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Big John

Hand-welded by two of the retired miners who run the museum — JT and Jewell Shadrick — "Big John" honors the memory of the miners who lost their lives in the Mine 21 explosion on December 8, 1981:

  • Danny Cooley

  • Larry Cooley

  • Lee Grimes

  • Ed French

  • Jacob Kilgore

  • Charlie Myers

  • Harvey Nolan

  • Gaylon Parson

  • Jimmy Rogers

  • Darrell Rollins

  • Jackie Tate

  • Roy White

  • Frankie Wilbourn


JT and Jewell began welding the statue in Fred Hale's shop in the spring of 2016, and worked tirelessly in the heat of summer and the cold of winter until putting the finishing touches on it nearly a year later.

When it came time to install the statue, JT had to get approval from the state of Tennessee before "Big John" finally found his home at the intersection of Highway 108 and 28.

"Big John" was dedicated on a cold and rainy morning in July of 2017, where JT gave a speech to commemorate the Mine 21 explosion and the men who lost their lives in the accident. Despite the downpour that morning, hundreds of Whitwell citizens turned out to show their support. This support was a testament to the fact that, even though the mines are long closed, coal mining will forever be the heartbeat of Whitwell.

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Right under "Big John" is a plaque that reads:

The Whitwell Marion County Coal Miners Museum, along with the city of Whitwell, would like to dedicate the coal miner, "Big John",  to this community on July 15, 2017. Coal mining has been a long-standing industry for the city of Whitwell. The Coal Miner represents a tradition of determination, ingenuity, patriotism, and dedication: Determination and ingenuity for doing what it takes to get the job done, patriotism to their community and country, and dedication to their families.

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