EVERY TOWN and county is filled with the history of those who came before them. Whether that be old cars, historical documents, or even retired fire trucks. Garland King was an avid collector of all things that had to do with the history of Bedford County and decided to create a muse- um dedicated to the many his- torical artifacts that he found and oftentimes restored.
Garland grew up in Unionville, Tennessee, and spent the rest of his adult life in Bedford County. Part of Garland’s passion for the city of Shelbyville and the county came from his time as a firefighter. Garland started his career as a firefighter in 1959 under Chief Buck Foster. Around 10 years later, in 1969, Garland was appointed the town’s new fire chief by the city manager at the time, Wayne Cartwright. During his time as fire chief, Garland also served on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and State Zoning Board of Appeals. He also held the highest office in fire services in the state as president of the Tennessee Firemen’s association and an association he helped found, the Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association. Garland was a man who was well known and highly respected by all as an important member of the community.
Garland was a self- proclaimed pack-rat and collected many items that reflected the town’s history. As the owner of these many artifacts, Garland decided to create a Bedford County Museum where he could put on display all of the many things that make up its history. Some of the items in the museum include the world’s longest pencil, historical documents, six decades worth of old cars that he restored, and even a room dedicated to firefighting artifacts that includes years worth of restored retired fire trucks. One of the restored fire trucks is a mac truck from 1944. Garland travelled over 5300 miles in this truck to 95 different counties to have it signed by local government officials, firefighters from different stations, and even the governor, as a petition to establish a state firefighting academy. Oftentimes the signed truck would be parked in Downtown Nashville in order to show the support they had f rom 95 different counties.
The Tennessee Fire School Codes Enforcement Academy is located in Bedford County and as a tribute to Garland and his hard work to petition for the academy, the Tennessee House Joint Resolution 121 is a resolution that named the administration building at the Fire Codes Academy in Garland’s honor.
As a tribute to Garland and a continuation of his legacy his son, Gary King, bought and restored the old Central High School to its former glory in order to move the museum there. The museum is a private museum and you must purchase tickets to see what’s inside. So make sure to buy one and see the history of the town and county Garland loved so much. -GN