Rohe Track Era All About Us!


Tom Q. Black

Tom Black was born 11 Mar 1904, Tellico Plains, Tennessee. He received a high school education and went on to prominence in Knoxville both in business and in his long-term commitment and generosity to the University of Tennessee. Among several endeavors at UT, Tom Q. Black, served as Chairman of the University of Tennessee Development Council for several years.

Tom had a successful business career in Snack Food Manufacturing. In 1956, Tom Black purchased Cherokee Mills to use as the site of his potato chip production empire. Tom’s Potato Chips operated in the western part of the building (the 1933 addition), for years producing potato chips for distribution throughout the southeast. Around the same time, Mr. Black signed a lease with Atlantic Mills to open a department store in the eastern part of the building (the 1917 section). Many Knoxvillians fondly recall shopping at Atlantic Mills, considered the predecessor to current big-box stores such as Kmart and Walmart.

Tom became a big supporter of the UT Track team in the 1964 when he loaned UT track coach Chuck Rohe the use of his huge wooden floor and metal roofed tobacco barn which was not used for storage during the cold winter months. Rohe painted lane lines on the floor and soon had the longest indoor straight-away ,flat banked track with the tightest turns in the world. Temperatures inside during afternoon practices mirrored the previous nights low. Mr. Black was a frequent visitor to the chilly practices and observed the dramatic improvement in the young UT team. In 1965, Mr. Black committed the funds necessary for UT to construct a new state of the art outdoor track in the newly cleared urban renewal area west of campus. The track was named Tom Black Track and opened in 1967 and hosted the Southeastern Conference Championship in May of that year. It was to be the first of many top caliber meets for all ages to be hosted over the years at Tom Black Track

Tom died on 12 Nov 1970 in Knoxville, TN and was buried at Highland Memorial Cemetery. Tom was survived by his wife, Katherine Whitten Black, and son, Albert.