Tag Archives: rocky top

Richard Beeler, informant in 1980s ‘Rocky Top’ corruption probe, dies in apparent suicide

Former Knox County law director Richard Beeler, an informant in the FBI’s Rocky Top investigation of the 1980s, died of an apparent suicide Thursday, reports the News Sentinel.

Beeler, 57, was law director from 1990 to 2000. Sheriff’s officers and the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office were called to a home on Bernstein Lane about 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Beeler was discovered on the back porch of the residence dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

His body was taken to the Regional Forensic Center for further examination, according to the Sheriff’s Office news release. An investigation into his death is ongoing.

Beeler aided in the FBI corruption investigation of state Rep. Ted Ray Miller in the late 1980s. That investigation led to a grand jury indictment against Miller, who died of an apparent suicide the day before the charges were expected to be returned.

Beeler later entered private practice after leaving Knox County.

Note: From memory, Beeler — acting as a lobbyist at the time — told investigators that Miller, then chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, had solicited a bribe in exchange for help in passage of legislation involving a Knox County incinerator project in the committee. Beeler wore a tape recorder while talking to Miller about the deal. Miller also died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Judge ready to block Rocky Top, TN, from selling stuff with town name

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee judge has said he is ready to stop developers in the newly minted town of Rocky Top, Tennessee, from using the Rocky Top name on merchandise — at least temporarily.

The former coal mining town of Lake City changed its name to Rocky Top in June on the promise that developers would build a multimillion-dollar tourist complex there.

However, House of Bryant Publications owns the rights to the song “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass standard that doubles as the unofficial anthem of the University of Tennessee. The company tried but failed to stop the name change.

On Wednesday, a federal judge agreed with House of Bryant that developer plans for Rocky Top products would likely infringe on the company’s trademarks.

The situation is complicated by the fact that U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan in May denied a similar request by House of Bryant. In that decision, Varlan said it was too soon to issue an injunction because the developers’ proposals were still just ideas that might never come to pass.

House of Bryant appealed the May decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the appeals court has not yet ruled, House of Bryant attorney John Triggs in September asked Varlan to reconsider his decision, based on new facts.

Since the May decision, the developers who formed the Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Company have applied to register trademarks incorporating the Rocky Top name as well as the phrase “home sweet home,” according to court documents. That phrase is part of the chorus of the song “Rocky Top,” which declares, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home, sweet home, to me. Good ol’ Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee.”
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Judge refuses to stop Rocky Top, TN

In a 32-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan on Wednesday denied a motion seeking a temporary injunction to stop the Anderson County town of Lake City from changing its name to Rocky Top, reports the News Sentinel.

The motion was filed on behalf of House of Bryant LLC of Gatlinburg, which consists of the two sons of the late husband-and-wife songwriting team that penned the wildly popular bluegrass song.

It contended that allowing the municipal name change would erode and dilute the value of current trademarks held by House of Bryant. The trademarks, filed last year, are on a variety of trinkets.

Varlan opined that it is “unlikely that Lake City is using ‘Rocky Top’ in commerce” and therefore wouldn’t violate any trademark statutes. He also said House of Bryant didn’t show that it would suffer irreparable harm if the name change is granted.

Any harm caused by the municipal name change or the fledgling development firm that wants to use the town’s new name to boost its ambitious plans for a theme park is “speculative and uncertain,” the judge stated.

Varlan wrote that House of Bryant “cannot point to a single item in the (development) proposal that would infringe on its (trade)Marks.”

“We’re disappointed, but this is just round one, and we’ll see what happens next,” said John Triggs, attorney for House of Bryant. Triggs after the May 5 hearing said an appeal would be likely if the injunction were denied.

“I’m just excited that the judge did rule in our favor,” Lake City Mayor Tim Sharp said. “We’re ready to move on with getting our name changed.”