(May 26, 2023) - University of Tennessee leaders, elected officials and family members today celebrated the dedication of its “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural in White County.
The mural is located in Sparta on a shed at Johnson Farm, owned by Rena and the late Bill Johnson. Completed in October 2022, the 80-foot-wide mural is visible to the 2,907 travelers passing by each day on Roberts-Matthews Highway.
The Johnsons have deep ties to both UT and agriculture. Bill was a UT Knoxville football standout—the 1957 team co-captain, an SEC All-American guard and Academic All-American—and later served many years on the UT Board of Trustees. The couple met at UT Knoxville. Shortly after they married, they returned to Sparta where Bill took over his family farm.
“When my husband was living, we had a huge barn back to my right and when the football team won the national championship in 1998, he couldn’t wait to get a big sign up there that said ‘national champions,’” Rena Johnson said. “So, when I read that you were looking for more barns to put a sign on, it kind of just came naturally.”
The Johnson Farm has been passed down for multiple generations, granting it the status of Century Farm. Today, the farm—owned by Rena and leased out to two local farmers who handle the operations—has been owned by the family for almost 130 years.
“We have to thank the Johnsons for not just the mural, but over 100 years of giving back to this community, the state of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee,” UT System President Randy Boyd said.
“Almost 50% of available land in Tennessee is earmarked for agricultural use and that’s absolutely amazing,” said Keith Carver, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president of the UT Institute of Agriculture. “When you have a family like the Johnsons that agree to partner with the University of Tennessee and let us put an Everywhere You Look, UT mural on it, it’s really special.”
To learn more about the “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural campaign, visit: https://everywhere.tennessee.edu/murals/.
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