Hometown girl turned pop-icon, Dolly Parton, is the most celebrated person from Sevier County, Tennessee. On May 2, 1987, the town of Sevierville and Sevier County paid tribute to her by way of a statue on the front lawn of the courthouse in downtown Sevierville. The statue was designed by local artist Jim Gray and has become a stop for many people visiting the area. Thousands of Dolly Fans have stopped by over the years to be photographed with the statue and carry home that memory of their trip to the mountains.
Dolly Parton grew up in Sevier County. Upon graduating from Sevier County High School, she moved to Nashville to become a star. Over the years as Dolly became more and more famous, she never forgot the people of her Tennessee mountain home. In 1986, Dolly threw her lot in with the Herschend family to open Dollywood which has become an award winning theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Two years later, she opened Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge which has since become the longest running dinner show in town. Along with helping to bolster the tourist industry, Parton has also helped increase the graduation rate and the literacy rate in Sevier County with other projects including the Books From Birth Imagination Library program which provides free books to young children throughout the state.
Sevier County wanted to show their gratitude to Dolly by commissioning a statue made in her honor. To that end they contacted local artist Jim Gray to make the statue that now resides in front of the courthouse. Jim Gray is a part of the cultural landscape of the Smokies. He moved his entire family here in the 1960s to begin capturing the area that he loved and that he grew to call home. Gray is most well known as a painter and his galleries are located all over the area, but he is also a talented sculptor. He turned these talents into creating a statue of Dolly that would capture the wonder of this young woman before her move to Nashville when she was still a member of this small Smoky Mountain community.
The statue is located in front of the courthouse in downtown Sevierville, which is the county seat of Sevier County. The statue depicts Dolly seated on a rock playing the guitar. You can see in the statue, the face that America and the world would grow to love but you can also see the young girl that had big dreams of stardom and entertaining people as her chosen vocation.
The next time you know that you are coming to the Smokies, make sure to drop by and check out the statue of Dolly Parton. Pay your respects to the queen of country music and the lady that has made this side of the Smokies what it is today. Snap a picture, strike your best Dolly pose and remember that if you spend a little time walking around downtown Sevierville that you are, potentially, walking in the footsteps of Dolly Parton.