A.R. Wheeler & Son funeral home was the largest in East Tennessee, established in 1922 into the 1940s, met its demise through Urban Renewal aka Urban Removal.
KNOXVILLE, TN (February 2021) – A.R. Wheeler & Son was once a distinguished mortuary for African Americans in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was established by Arkless R. Wheeler in 1922.
Born a poor man in the state of Georgia, Wheeler often dreamed that he would one day establish a business where quality service would be provided for African Americans regardless of class or social standing.
He began his career in Knoxville working in the hotel industry however, this was only a temporary means to something bigger. Holding onto his dream, he decided to venture into the undertaking business where his professionalism and considerate nature granted him early favor from the public, which earned him immediate success.
Wheeler was able to acquire enough resources to establish his own company at the location of 619 East Vine Avenue. Some years later, Wheeler’s younger brother, John Bunyan Wheeler – a graduate of Knoxville Colored High School in 1923 and the Gupton Jones School of Embalming in Nashville in 1928 – joined him in operating the business.
In its heyday, A.R. Wheeler & Son was considered the largest mortuary in East Tennessee providing funeral, ambulance, and embalming services to people of all classes. It enjoyed success for many years up until it was forced to relocate as a result of Urban Renewal. Unfortunately, A. R. Wheeler & Son did not experience the same success after it was relocated and closed a few years later.