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Dispatch from Cleveland, Tennessee--the Buckle of the Bible Belt

Thomas Wilmer

 A short drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee is the town of Cleveland. A drive down the main drag reveals a sleepy, slow-paced community with old brick buildings and enchanting homes right out of a Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra flick.

Cleveland' a city of less than 50,000 souls has been chugging along since its incorporation in the 1840s. It’s a sleepy place, but its work force has plenty of employment options as there is a litany of major corporations here, including Whirlpool, Mars candy bars, Duracell, Olin, Coca Cola and more.

"Church" is intrinsic to the fabric of Cleveland. The Church of God’s Lee University, the fastest growing private university in Tennessee is here. Central to the Church of God’s evangelic, pentecostal ministry is song, which explains why the Cleveland based denomination was dubbed “The Singing Church” way back in the early 1900s.

The most popular hymnal in America, "The Red Back", has been printed in Cleveland since 1951.

Come along and join correspondent, Tom Wilmer in Cleveland, Tennessee for a visit with Melissa Woody at the Museum Center at Five Points where Ms. Woody talks about the Red Back Hymnal, Lee University, and "church" as an integral part of Cleveland’s fabric.

The underbed music used in this podcast, "Away Over the Promised Land" is from the Phipps Family album "Faith, Love and Tragedy" on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR Podcast travel show Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer via: 

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.