For Tyler Boyd, McMinn County’s Bicentennial is doubly special as it marks the centennial of women voting.
Boyd, a 32-year-old native Athenian, is a descendent of former state Rep. Harry T. Burn — the Niota man who cast the deciding vote ratifying the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote — almost 100 years ago.
In order to amend the Constitution, 75% of states had to ratify the new law. As the 36th state to cast its approval, Tennessee and Burn made history.
This week, Boyd’s book “Tennessee Statesman Harry T. Burn: Woman Suffrage, Free Elections and a Life of Service” was published by Arcadia.
“It feels great,” Boyd said. “I’m very proud of the accomplishment and I learned a lot. I hope it will be the first of many.”
Boyd, who teaches high school history, has been researching his ancestor for the purpose of writing the book since 2017.
“I put my knowledge and skills to what I hope people conclude is good use outside the classroom,” he said. “I’m really happy that his whole life is chronicled because so much of his life, publicly, has not been explored. I’m glad I got it all collected. I want to paint a personal picture of him.”
To Boyd, writing the book was like paying tribute to an event which he sees as one of the world’s most pivotal moments.
“I heard it described as the largest single democratizing event in the history of the country and maybe in the world,” he said. “In the United States, you had white land-owning men voting for the longest time and then you had African-Americans voting on paper. It took until the 20th century for women to get voting rights.”
He said the book also amplifies the idea that one person or one vote can make a difference.
“People may think their vote doesn’t matter in a country of millions,” Boyd said. “Anyone who’s an active participant in their community could possibly find their self voting on something like this in the legislation.”
He continued, “You had a railroader, a young man working on the railroad who got elected by his peers … and all of a sudden, he has a chance to change the country and the world forever. That’s why it’s important to remember that one vote can make a difference.”
He said another moral of the story is that “long-term vindication” exists, because despite being harassed for his decision — Burn stood tall in his beliefs.
“Years later, he’s a beloved figure — he’s been vindicated,” Boyd said. “I hope people realize — do what you think is right now and if people really criticize you for it and they smear you and attack you, just push through it because you’ll be vindicated for it even if it takes a long time.”
Most of all, Boyd hopes his book will inspire folks to learn more about not only Burn, but also history.
“I want them to learn about a figure who’s from here,” he said. “I think they hopefully will walk away and learn about some tidbits about history in McMinn County and in our state.”
There is “a lot of great history in the E.G. Fisher Public Library, the McMinn County Historical Society, Etowah Carnegie Library,” Boyd said. “These books need to be read and enjoyed by people and … hopefully, after they read mine they will understand there’s a lot more to learn about.”
Boyd is a graduate of McMinn County High School and the University of Tennessee, where he majored in political science and history. He also has a master’s degree in education.
He will be selling autographed copies of his book from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at the McMinn Living Heritage Museum.