Weather Related Closings

Fans come from beyond “Nutbush City Limits” to see Tina Turner Museum in Brownsville, Tennessee

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. -- In the semi-autobiographical hit record called "Nutbush City Limits," Tina Turner sings of her quaint upbringing in the small West Tennessee community of Nutbush and the school-house once nestled along Highway Number 19.

"When I think of Nutbush, the first thing that comes to mind is the country store because when my father would go to shop I would go along," Turner said in museum video.

Long before that song and countless others,"The Queen of Rock" was simply known by her birth name as Anna Mae Bullock.

Her life has since been immortalized in her songs and movies, but now in the preservation of this old one room building that was her childhood school-house. It's a school-house that's now the Tina Turner Museum in nearby Brownsville, Tennessee.

William Rawl's is Brownsville mayor.

"We want to tell her story and let people know we have tremendous respect and pride for Miss Anna Mae Bullock," Rawls said.

This school-house is significant not just because it's where Tina Turner attended school, but also the role it played in educating other African-American children.

The old Flagg School building was owned by Benjamin Flagg. He saw the need for a school for the areas' African-American children and began building it in 1889. The school closed in the 1960s and was used as a barn.

The town of Brownsville, Tennessee, saw its historical value and paid to move the building 15 miles to the Delta Heritage Center, near Interstate 40 in Haywood County.

Sonia Outlaw-Clark is the executive director of the Delta Heritage Center.

"First your jaw drops and once you pick it up off the floor its special because you see the glamour of Tina and where she's gone and then the old school," Outlaw-Clark said.

The museum is like looking through a window and the cotton fields of Turner's past. It's filled with the original desks, chalkboard and benches that were there when Turner was a student.

"They have carvings all in them and yes, we're looking for her initials," Outlaw-Clark said.

It also pays homage to her present showcasing sparkling stage-wear, gold and platinum records, a letters from Prince Charles and even Turner's personal commentary about Haywood County, Tennessee.

This project cost Brownsville taxpayers $20,000 just to relocate the old building.

"We look at the revenue, the hotel tax, the sales tax with the tourism and marketability of this project will pay dividends down the road," Rawls said.

Museum organizers say taxpayers were not stuck footing the entire bill for renovations. They tell WREG private donations from local residents, including a sizable one from Turner herself, and Turner's worldwide fan base, helped pay for the $300,000 restoration of the school and it's already attracting visitors from 38 countries.

"We've seen a 30 percent increase in visitors. We've seen a 100 percent increase in our gift shop sales, a four percent increase in our hotel motel tax," Outlaw-Clark said.

Dean and Danell Nicholson are tourists from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, interested in Memphis' blues and rock 'n roll, but they stopped in Brownsville first.

"I think it's a wonderful idea to get mainstream entertainment into an area like this," Dean Nicholson said.

"I think it's a great way to honor her because she's been so prominent in the music and industry," Danell Nicholson said.

From humble beginnings in a one room school-house to a global star, Brownsville is paying tribute to it's most famous student.

"I hope as people walk through the school they see I set an example as a hometown girl who grew up in hard times that made a good life for herself, " Turner said.