For one family with many ties to the University of Tennessee, bringing the latest mural in the UT System’s “Everywhere You Look, UT” campaign to its barn in Columbia honors those bonds and the family’s history.
Painting on the 60-foot-wide mural began April 17. It is the 38th mural in a campaign to place one mural in all 95 counties across Tennessee.
The barn originally belonged to Edward Harlan, who died in 1975 at the age of 46, leaving his wife Jean with four children to raise, a large active farm and a dairy to manage, and equipment debts to pay.
“Some people suggested she just sell it,” said Al Harlan (Knoxville ’81), one of the late couple’s sons. “But she said no. She rose to the challenge to keep it going.”
When Jean Harlan passed away in 2017, her children–Ed Harlan, Al Harlan and Patrick Harlan and Gayle Parrott (Knoxville ’85)–inherited the farm. They also inherited a legacy with strong ties to UT, UT Extension, agriculture and Maury County.
After graduating from UT Knoxville in 1951 with a degree in home economics, Jean Harlan moved to Maury County for a job as a UT Extension agent, where her work allowed her to touch the lives and homes of countless families in the community–in addition to starting her own.
“It would please our mother so much to have the placement of this mural on the family farm that she dedicated her life to,” said Parrott. “She would not have ended up spending her life and raising her family on that farm if she had not attended UT and chosen her UT career path in Maury County.”
The family’s ties to agriculture run broader than their farm—Jean Harlan’s uncle Homer Hancock served as Tennessee commissioner of agriculture from 1923 to 1929 under governors Austin Peay and Henry Horton.
The Harlan siblings were inspired to join the mural campaign after reading an article about the Johnson Farm mural in the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Land, Life and Science magazine.
“We were thinking of ways to honor her,” said Al Harlan about the children’s mother. “And we just felt like our mother would be very, very happy to have this mural.”
In addition to Jean Harlan, Al Harlan, Parrott, many other Harlan family members–including Patrick Harlan and Al Harlan’s children–call UT their alma mater.
“If you look at our family tree, everywhere you look… UT has touched it,” said Patrick Harlan.
To learn more about the campaign and its locations, download photos or to nominate a canvas, visit the campaign website.