanded for publishing articles considered inappropriate by the school administration. The student newspaper featured an article "No Rights: The Life of an Atheist,” and the Yearbook included an interview with an openly gay student. 

 School administration asked for his resignation and a school board member called for a criminal investigation. Refusing to resign and hoping to communicate his conviction that students had done nothing wrong, James became a steadfast advocate for his students' rights beyond considerations of his own career or public perception. In response, James was lauded in national media for his courage and welcomed at a new school by administrators and colleagues in appreciation for his many talents as an exemplary educator.


2013 Exie Mai Harrington

Exie Mai Harrington, a circulation assistant at Nashville Public Library’s Edgehill Branch, was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging emergency rules (Chapter 337 of the Public Acts of 2013) regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). These rules severely limited how information about the PPACA could be shared, and who could help enroll others in qualified health plans, under penalty of fines. Exie and the other plaintiffs won, successfully suspending the emergency rules and enabling library workers, healthcare workers, pastors, and other public employees to teach others about the PPACA without fear of fines. 

  

2014 Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG), accepted by Deborah Fisher, Executive Director

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government deserves recognition for their work supporting our core value of intellectual freedom because of their sustained, years-long effort to make government transparent and public officials accountable in Tennessee. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government seeks to preserve, protect and improve citizen access to public information and open government in Tennessee through an alliance of citizens, journalists and civic groups. Their focus is research and education because they believe knowledgeable citizens are the best way to protect the free flow of information. TCOG provides: a hotline for open government issues, free public presentations about the ins-and-outs of Tennessee’s open records and open meetings law, and training for requesting public records. TCOG’s website offers practical advice about making a Public Records Act request including sample request letters. TCOG has coordinated statewide audits of local governments’ adherence to open records laws. One such audit helped lead to the creation of the Office of Open Records Counsel and the Advisory Committee on Open Government. TCOG’s blog and social media are a consistent source of news and a barometer of the state of government transparency in Tennessee.


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