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George Thomas has a vision for the Historic Meigs Theatre he is restoring in Decatur, Tennessee—a vision that includes movies, concerts, performances and, of course, live streaming of all University of Tennessee sporting events.
“If UT is on TV, you can count on being able to watch in the Historic Meigs Theatre,” he said.
The building next door also includes a homage to his alma mater in the form of an “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural.
Thomas jumped at the chance to submit to have his property feature the 10th mural of the UT System “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural campaign after he heard about the project from Meigs County Mayor Bill James.
“Anything I can do to promote UT is a good thing,” said Thomas, a graduate of the UT Chattanooga College of Engineering. “This puts us on the map and brings a little recognition to our community.”
It also feeds his passion for bringing the community together and supporting its youth.
“I hope the mural is an inspiration to the young people in our community,” said Thomas, a first-generation college graduate and avid supporter and board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region.
“As they prepare to graduate from high school, I hope they think, ‘UT has a presence in our town, maybe I should think about attending UT, too.’”
Thomas first looked at purchasing the vacant Meigs Theatre and adjoining Rockholt Building in 2017 for use by the Boys and Girls Club, but determined it wasn’t a good fit; instead, he helped the organization raise enough funds to acquire a nearby building with plenty of greenspace.
It wasn’t until 2019 that the engineering consultant and local real estate developer found the right tenant, allowing him to purchase the buildings from Calvin and Wanda Rockholt and begin his plan to rehabilitate the once-bustling landmark.
Built in 1948 by Calvin Rockholt’s grandfather, W.H. Rockholt, the Meigs Theatre was the weekend destination for local movie goers. In 1950, the Rockholt Building was constructed next door, housing a dry goods store selling furniture, appliances and clothing. The theatre closed in 1960 and was used for storage until the two spaces were combined. The Rockholt Furniture Store was in business for 58 years before closing in 2008.
Today, the Rockholt Building bearing the 50-foot UT mural visible to approximately 1.8 million travelers a year is being renovated for lease to the State Departments of Children’s Services and Human Services.
Next, Thomas will turn his attention to renovating and reopening the Meigs Theatre for use as an all-purpose performance hall and community gathering spot.
The University of Tennessee is proud to partner with Thomas and the City of Decatur.
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Historic Rockholt Building and Meigs Theater
Decatur, TN 37322
Troy Freeman started his mural painting career while still in high school, painting mascots for his and area schools before advancing to sign painting work for local farmers and then founding his own business.
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