By Patricia Williams
KNOXVILLE, TN (January 4, 2020) – A lot can be accomplished in 80 years. Juanita Usher Cannon celebrated her 80th birthday in grand style. She threw a free for all party for those who have touched her life, and those whose lives she has touched. The only expectation of guests was to bring love.
Cannon turned 80 on January 8, 2020. She celebrated with a party on Saturday, Jan. 4th at Rothchild’s on Kingston Pike. About 200 friends, colleagues, former students and staff from all walks of life filled the room.
Cannon is a native Knoxvillian and a product of the Knoxville School System of where she also taught and retired after 40 years. She earned degrees from the historic HBCU Knoxville College, and the University of Tennessee. Cannon chose to inspire and uplift others as a teacher, which she did well for over 40 years.
Cannon inspire generations of youths. Many of her students and professional protégé’s are model citizens, successful leaders, and trailblazers in their professions.
In 40-years, Mrs. Cannon’s career went from the classroom to Assistant principle at three middle schools, and the first principal of Vine Middle Magnet School.
In retirement, Cannon continued in service to the community. She served 18 years on the board of Knoxville Community Development Corporation that included serving as chairperson. Cannon and her fellow board members approved plans for the redevelopment of Walter P. Taylor Homes, and for the Residences at Eastport, an 85-unit senior housing development in East Knoxville. She was instrumental in the redevelopment of College Homes projects in Mechanicsville through the Hope VI Project.
On May 20, 2013, then Mayor Rogero, officials of the city and KCDC participated in a ribbon-cutting for “Juanita Cannon Street.” It is the official street address for 17 family-style duplex housing units that have been built there. The street connects Selma and Wilson Avenues and is adjacent to Paul Hogue Park in East Knoxville.
To this day, Cannon continues to teach. She has become known as the ‘Etiquette Lady’ from offering lessons on proper etiquette.
“I wasn’t a student of Mrs. Cannon’s, but I still learned from her. When I became mayor and had to attend these fancy dinners, her lesson that matches your five fingers with the placement of utensils got me through many formal dinners,” said former Mayor Madeline Rogero.
Yes! Many Knoxvillians of note were in attendance. Rogero’s 8-year term as Mayor just ended in December 2019; former City Councilman Daniel Brown who was also appointed as Knoxville’s first black mayor, and Knoxville’s first black City Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie who was recently chosen as Vice-mayor under the new administration of Mayor Indya Kincannon.
Cannon has been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Knoxville chapter for over 58 years. She has one daughter, Kimberley, and one granddaughter Kameryn Atkinson who might be walking in her grandmother’s footprint of compassionate service to humankind.
SCENES FROM MRS. JUANITA CANNON’S 80TH BIRTHDAY BASH, which was held on January 4th, 2020 (Photos by P. Williams