The Arc Tennessee History

To view our PowerPoint slideshow of historical pictures from our 2012 60th anniversary celebration dinner click HERE.

The Arc Tennessee (current name) was first organized in July 1952 when sixty-five parents met in Nashville, Tennessee at George Peabody College.  Bylaws were adopted and on December 19, 1952 the association was chartered as a non-profit corporation under Tennessee Law.

Mr. Charles Zellner, who was from Memphis, was elected as the first President of the Tennessee Association for Retarded Children.  The association has had several different names over the years as the parents realized that as their children became adults the name was not appropriate.  For many years the state association was known as TARC.

The Arc of the United States (current name) was organized in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1950 as the National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children.  An historical account of this meeting by an anonymous author indicated that everybody ran out of breath with this name.  As a result, in 1952 the name was changed to National Association for Retarded Children and was known as NARC.  The NARC Charter was filed and recorded on March 27, 1953 in the State of Tennessee, corporation record book Miscellaneous A-21, page 344 and duly executed by the Secretary of State, Nashville on that date.  The Arc of the United States remained a Tennessee Corporation until 2000.

The Arc Tennessee became a state chapter member of The Arc of The United States in 1958.  As one of the early members of the association remarked as to the time and place of the beginning of the movement is like trying to isolate the first blade of grass to grow.

The Arc is truly a grass roots movement.  Members are comprised of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family members, friends and professionals in the disability field.  For many years philosophical debates concerning people with intellectual disabilities, devaluation, legal rights and reform took place across the country.  There were debates concerning normalization vs. isolation; person centered vs. system centered; supports vs. programs; community vs. institution, etc.   For twenty-five years members of The Arc worked with local school districts, state legislatures, and the United States Congress to convince them that children with intellectual disabilities had a right to a public education.  In 1975 Public Law 94-142 (now known as IDEA) guaranteed “a free public education to all.”

Parents and other members of the movement fought for civil rights, funding and supports for persons with intellectual disabilities of all ages which would allow them to live, learn, work and play with other members of the community who did not have disabilities. 

The Arc Tennessee Executive Directors:

  1. Don Wells, 1960
  2. Kermit C. Harrington, 1964
  3. Richard (Dick) L. Cullen, 1965
  4. H. Eugene (Gene) Nabi, 1968
  5. Roger Blue, 1975
  6. Mike Remus, 1998
  7. Walter Rogers, 2000
  8. Carrie Hobbs Guiden, 2009

The Arc Tennessee had its first office in 1960 in two rooms of the basement in the Stahlman Building.  Mike Kurek states in his book “As I Remember It” that the rooms had been occupied by magazine salesmen and needed much work.  Not wanting to overlook a gift horse, the President and Vice President of the Davidson County Chapter purchased two gallons of paint and one Sunday morning we had a paint party for three.  The Arc Tennessee has had several locations in Nashville since 1960. 

Teeny Jones was hired by the first executive director, Don Wells, as the first employee, on a part-time basis in 1960.  After two months he asked Mrs. Jones to work full time.  Teeny began a career with The Arc Tennessee that lasted over twenty-five years.  She has told the story many times about how in 1975 the current state president at the time, C. R. Lay, asked her to meet with Mr. Roger Blue and see what she thought about the new Executive Director.  Mr. Blue was doing a workshop at a motel near the airport.  Teeny saw Mr. Blue in the hallway and she asked him where they could meet.  He said “in the bar.”  I looked puzzled since I had never been in a bar and neither had the officer of The Arc Board that was with me.  When we met later “in the bar,” I think Mr. Blue was a little embarrassed.  But, we got along all right.  From that first meeting to the end of her 25 years she continued to call her boss “Mr. Blue.”  They had great respect for each other. 

Roger Blue became Executive Director in 1975 and served until his untimely death December 1, 1997.  Roger was exceptionally skillful in working with and for persons with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities, their parents, guardians and other family members.  Legislators of the State of Tennessee depended on Roger Blue to interpret and assist in drafting legislation which would impact the disability community.  Mr. Blue was not only a professional in the field, he also served as a volunteer, a guardian, board member and consultant to other non-profit corporations.

The Arc Tennessee Presidents:

  1. Charles Zellner, from Memphis 1952 – 1954 
  2. Clarence Landham, from Chattanooga 1954 – 1956
  3. Wylie Bowmaster, from Knoxville 1956 – 1958
  4. Mike Kurek, from Nashville 1958 – 1962
  5. Guy Wilson, from Cleveland 1962 – 1964
  6. Faye Smith (Proffitt), from Rogersville 1964 – 1965
  7. Bill Black, from Bethpage 1965 – 1967
  8. Wade Mitchell from Chattanooga 1967 – 1969
  9. C. W. (Skeet) Spence from Memphis 1969 – 1970
  10. W. H. (Tex) Maddux from Lebanon 1970 – 1972
  11. Bob Tipps from Tullahoma 1972 – 1974
  12. C. R. Lay from Kingston 1974 – 1976
  13. Rosemarie Hammond from Knoxville 1976 – 1978
  14. Ron Butler from Nashville 1978 – 1979
  15. Doug Fain from Oak Ridge 1979 – 1981
  16. Floyd Dennis from Nashville 1981 – 1983
  17. Doug Glenn from Lewisburg 1983 – 1985
  18. Garland Cureton from Morristown 1985 1987
  19. Pat Butler from Brentwood 1987 – 1989
  20. Henry Groseclose from Hixson 1989 – 1991
  21. Bill Brown from Nashville 1991 – 1993
  22. Glenda Bond from Crossville 1993-1995
  23. Don Redden from Dickson  1995 – 1997
  24. Mary Jordan from Johnson City 1997 – 1999
  25. Elise McMillan from Nashville 1999 – 2001
  26. Don Redden from Dickson 2001 – 2003
  27. Ron Butler from Nashville 2003 – 2005
  28. Carol Greenwald from Memphis 2005 – 2007
  29. Ruth Roberts from Memphis 2007 – 2009
  30. Glenda Bond from Crossville 2009 – 2011
  31. holly lu conant rees from Nashville 2011 - 2013
  32. John Lewis from Nashville 2013 - 2015
  33. John Shouse from Franklin 2015 - 2017
  34. Ann Curl from Franklin 2017 -

Each President, executive director, dedicated employees, and volunteers brought their individual strengths and skills to the Association. The past 60 years have not been easy.  The administrations faced financial limitations, representatives in the legislature had to be cultured, new departments within the state and federal government had to be formed and attitudes had to be changed.  The work goes on!

In 2006 the Board of Directors voted to discontinue the use of the words "mental retardation" in all materials and publications.

--Pat Butler


Significant Contributions of The 20th Century – A Project of The National Historic Preservation Trust on Intellectual disabilities

The 20th Century Project, articles by Margaret Gould and Quincy Abbott

As I Remember It, by Michael H. Kurek