It is with both great sadness and respect that Keep Knoxville Beautiful acknowledges today Mary Lou Horner, who passed away on the morning of January 1, 2013. She was the self-described “grandmother” of Keep Knoxville Beautiful, as she was on the committee that founded and first organized the Greater Knoxville Beautification Board (which has since become Keep Knoxville Beautiful). Ms. Horner was a caring and dynamic individual who actively promoted a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community since 1978. Even through her 80s, she maintained a hectic schedule of public, civic and political meetings. She always welcomed the opportunity to promote litter prevention, to organize a cleanup or to become actively engaged in a beautification effort in the city or along the roadway. Today, in her honor, we’d like to share with you her history with Keep Knoxville Beautiful:
In 1978, it was announced by local leaders that Knox County would be host to numerous guests from cities around the world attending the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. This news “lit a spark” with Mary Lou and immediately she initiated a plan—after all, if Knoxville was having company, the area needed to “clean house.” That same year the Greater Knoxville Beautification Board was born and her aggressive and skillful planning resulted in the gathering of citizens and businesses in a cooperative effort to make Knoxville cleaner and greener. With her energy and enthusiasm she continued to function in a leadership role at GKBB and Keep Knoxville Beautiful, constantly seeking funding for projects and directing programs to involve personalities of all ages, from youth to senior citizens. Today, thanks to her decades of tireless work, the name of Mary Lou Horner is synonymous with litter prevention, beautification and education efforts. Her reaching out to citizens by example in organizing, advertising, and participating in routine cleanup projects, recycling demonstrations, and tree plantings has long been influential in generating such a positive community response.
Mary Lou Horner’s accomplishments in the Keep America Beautiful system have been numerous. Mary Lou Horner assisted the City of Knoxville’s Judge John R. Rosson in becoming Tennessee’s second Environmental Court Judge in 1988, and happily contributed to the organization of Litter Offender classes. Ms. Horner was instrumental in the passage of the May 8, 1996 littering ordinance passed by Knox County Commission and in creating a Knox County Environmental Court with Judge Tony W. Stansberry.
Ms. Horner was also actively involved in making sure events become litter free. She organized the first “Trash Bash” at the popular Calhoun’s Restaurant on the Tennessee River as a fundraiser. She initiated the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. In addition, Ms. Horner was personally involved in major creek cleanup projects, partnering with UT Athletics to support cleanup and beautification projects, and assisted in planning and initiating the “I SPY on Litter” Program. Mary Lou assisted in the initiation of the Christmas Tree Recycling Program and secured the donation of tree chipping services which has resulted in thousands of trees being mulched.
Keep Knoxville Beautiful nominated Mary Lou Horner for the Edith Heller Lifetime Achievement Award, which she was awarded in February of 2011. Mary Lou was the first ever recipient of the award, which is the highest honor given by Keep Tennessee Beautiful. This once-in-a-lifetime distinction award is for a person who has demonstrated longtime leadership in raising public awareness about solid waste issues, litter prevention, community greening, and recycling. Nominees are expected to have also successfully demonstrated the need for citizens to participate in activities that preserve and enhance natural resources and public lands in Tennessee. Mary Lou Horner was exactly this and much, much more.
No person better epitomizes a lifetime of service to the Keep America Beautiful system than Mary Lou Horner. She has been a backbone to our organization and a visionary for what Knoxville and Knox County can be. She was an extraordinary leader, supporter, and friend, and she will be dearly missed.