Though I say that I am from Sevier County, I was actually born in the old Jefferson City Hospital on Russell Avenue. My mother was a Jefferson County native from a small farm off Sager Road, later living in Frame Addition in Jefferson City proper. Her family doctor was Sam Fain, M.D., hence, he was the one who delivered me there June of 1951. Shortly afterwards, we returned to Sevierville to our home with my father and brother. I lived in Sevierville until I came to Carson-Newman College in 1969. After graduation in 1975, I decided to stay here. In 1993, I was blessed with the birth of my son, Joe; and, in 1995, with the birth of my daughter, Ella. My wife, Vonda, is a Professor at Duncan School of Law.
My father was Joe W. Dockery. He was born in 1903 and grew up on English Mountain. In 1919, he went to Sevierville to attend Murphy Collegiate Institute. After completing the first year of college in 1927 at Murphy, he attended Lincoln Memorial College to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree with four majors and Lifetime Teaching Certificates in Elementary and Secondary Education, in 1933. Needless to say, he returned to Sevier County to be a teacher. In 1939, he joined the United States Army and stayed for the duration of World War II. He was a veteran of the D-Day Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home to Sevierville to run for County Trustee in 1946 and held that office until 1962. At that time, he returned to teaching as a profession, but also served six years as City Councilman. He retired in 1970 and passed in 1988.
My mother, Mary Lou Love Dockery, was a Jefferson County native, born in 1907. Her father decided to sell the small family farm on Sager Road to move to town, so that my mother could attend Jefferson County High School and also Carson-Newman College. She graduated in 1936, with a Bachelor of Arts, and also Lifetime Teaching Certificates in Elementary and Secondary Education. She started teaching actually as she attended college at $60.00 a month and continued afterwards. She taught at several Jefferson County schools, including Mt. Horeb, Chestnut Grove, and Chestnut Hill. Interestingly, she taught at Parrott’s Chapel, before Douglas Lake took it. At Mt. Horeb, she started a hot lunch program to feed the children that had not brought lunches, noting that they learned better with full stomachs. In the early 40’s, she took a respite from her educational career to join the War effort as a calutron lady at Oak Ridge. Before the War, she and my father had met at a “pie supper” at Chestnut Hill School. They married in 1947. She finished her 33-year teaching career at Pigeon Forge Elementary in Sevier County in 1983.
This qualified me to start my career as a laborer for a local construction company, Cherokee Construction, owned by Carl Skeen. This was alright by me, since through high school and college, I had worked as a chain saw operator, clearing right-of-way on Ski Mountain; a rod-buster for McKinnon Bridge, working on I-40; and, maintenance and repair helper in the New Jersey Zinc Mine, here in Jefferson City. Back then, I was skinny so I always wound up on the top tier of my uncle’s tobacco barn. Patriot Hills Golf Course now occupies that land, but I’m not too sure which hole the barn was on.
At Cherokee Construction, after I had given up the college-boy attitude, I met John Thomas Kinkead, from New Market, who became my mentor in carpentry. I learned how to build houses and barns. John showed me the differences in wood; which grain to use where and how to keep a structure from falling. The greatest thing he taught me, was the attitude that it took to do the work. “If you don’t have enough time to do it right the first time, you sure won’t have enough time to do it right the second time.” I learned his philosophy at three dollars an hour.
In 1979, I went out on my own. No one warned me about the amount of soot that could accumulate in the walls of eighty-year-old houses, or that you can’t get the bow out of an oak floor joist, but I found out as I crawled under, over, and around those old houses doing repair and fix-up. I was even hired to build a ramp on top of a house for a man to jump a motorcycle off. I did get to do some house framing and eventually got my first house to build, turnkey. I wound up building several, then got an offer to go to the North to do commercial construction.
Up north, I found myself working for companies that specialized in building retail outlets in shopping malls. I wound up working in twenty states and the District of Columbia, as carpenter and supervisor on dress stores, men’s stores, cookie stores, restaurants, shoe stores, baby boutiques, athletic apparel stores, and lastly, the Bath and Body Works in the Morristown Mall. I built forty-six stores for Commercial Contractors from Michigan. Turned them all over on time with no call backs.
In 1990, I came back to Jefferson County. I built two houses, remodeled nine car dealerships for one car dealer, then, went into the commercial cabinet business building laminated cabinets for hospitals and medical clinics.
In 2007, the national economy tanked and my business disappeared and hard times hit. Hard times are hard, but they teach you things. Yes, you can live on oatmeal three times a day. After they turn your electricity off, you still have enough hot water to take a shower, if you can do it in the dark. Your friends will stand by you. If you think that it can’t get worse, I know for a fact it will. You always have to remember that things will get better. And things did get better. Business returned.
In 2007, I decided to dabble in politics. In 2010 and 2012, I ran for Tennessee State Representative from the 17th District, and in 2014, I decided to get serious when I ran for Jefferson County Mayor. That year, I received 41% of the vote against an eight-year incumbent. A couple of days after the results were in from the polls, I called my opponent and congratulated him on his victory. I did, however, take the time to remind him that I still considered myself to be the best man for the job.
Now in 2018, I am still the best man for the job of Jefferson County, County Mayor.
My wife is Vonda M. Laughlin, Doctor of Jurisprudence, LLM, Sidekick, loving campaign coach. “She’s the reason they let me in.”
My daughter is Ella Dockery (Jimi Sharp), Manager at Mellow Mushroom and Cinnabon. She is the mother of my grandson, Rocko.
My son is Joe Dockery, the leader and lead guitarist for Art Smashes Records. He also works sales at Guitar Center.
Bre is our Corgy. She is definitely a hardcore conservative, possibly a John Bircher. She is sixteen and and has been with Vonda since her rescue.
Hap (Happy Dog), our other rescue, an Australian shephard, has a leftover Hippie’s soul, “love, peace, fun, and treaties.”