An East Tennessee Icon

By John W. Lacey

With an easy-going demeanor and bone-dry humor, Bill Landry (Chattanooga ’72) makes everyone feel comfortable. He’s like the warm uncle we all wish we had, full of great stories and wisdom. And, though Landry has 45 years in show business, culminating in his four-time Emmy award-winning Heartland Series, his list of accomplishments is less unique in length than breadth. This thespian, director, author, teacher and coach has crafted a storied career that continues to be written.

Landry arrived on the Chattanooga campus in 1968 on a football scholarship. Majoring in English, he also had a deep love for acting. Together with his high school buddy Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell), the late Robert Duffy (former UTC theater department chairman), and his roommate Mac Smotherman (also a former theater chairman), he joined an acting troupe known as the Harlequin Players. The Players performed for mostly underprivileged children in predominantly black neighborhoods amid extreme racial tension. In the summer of 1971, Landry and his troupe found themselves in the middle of race riot.

“It was a horrible, life-changing experience for everyone who was there,” Landry says.

Following graduation, Landry attended on scholarship a master’s of fine arts program at Trinity University in Texas, but after only a year he ran out of money and had to drop out. Landry found a job teaching and coaching in Morristown, Tenn., and a year later he was back at Trinity to finish his degree.

Meet Bill Landry

May 22, 2014
Dinner and presentation with Bill Landry hosted by the Knoxville Region UT Chattanooga Alumni Chapter
For more information, visit

For the next several years, Landry picked up acting and teaching gigs. He traveled around the country, performing a one-man play he wrote about Albert Einstein. For the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, he played a river barge captain for the Tennessee Valley Authority exhibit. In 1984, he was asked to read for a TV pilot program WBIR in Knoxville was doing for the 50th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His big break came when he was hired to be the host of the Heartland Series. The program, which celebrated the people of Appalachia and their land, ran for 28 years until 2009 and made him an East Tennessee icon.

Landry continues to carve his place in East Tennessee like a great mountain stream. He recently completed his third book. His passion for educating and enthralling audiences is as strong as ever.

For more information on Landry’s latest book, Tellin’ It For The Truth, along with his previous book, Appalachian Tales & Heartland Adventures, visit, where he also may be reached.