Henning, Tennessee, a small town about an hour northeast of Memphis, is known as the boyhood home and final resting place of Alex Haley, the famed author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
Perhaps someday, it will also be known as the childhood home of Miles Mosby, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science and public service from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2022.
The two have a connection in Fred Montgomery Jr., Mosby’s great-grandfather and a lifelong friend of Haley’s.
The well-chronicled Montgomery, who attended school with Haley in a segregated one-room schoolhouse, served as the first Black mayor of Henning from 1992 to 2000.
Montgomery ran for mayor at the urging of Haley and closed his life as curator of the Alex Haley Museum, passing away in 2006 at the age of 89.
“Knowing about my great-grandfather has always instilled thoughts of public service in my head,” said Mosby, who plans to pursue a career in law. “I have always dreamed of doing something similar to him.
“I want to use law as that basic foundation for the possibility of public service. I plan on becoming an attorney and performing pro bono work to help underrepresented communities.”
Mosby told a story his parents shared with him about his great-grandfather.
“He was relatively sick when I was born, but he insisted on seeing me,” Mosby said. “He told my parents that I was going to be something special.
“I don’t have many actual memories about him personally; I was very young when he died. It’s mainly through stories and things like that, but just that interaction in and of itself has always been in the back of my mind when I’m doing things and living up to this example that he set for me.”
After growing up in Henning, which has a population of fewer than 1,000 people, Mosby made the cross-the-state journey to UTC at the urging of his parents.
“They felt like this would be the perfect leap into a bigger environment, but not such a massive environment,” he said.
“One of the main things they talked about in orientation is that UTC is the biggest small school you’ll ever go to. It still has small classroom sizes and that personal connection.”
Mosby said it was in one of those UTC classrooms that he first discovered the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.
Better known as TISL, it is an annual forum for college students from across the state to learn how government works, exchange ideas and express opinions. More than 20 colleges from across the state participate in the yearly mock legislature.
“It just so happens someone in TISL was in a class with me my sophomore year. I heard about it and thought, ‘You know what? Let’s go out on a limb and try it out,’” he said.
Mosby didn’t just try it out; he flourished as part of the UTC delegation.
In each of the last two competitions, UTC took home top honors as the best overall TISL delegation. From a personal standpoint, Mosby was a two-time recipient of the Carlisle Award, TISL’s oldest and most prestigious award, which recognizes 10 outstanding student legislators every session.
Serving as the UTC delegation’s president during last the November 2021 trip to the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Mosby wrote a bill that paid homage to Haley.
“It was inspired by growing up in Henning, where there’s this big placard out in front of Alex Haley’s boyhood home,” Mosby explained. “Just seeing this placard every time I walk by it gives you that extra level of, ‘This isn’t just some random house.’
“The bill that I wrote was a resolution to add historical context to Confederate monuments and the placards that we have around the state of Tennessee on other historical things. It was about adding placards to those monuments to talk about the roles these individuals played. It’s meant to be a compromise between completely removing the statues or leaving them up and offering no context.”
Mosby says his TISL experience has confirmed many of his personal beliefs.
“It reassured me in my ability to speak in front of people and reassured me in my ability to lead,” he said. “It improved my problem-solving skills, my ability to adapt and think on the fly, as well as work within a group system.”
These are all essential traits for someone pursuing a career in public service.
It also helps to have the memories of his great-grandfather, a guardian angel who knew from an early age Mosby was destined to be something special.
“Yeah, 100%,” he said.
This is an updated version of a story that first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine.