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Historic former Miller home gets fresh face this year

Tony Cureton stands in front of the former George Miller Jr. home that Cureton
bought at auction this past summer. Cureton has been doing a complete renovation
since August to make the historic 1885 home livable again.
Published: 10:56 PM, 11/01/2013 Last updated: 10:57 PM, 11/01/2013

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The haunting days have passed and mild November days arrive as quickly as falling yellow leaves in our hometown, where sleepy hollow folks are glad to fall back into bed for another hour on Sunday at the end of Daylight Savings Time.

During the dark the first day of November a storm sent leaves and limbs flying and tore the stuffing out of many a strawman along East Broadway in Newport. Last week also saw that LaCaretta Mexican Restaurant has left Bryant Town and moved to the Western Plaza Shopping Center. Several people commented on the interesting window display and decoration of the business.

Last words with Tommy

There’s a couple more things to say about Tommy V. Lillard Jr., before heading back to Newport, about his Tennessee football interests, and he is as orange as they come. Every Tennessee Knoxville home game that goes by adds another number to his 340-plus consecutive attended games. Former UT President Joe Johnson, who spoke at the Newport Kiwanis Club last Tuesday, would be proud of Tommy’s achievement and support of the university they both attended to get degrees. By the way, Joe Johnson is as mentally sharp as ever and so eloquent about the needs and accomplishments of the university system. However, he did need a walked to get into the Fox & Hounds banquet room with some aid from President-Elect Brad Davidson. It seems that Johnson suffers from an autoimmune disorder that caused him to lose control of one leg.

Over 52 years, Tommy has followed UT football and can tell a story or two. He did have a mishap attending one game, He was involved in a car crash about two blocks from Neyland Stadium. “People ran up to me and they didn’t say ‘ are you hurt?’ they wanted to know if I wanted to sell my tickets.” Although the car was heavily damaged, Tommy went on to attend the game. Actually it was Fred Garver’s car and the insurance company totaled it out.

The most exciting game, in Tommy’s recollection, was the Nov. 7, 1959 Tenn. vs. LSU match. LSU was the national champion the prior year so the Vols were the underdogs. Tommy was sitting in the end zone, section X, where in this pre-civil rights era the blacks were relegated to the end zone. This didn’t bother Tommy at all. “We were ahead 14-13. Billy Cannon with LSU failed to convert on two points.” So you can see why Tommy ranks this as one of the Vol’s top five games. Here is how he ranks the others: Tenn. 20, Florida 17 in Sept. 1998; Tenn. 28, Arkansas 24 in Nov. 1998; Tenn. 35, Alabama 28 in Oct. 1982; and Tenn. 30, Florida 28 in Sept. 2004. “I’ve sat all over the stadium and saw and see a lot of Cocke Countians. Many are ushers.” He has walked as far as three miles to the stadium and watched it grow and change over half century. The early years seating was about 48,000 compared to about 109,000 today. Make no mistake, sports is not Tommy’s life but church and community service is. During his years he has served as a director of the Rural Medical Center at Cosby; former Cocke Farmers Cooperative board member; Beef Council member; Outstanding Young Conservation Farmer for 1960; and treasurer of Cocke County Camp for Gideon International of which he has been a member for almost 30 years.

Old house, new life

 Mid summer the Plain Talk published advertising announcing the auction of the former George Miller, Jr. home at 244 Woodlawn. You recall him as the affable auctioneer for the famous auction house he operated for decades off Knoxville Highway. Some 25 years ago he showed me through the house, which was in a wonderful state and complete with many antiques he had acquired during a lifetime of acquiring and selling estates. I had planned to be at the auction, which was handled by Miller’s son, Donnie Miller, but forgot it and didn’t think much more about this late July sale until driving by the house in late summer or early fall. There was a lot of activity for tree trimming, shrub and weed manicuring, and obvious renovation. On another trip down Woodlawn Ave. I saw a group of men in the lawn and my curiosity caused me to turn around to find out who bought the three-story frame home and what they intend to do with it.

Tony Cureton, who is in his late 60s, was giving instructions to workers, and, when I introduced myself, Tony admitted he was the guy who ended up with the big project. Although I have never met him before, that I recall, when he mentioned his wife, Janice Cureton, I’ve helped her many times through the Plain Talk to publicize the Red Hat Ladies. Betty McMillan later reminded me that Tony is Parrottsville Mayor Mary Keller’s brother. Tony took the time to give me a quick tour and tell me of his plans. He bought the 1885 house that has some historic significance for $75,000. It sits towards the front of 1.3 acres and includes a garage with a finished apartment over it.

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