William Baxter Bledsoe
Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts
Classes of 1992 and 2010
This honoree has found a way to use his talent to not only make a living, but to raise money for worthwhile organizations and even getting the opportunity to travel abroad to be recognized by the Queen of England. By simply putting paint to paper, William Baxter Bledsoe's work has been immortalized, so future generations will be able appreciate his artistic skill.
A native of East Tennessee, Bledsoe received both his undergraduate degree and Master's degree in Studio Art and Graphic Design from East Tennessee State University. He is both a working artist and head of the secondary studio arts program at Providence Academy, a private Christian high school in Johnson City.
While in the military, Bledsoe was an official artist for the United States Air Force, for which he received the Achievement Medal and the Award of Excellence for his artistic contributions upholding the moral of his fellow airman and commanding officers. Bledsoe has worked for the Walt Disney Company as an assistant to Emmy-award winning director of the television mini-series Roots, Charles Bennett.
He has created artwork of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough for over 23 years. Bledsoe has illustrated numerous children's books for which he received the Good Housekeeping Award for Outstanding Children's Literature Illustration. He has painted several public and private murals, which includes work abroad, most specifically, murals created in Lakenheath, England, for which he was recognized by the Royal Family. Bledsoe was commissioned to paint the official portrait of Tennessee's Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey which is hung permanently in the Tennessee State Capital building in Nashville.
Bledsoe has been directly involved with regional United Way Organizations to raise additional annual funds through the reproduction of his artwork for 15 years, as well as, the Washington County and Sullivan County CASA organizations. Most recently, Bledsoe created an original oil painting of East Tennessee State University in honor of the "Centennial Celebration." He was chosen by Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, to create an official 2012 Christmas Ornament.
Sports have also been an important part of Bledsoe's life. He co-founded Tennessee's only independent high school football team with my son. The team, named Silverbacks, won the state's first interstate championship in the history of Tennessee this past football season. Bledsoe along with the team and other coaches were recognized last month with a citation of honor by the State Senate and Governor Haslam in Nashville.
Combining his love of sports and talent for art, Bledsoe created and spear-headed the campaign to rename the then Tennessee Oilers NFL Football team to the Tennessee Copperheads. The campaign ran from late 1994 to 1998 when the team was officially renamed the Tennessee Titans. Though Copperheads was not chosen, it won every name contest that was officially posted by NFL Properties, ESPN, USA Today, and the Oiler franchise. The Copperhead Campaign and its mass appeal were cited as a major factor in convincing the NFL and the Oiler franchise to change the name of the team. The artwork and designs for Copperhead Football Club are now chronicled and posted permanently in the NFL's official history archives of professional football uniform design and marketing concepts.
Bledsoe resides on Main Street in Historic Jonesborough with his wife Jennifer and their three children Cassity, Will and Greyson. Jennifer is a graduate of ETSU's Art department. It was in the Art Department that we met. The couple has been married over 20 years and Bledsoe says, "I can honestly say that she is the most significant aspect of my life. And to the college , I have a great sense of gratitude." His love for art is equaled with his passion for the teaching of art. Bledsoe believes that a community that embraces art...embraces its future. 4/12
AMPLEXARE ARTEM EST AMPLEXARE FUTURUM
"Embrace Art, Embrace the Future"