Robert Booker is the foremost historian of African American life in Knoxville. He grew up in the “Bottom” area of East Knoxville, and graduated from Austin High School in 1953. Following a three year stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Knoxville and attended Knoxville College on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1962 with a B.S. in Education. As president of the student body, he became involved in Knoxville’s Civil Rights movement. In 1966 he was elected as Knoxville’s first black Tennessee State Representative. Later he served on Knoxville City Council. He served as Executive Director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center for 11 years. He is the author of several books and hundreds of newspaper columns. He maintains an impressive record collection and is an authority on popular music, particularly R&B.