Marilyn Toppins: A Servant Leader Through and Through

Marilyn Toppins

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is.”

Those were just some of the values instilled in Marilyn Toppins by her mother, and they’re words she lives by to this day.

Frankly, if you’ve not seen Toppins working in Union County, you’re not paying attention. She and husband Wayne are retired now, but that’s not stopping Toppins from putting in as many volunteer hours as she can for organizations like Union County Business and Professional Association, Preservation Union County, the Union County Museum, and the Union County Heritage Festival.

“As far back as I can remember, since I was 11 or 12 years old, I’ve always been involved in something,” she said. “You’ve got to be involved in something that’s bigger than you are. That’s what citizenship in American and making people’s lives better is all about.”

Toppins joked that maybe she shouldn’t remind people that she’s “not from around here.”

“It’s going to ruin everything, because people are just now starting to think that I’m from Union County,” she said. “In the last seven or eight years or so, people are asking me, ‘You’re from Union County, right?’ And to me that was probably the greatest compliment that I’ve ever gotten.”

But all joking aside, Toppins hails from Knoxville, although she and Wayne have lived in their Mountain View Estates home in Plainview since 1972. She grew up in Norwood, attended Central High School and UT, where she and Wayne met in the computer programming department.

Toppins graduated with a major in history and minors in speech, English and secondary education. They moved to the Condon community, which would later become the town of Plainview, on April Fool’s Day. They wanted to find an affordable house with a yard and a country setting. They still live in the house today, a house built by former Union County Sheriff Earl Loy, and they raised two sons there, Jonathan and Jerry, now grown.

Soon, Toppins had a job teaching a 2nd and 3rd grade split with 33 students at Luttrell Elementary School. She stayed at Luttrell for 12 years. In her career with Union County Public Schools, she’s also been a special education teacher at the high school, an adult education teacher, middle school teacher, professional development coordinator and principal at Maynardville Elementary School. She even served as Director of Schools for a time.

She was also active in, and at one point president of, the Union County Educators Association, the teachers’ union. She said one of the great achievements of the union during her involvement was the graduated pay scale for teachers.

“Teachers in Union County never had a graduated pay scale until a group of us at UCEA sat down and wrote one,” Toppins said. “That was a real difference in Union County, and to this day it’s still going on. It made a major improvement in teachers’ lives, and it gave them something to really work for, more incentive to stay in Union County. We were losing teachers drastically, and it really did help to stop the movement. At one time, the lifetime earnings for a teacher in Union County surpassed Knox County.”

She also said she witnessed a change in “spirit” in Union County schools in the early 1990s.

“The people teaching in Union County in the early 1990s, there was a spirit that children just believed that they could take their Union County education and do whatever they wanted to with it,” she said. “Kids who never thought they would do anything more than work on a tobacco farm, and they went on to college and they have good, solid, paying jobs, and they have done really well. In that time frame, you saw the tobacco farms go away and people finding other kinds of work.”

Toppins was also active in government in the town of Plainview for many years. She signed the 1992 petition for incorporation, and she served on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for 10 years and as chair of the town’s planning commission.

In 1998, Plainview mayor Bill von Schipmann, known to neighbors and friends as “Von,” asked Toppins if she would run for alderman.

“It was the funniest thing,” she said. “I got in my car and drove to Knoxville, and I said, ‘Lord, if you really want me to run for this office, you’ve got to send me a sign.’ On my way back, I stopped at Midway IGA, and a person from Plainview asked me if I was going to run. Then I stopped at the Pit Stop and another person asked. I got in my car and I said, ‘Lord, that’s three in one day, so I guess I’m running.’”

Toppins said she and Wayne plan to stay in Plainview as long as they can.

“To me, it’s like heaven right here. Who can ask for a better place to live? (Plainview government is) so transparent, diverse and progressive. I could go on and on. It’s people who come up with ideas, and they really want to see those ideas be implemented, and they want to pay for them themselves. Government by itself is always so slow, but in Plainview it progresses. It really moves,” she said.

But, it is perhaps her volunteer work for which Toppins is best known. She’s currently board chair of the Union County Business and Professional Association and president of the Union County Heritage Festival, an event that draws thousands of visitors to Wilson Park each year. She’s served on the board of Leadership Union County and still helps out. She also volunteers with the Union County Museum and Preservation Union County, and helps Union County 4-H as a judge for their public speaking contests.
“I love to do those things,” she said, and she speculates that her volunteerism is part of what’s behind her acceptance as a bona fide Union Countian.

“It was many years before I could put a label on what I felt I needed to do, and that was servant leadership,” she said. “As people got to know me, some of my ideas may have seemed radical at first, but we just found more common ground. If we’re going to do something, it’s going to take work, and I’m willing to work, and that’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m committed, and I’ll see it through.”

Just as Toppins plans to stay at home in Plainview as long as she can, she’s also going to keep on volunteering in retirement as long as she can. She’s even picking up some new projects, like writing for

She invites anyone who wants to get involved in local volunteer opportunities to write her an email at

Who knows? Maybe you’ll get bitten by the servant leadership bug, too.


Are You Ready?

Archie Wilson

1 Peter 3:15 KJV
[15] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:


Tripping into Christmas, Part 2

Brooke Cox

“Here you go.” Timmy lays his red and green house shoe down on his bed in front of Tripp.
“This will be a comfortable bed for you.” He pushes down inside it with his finger. “See? It has a thick foam insole.”
Tripp looks up to Timmy and raises an eyebrow. “You want me to sleep in your stinky house shoe?”
“It’s not stinky!” Timmy protests. “My Mamaw gave them to me last year and I only wore them when she was here.”
Tripp pulls glitter out of his pocket and sprinkles it inside the house shoe. “Just in case.”
“Very funny. Now hop in the shoe please.”

Give a Kid the World

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Forty-Eight

It was forty years ago this very month that I received a Christmas gift that I would even now not trade for thousands of dollars.

I’m not even sure how it came about, but somehow my mother began saving S & H green stamps. At some point Hensley’s IGA must have issued them, for I don’t remember my mother ever shopping anywhere else. Perhaps she had my sister Anna Mae, my brother Jerry, or Cousin Lizzie Norton get them for her, as they lived and shopped in Knoxville.

Chiropractic and Professional Baseball and Football

Chiropractic and Professional Baseball and Football

Chiropractic’s integration into professional sports medical teams has resulted in the creation of the Professional Baseball Chiropractic Society (PBCS). The first annual PBCS workshop was held in March 2015. Many of the team chiropractors in Major League Baseball were in attendance as well as a few from Minor League Baseball. This first seminar even included a surprise visit from former MLB manager Joe Torre, who took some time to address those in attendance on how beneficial chiropractic was not only to him, but also to the players on the teams he managed.

Parallel Parking

Parallel Parking

Can you parallel park? I did once, only once. I quit while I was ahead. It is hard to do. I need a forty acre field on a good day. How I ever got through life without bumping fenders trying to park, I'll never know. Yes, I do. I always looked for a diagonal parking space or a parking garage where the attendant parked my car.

A Weird Twist on Snow

A Weird Twist on Snow

A lot of folks had their first taste of snow recently, and since snow is more welcome during the Christmas season, I decided to use it as this week’s topic. Trouble is I’ve written several articles about snow in the past, so I had to dig harder to find something fresh to write about. I did find something surprising, that I’d have to classify as weird science. It involves something called heavy water, so prepare to go sub-atomic.


Chocolate Bon Bons

Chocolate Bon Bons

My favorite kind of chocolate to work with is cocoa. However, that doesn't work for making dipping chocolate. At least I don't know how to do that. I have several candy recipes I make every Christmas, but Anne's favorite is my Chocolate Bon Bons.

I came across this candy recipe a few years ago. It certainly didn't look like a candy recipe. What candy lists flour among its ingredients? This is the only one I know of.

Action on SR-33 and SR-61 Pending – You Can Make a Difference

The Tennessee North Rural Planning Organization (RPO) meets on Thursday the 13th of December to prioritize TDOT funded road projects in the RPOs seven county region. Union County does not have any TDOT projects under construction, although the SR-33 project from the Knox County Line to South of SR-144 was recently moved to the Construction Phase.

2018 Year End Tax Planning

What a wonderful time of the year! Celebrating Christmas and the New Year with family and friends, good food, memories of Christmas’ past and creating new memories. The New Year is a time for making resolutions and planning for changes we would like to experience in our lives in the coming year. With only four weeks remaining in 2018, we are running out of opportunities to take advantage of tax planning.

Andrew Ernest Morgan: Controller of Water, Mover of Men

Andrew Ernest Morgan

Most of us probably do not even recognize the name of Arthur Ernest Morgan; yet for those of us living in the the rural communities of the Tennessee Valley, Morgan should be remembered every time we switch on our lights or plug in our computers. Arthur Morgan was the first Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but he was much more than just a political appointee or bureaucratic figurehead. Morgan, a civil engineer, was an expert in water flow and water control. He was a hands on director who busied himself with the most intimate parts of the TVA: the inner workings of the dams and the communities they served. As an engineer, he designed the dams, made the earth move, mined the rock, and poured the concrete. As a visionary, he designed communities with energy efficient housing and environmental consideration. As an educator, Morgan saw the need to teach the people to use better farming practices and to train people to use electricity to make their daily chores easier.


Need A Ride To Church

Sunday, December 23, 2018 - 10:00
Need A Ride To Church

Fellowship Christian Church located at 746 Tazewell Pike Luttrell TN 37779 will pickup anyone in the local area needing a ride to church. Call Sam at 865-607-3741 to schedule a ride.

Worship Services

Sunday School 10:00 AM
Sunday Worship Service 11:00 A.M
Sunday Evening Service 6:30 P.M
Wednesday Service 7:00 P.M

UCBPA Meeting

Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 12:00

UCBPA meets the second Tuesday of each month for approximately one hour. Membership is $25 annually. The meeting begins at noon at Hardee's in Maynardville. Anyone interested in making Union County a better place to live, work, worship, or play may attend.

Union County Election Commission Meeting

Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 14:30
Union County Election Commission

Union County Election Commission meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 2:30pm in room 101 of the Union County Courthouse to conduct election business which comes before the commission pursuant to its duties listed in, but not limited to TCA $2-12-116, and to conduct any other business that may come before the election commission at that time. Union County Election Commission, 901 Main Street, Suite 108, Maynardville, TN 37807, (865) 992-3471


Tony Lynn "Pap" Brogdon, Sr.

Tony Lynn Brogdon, Sr. “Pap”-age 58 of Knoxville passed away Monday, December 17, 2018 surrounded by members of his close family. He was a member of Stonewall Baptist Church. Tony was a dump truck driver but worked with skills second to none.

He is survived by his five children, Tony Brogdon, Jr., William Brogdon, Brandy Brogdon, Sheridan Brogdon and wife, Janet; Dixie Hopson and husband, Josh. He had many grandkids and siblings who loved him dearly and he will be missed. In lieu of flowers, the family ask for donations to be made toward Pap’s funeral service in his name.

Martha E. Berkley

Martha E. Berkley, age 92 of Knoxville passed away December 16, 2018. She was a member of Washington Pike Baptist Church. Martha retired from Knox County Circuit Court. She was a strong Christian woman, a devoted mother, and a loving wife. Preceded in death by William G. Berkley; parents Herman E. and Cassie Turner; brother H. Eugene Turner Jr.; granddaughter Jill Berry. Survived by daughter, Sharon B. Kirkland and husband Garrett; sons, Tobe Cowden and wife Chela, and Mike Berkley; 5 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren; 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Goneau Gentry Heath

Goneau Gentry Heath was born August 20, 1921 and went to her heavenly home on December 13, 2018 at the age of 97. Goneau was a longtime member of North Knoxville Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by her father, Cleve Gentry and her mother, Bonnie Stooksbury Gentry; Aunt who raised her, Cora Stooksbury; husband of 51 years, K.C. Heath; Brothers, Ray and Carson Gentry; Sister, Jessie Beeler; Granddaughter, Julie Hourigan; Son-in-law, James "Jim" Bean.

Wanda Faye Henry

Wanda Faye Henry, age 81, of Corryton joined her husband in heaven on December 12, 2018 at Tennova Powell. Member of Clear Springs Baptist Church. Preceded in death by husband Harvey Henry; parents Luke and Elizabeth Everett; sisters Juanita Boling, Iola Chandler, Lelia Davis; and brother David Everett.

Rev. Gains Harrell Lewis, Sr.

Rev. Gains Harrell Lewis, Sr.-age 86 of Maynardville went to his Heavenly Home Friday morning, December 14, 2018. Harrell, above everything else, loved the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and preached and witnessed so others would do the same. He was saved and was a member of Hubbs Grove Baptist Church and attended Fellowship Christian Church. He had pastored Leatherwood Baptist Church and Head of Barren Baptist Church. He was proud to be a lifetime citizen of Maynardville, Tennessee and was well-known and had many friends and family.

Betty Sue Baumgardner

Betty Sue Baumgardner – age 77 of Washburn, passed away on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. She was a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Knoxville. Betty was a loving wife and enjoyed crocheting and quilting.

She is preceded in death by parents, Edgar and Dorothy Glover; sisters, Mary Ann Glover and Nell Harper. Betty is survived by loving husband of 60 years, Reverend Albert “Dick” Baumgardner; sister, Jenntte; brother, Edward Glover; and several nieces and nephews.

Jesse D. Coffman

Jesse D. “J.D.” Coffman-age 89 of Washburn passed away peacefully Thursday morning, December 13, 2018 at his home. He was a U. S. Army Veteran of the Korean War. J. D. was a member of Central View American Christian Church, Washburn.

Nicole "Nicky" Tyson

Nicole “Nicky” Tyson, age 42, passed away on December 11, 2018. She was an outgoing woman who never met a stranger. She was the happiest when surrounded by family, friends, and her fur babies, whom she was very passionate about. Nicky could light up any room she walked in and will be missed by many. She is survived by fiancé Kenny Thomas, daughter April Tyson (Boo), sons Nicholas Gene Beaver and Hunter Dylan Leon Foster, parents Janice and Jim Shipley, granddaughter Payton McKenzie Abshire, close cousin/sister Kelly Williams, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Charles "Charlie" Winton Campbell

Campbell, Charles "Charlie" Winton, age 68 of Corryton, adored daddy and the most treasured grandpa, was welcomed into the arms of his Lord and Savior on, Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Awaiting this great reunion day was Charlie's sweetheart and the love of his life, Glenda Kay Campbell, his beloved wife. Also preceding his death are; parents Henderson & Ruth Campbell and sister Katherine Ann Campbell.

Sonja Denise Brown

Sonja Denise Brown-age 53 of Luttrell passed away Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at her home. She was a member of Mynatt Road Baptist Church in Halls. Preceded in death by father, Leonard Allen Ridenour.

Survivors: husband, David Lee Brown; mother, Reba Evelyn Ridenour; brother, Ronnie Lynn Ridenour and wife, Donna; sister, Donna Michelle Gordon and husband, Gerald. Several nieces, nephews and a host of friends.

Graveside service and interment 12 Noon Saturday, December 15, 2018, Dyer Cemetery, Powder Springs. Arrangements by Cooke-Campbell Mortuary, Maynardville.

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