Oak Ridger: Museum of Appalachia honors Gen. Carl Stiner, the late Sen. Howard Baker Jr. as ‘Heroes of Southern Appalachia’

Posted on November 15, 2019

Last Friday evening, Nov. 8, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Museum of Appalachia presented its first-ever “Heroes of Southern Appalachia” awards to Gen. Carl Stiner and the late Sen.Howard H. Baker Jr.

“The fireside reception hall overflowed with attendees eager to pay tribute to these two “heroes” who dedicated their lives to service,” according to a Museum news release.

Deborah York, great-granddaughter of World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York and Executive Director of the Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation, explained the impact Gen. Stiner has had on all branches of the nation’s special forces, while U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander reflected on the life and legacy of Baker.

“We thought honoring those who truly embody the spirit of the Appalachian people and have fearlessly and selflessly served this region would be a wonderful way to commemorate this milestone anniversary,” Museum of Appalachia President Elaine Irwin Meyer stated in the release. She is the daughter of Museum founders John Rice Irwin and the late Elizabeth Irwin.

The criteria for choosing recipients included honoring people from the Southern Appalachian region, who exemplify the characteristics of perseverance, fortitude, self-reliance, and service. 

U.S. Army Four-Star Gen. Carl Stiner, from LaFollette, Tenn., has had a lasting impact on all branches of U.S. military special forces. His 35-year career includes involvement in capturing the Achille Lauro terrorists, apprehending Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega, and all special operations during Desert Storm. He was the second Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations.

“Gen. Stiner transformed special operations in our country by tearing down walls of inefficiency and building collaboration and cooperation that had never existed before,” said Deborah York. “He is a hometown hero who has had an enduring influence on our American military, as well as our nation’s security. He is as good a man as he was a soldier and has a heart for his community and his home state. We owe a debt of gratitude for Gen. Stiner’s years of service and sacrifice to our great nation, and I am honored to present him with this award.”

Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr. grew up in Huntsville, Tenn., or as he called it, “the center of the known universe.” The first popularly elected Republican senator in Tennessee history, he earned the nickname “The Great Conciliator” in his roles as Senate minority and majority leader, because of his reputation as a fair and thoughtful leader. His extensive public service, which also included roles as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“How fortunate we were to know, to be inspired by, and to learn from Tennessee’s favorite son and one of our country’s finest leaders, Howard Baker. The nation got to know him during the Watergate hearings. He then became the majority leader of the United States Senate, chief of staff for President Reagan and President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Japan. He began an era of two-party competition that has changed Tennessee politics permanently. By his eloquence and personality, Howard inspired a number of young men and women, including me, to join him in that endeavor,” Alexander said. “Howard made us Tennesseans look even better, and I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive the Museum’s first-ever Heroes of Southern Appalachia Award.”

As a non-profit, Smithsonian affiliated organization, the Museum’s mission is to preserve the artifacts and culture of an earlier time for the benefit of future generations; and to instill in the community — regionally, nationally, and internationally — a greater knowledge of and appreciation for Southern Appalachian heritage.