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East Tennessee Historical Society Executive Director Henderson to Retire Successor Dr. Warren Dockter Announced

Retiring Executive Director Cherel Henderson (left) and Dr. A. Warren Dockter, ETHS’s New President and CEO (right)

Executive Director Cherel Bolin Henderson has announced her plans to retire from the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) effective December 31, 2020, reported ETHS Board Chairman Jerome Melson. Cherel, a Jefferson County native, joined the ETHS staff in 1987, was promoted to associate director in 1995, and became executive director in 2003. Over the past 17 years under Cherel’s leadership, ETHS has continued to thrive and grow.

Cherel’s many achievements are noteworthy. She is the founding director of the ETHS Tennessee Bicentennial family heritage program, First Families of Tennessee, which now numbers almost 17,000 members from all over the world and was editor of the book First Families of Tennessee: A Register of Early Settlers and Their Present-Day Descendants. Other highlights of her career include the 2004 completion of the East Tennessee History Center’s renovation of the Old Custom House and addition that houses the Museum of East Tennessee History. She also oversaw the design and construction of the Museum’s signature exhibition, Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee, which opened in 2008. In 2021, ETHS will open an interactive Children’s Gallery, History Headquarters, funded through a grant from the State of Tennessee.

“Cherel’s warmth, sincerity, and her love for all things East Tennessee, have been driving forces for ETHS. Cherel’s leadership legacy will be evident in every aspect of ETHS for many years to come,” said Melson.

Cherel remarked on her retirement plans saying “I am looking forward to having more time to focus on my greatest pleasures – my children and grandchildren, historical research and writing, and traveling to far corners ‘to go to the place; stand on the spot’ where historical events took place. After 33 years at ETHS, I will certainly continue to be engaged in the East Tennessee history community.”

East Tennessee native A. Warren Dockter, Ph.D., who grew up in Grainger County, has been named by the ETHS Board of Directors as the new President and CEO after an extensive search effort was conducted, announced Melson. He worked with his family’s sign company in Blount County and attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to earn his undergraduate degree in history and political science. He received his Masters and Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham in England, United Kingdom (UK); was awarded a fellowship at the University of Cambridge, England, UK; and has been a historian at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, for the past four and a half years. 

“Warren is excited to return home to join the East Tennessee Historical Society and plans to be on board as of February 1, 2021,” Melson said. “Our directors and staff are eager for him to join the ETHS family as we embark on a new decade and a new normal. He brings to ETHS an extensive knowledge and passion for history, experience in public engagement, management and fundraising in the non-profit sector, including work with the International Churchill Society, British Institute of Ankara, and Aberystwyth University.”