Sevier County’s favorite daughter Dolly Parton was born on January 19, 1946 in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, just outside of Sevierville in the Smoky Mountains.
One of 12 children, she moved to Nashville to pursue music following high school and has won numerous Country Music Awards, Grammys and starred in hit films like “9 to 5,” and “Steel Magnolias” in the years since. In 1985, Parton opened her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Born Dolly Rebecca Parton, she grew up in a poor family and made up songs to escape every day struggles. Her talent showed as by the time she turned 11, she was already singing on local radio stations.
Parton launched her solo career in 1967, and though she partnered with Porter Wagoner for his television show from 1967-1975, she remained primarily a solo act. (It was for Wagoner that Parton dedicated the ever-popular “I Will Always Love You.”) She won the Country Music Award for female vocalist in 1975 and 1976.
In 1987, she recorded Trio with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. In 1993, she put out another collaboration with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette titled Honky Tonk Angels. In 1999, she returned to acoustics with The Grass Is Blue, which won a Grammy for best bluegrass album. Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
In addition to music, Parton also became interested in acting, starring in 1980’s 9 to 5, 1982’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and 1989’s Steel Magnolias. She also opened the Dollywood theme park in 1985, which continues to be one of the South’s most popular vacation destinations. Parton is married to Carl Dean, who runs an asphalt-paving business. They married in 1966.
Parton launched Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 1996 to benefit children living in Sevier County. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.
Dolly’s Imagination Library became so popular that in the year 2000 she announced that she would make the program available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally. Since the initial program launch in the United States, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gone from just a few dozen books to nearly 40,000,000 books mailed to children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.