After the close of World War I, Americans refocused their patriotic efforts from selling Liberty Bonds, donating blood, and working at munitions plants to memorializing the United States’ role in the conflict. Graeme McGregor Smith, mother of two World War I veterans, was one of these inspired Americans who went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that every Tennessean who served in the Great War would be remembered. Her efforts resulted in the Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917-1919, the compiled service records of over 130,000 soldiers and sailors from Tennessee who served in the First World War.

Smith was elected Historian of the American Legion Auxiliary, Tennessee Department in 1931 and served until 1935. Her goal as historian was to mobilize local auxiliary units to compile a record of each Tennessean who served in the war. She sent questionnaires to each auxiliary unit asking for data about local soldiers, as well as nurses and charitable organizations involved in war work. In addition to gathering statistics, Smith and her committee of women sorted through over 130,000 service cards held by the Adjutant General of Tennessee. Smith’s husband, Major Rutledge Smith, Chairman of the National Council of Defense for Tennessee, provided county draft board information. Major General Enoch Herbert Crowder, Provost Marshal General to the Secretary of War, 1917-1918, supplied official reports.

Service record information includes age, place of birth, residence, enlistment and discharge dates, and unit in which the soldier served. The records are arranged by county and divided into eight categories: Ex-Servicemen; Wounded; Dead; Officers; Marines; Navy; Naval Officers; and Dishonorable Discharges. Additionally, some counties include a Nurses category. These records are extensive, but they cannot be considered a complete list of all Tennesseans who served in World War I, since Tennesseans who enlisted in other states, those who died in military camps, and career military men are often not included. The records in this collection have been processed using text recognition software; however, full text searches of this collection may not be successful due to inconsistencies in type. An alphabetical index of servicemen in this collection, arranged by county, can be found here.

Smith had a close relationship with Mary Daniel Moore, State Librarian and Archivist, and she initially planned for the finished volumes to be held by the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This project, however, proved to be so useful to the state that the General Assembly passed Chapter No. 301, Public Acts of 1937. This law recognized Smith’s undertaking as a continuation of the Tennessee Historical Committee’s mission to "collect, compile, index, and arrange all data ...relating to the part that Tennessee has played in the great world war" set out by Senate Joint Resolution 76, Public Acts of 1919. The legislature granted these compiled service records status as official public records of Tennessee and allowed for certified copies to be used in all courts. The Adjutant General’s Office, Library and Archives, and Tennessee Supreme Court each received their own set of volumes.

After all the History of a State is but the history of her people and when the Records of the ninety-five Counties of Tennessee are completed, Tennessee will have available a complete survey of its industrial and military man-power. —Graeme McGregor Smith

  • Graeme McGregor Smith, "Tennessee Soldiers Recorded." 1931-1932 American Legion Auxiliary Scrapbook, 1932-33-34. Manuscript Files Collection, Box M-135, Vol 2, p. 38, Tennessee State Library and Archives. Accession Number 1968-099.
  • Tennessee General Assembly. Senate. Relative to Historical Committee to collect and preserve certain data. 61st G.A., 1st sess., 1919. S.J.R. 76.