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Paul F. Brown taught K-12 music for 10 years in Morgan County, Tennessee. He is the author of Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee (University of Tennessee Press, 2018). As a freelance writer and researcher, he has published articles and lectured on James Agee and Frances Hodgson Burnett at various forums and is a consultant for a forthcoming Agee documentary. Paul and his wife live in Knoxville with their son.

I entered the world in Knoxville, Tennessee, on the site of a Civil War battle and eight blocks west of author James Agee's birthplace.

As a kindergartener I saw the city's newly erected Sunsphere but missed the chance to attend the World's Fair that drew millions of visitors there in 1982. That year my family moved to Oceanside, California, where I grew accustomed to stucco, Mission style architecture, and the smells of sagebrush and the salty Pacific.

After college, I returned to Knoxville to teach music. Before long I learned of James Agee and picked up a used copy of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family. Ever since then, the region's rich history has turned my attention toward research and writing.


Like Agee, Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, also spent formative years in East Tennessee before achieving wider fame elsewhere. When I wrote about these authors, I described their long-lost homesites, explored how their experiences in the region influenced their work, and highlighted the need for historic preservation in sustaining the region's cultural heritage.

Let's talk soon about how I can help tell your story, and the stories of places you love.