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Knoxville Housing Authority (Gift of Arthur Byrne).

Identifier: MSC 0358

Scope and Contents

The Knoxville Housing Authority (KHA) Collection consists of photographs, reports, correspondence, legal files, court filings, newspaper clippings, memoranda, and notes compiled by Arthur Byrne during his tenure as attorney for the KHA. The legal files are matters relating to various cases in which Byrne defended the KHA. Project files are made up of photographs, news clippings, and, in the case of Riverfront-Willow, the KHA’s official published redevelopment plan complete with maps. Some original file folders have been retained as they contain notes and other information written by Byrne.


  • 1954 - 1980

Conditions Governing Access

Material is available for research. Prior arrangement MUST be made by contacting the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at

Biographical / Historical

Interstate and urban renewal projects affected Knoxville as they did other cities across the country. New Deal housing projects began in the late 1930s with the construction of College Homes, Western Heights, and Austin Homes. The Knoxville Housing Authority (KHA) utilized federal funding to clear "slum houses" from East Knoxville. Four major urban renewal projects, Riverfront-Willow, Mountain View, Morningside, and Yale Avenue, changed Knoxville's landscape from 1954 until 1975. The first, aptly named Riverfront-Willow, extended from the Tennessee River to Willow Street, through the African American residential and commercial community in downtown Knoxville known as "the Bottom" because of its low-lying topography. The 97 acre project demolished at least 500 dwellings and evicted 508 African American families from the neighborhood. The neighborhood lost 15 churches, over 100 businesses, a number of schools, the African American Carnegie library, the Gem Theater, and Black Medical Arts building where a number of African American physicians, dentists, and optometrists practiced. The KHA appropriated 35 acres of the development area to construct the eastern loop of the downtown highway complex, known as James White Parkway. The second and third urban renewal projects were Mountain View and Morningside in East Knoxville, developed from 1964 to 1974. The KHA selected 571 acres east of the Riverfront-Willow area for their next two projects. During the renewal process some 2,700 structures were destroyed. Fewer than half of the 71 minority business owners displaced during these projects survived relocation. Of those survivors, building ownership dropped nearly 10 percent. The Black population of Mountain View decreased by about 8.5% from 1960 to 1968, while further east the Black population nearly doubled. James White Parkway formed a physical barrier between these communities and downtown, effectively segregating East Knoxville. The addition of housing projects forced former homeowners to become renters, which along with the loss of businesses, restricted Black Knoxvillians' ability to accumulate generational wealth. Arthur Dillard Byrne, Jr. was born on August 27, 1918, in Gainesboro, Tennessee, to Arthur Byrne Sr., and Esther Neeley Byrne. He graduated from Maryville College in 1939, where he participated in Alpha Sigma Society and wrote for the Highland Echo, the school newspaper. Arthur met his wife, Jean White Byrne at Maryville College and the pair married on September 26, 1942. On January 31, 1943, Arthur enlisted in the US Army at Ft. Oglethorpe. He was commissioned as an officer in the Army Air Corps later that year and served as a lieutenant and captain in the 65th Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Group in the South Pacific. He graduated with his J.D. from the University of Tennessee and practiced law in Knoxville until his retirement in 1999. He was a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Federation of Insurance Counsel, and the Tennessee Bar Association, and served as president of the Knoxville Bar Association from 1963-1964. The association presented him with the "Governor's Award" in 1994. He worked as an attorney for the Knoxville Housing Authority in the 1950s and 60s during the period of urban renewal. Arthur and Jean had two daughters, Laurie Byrne and Terry Byrne. He died on June 26, 2007.


1 box

Language of Materials


Zachary Keith
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Repository Details

Part of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection Repository

601 S Gay Street
3rd floor
Knoxville Tennessee 37902 United States