Alvin York left a strong and lasting legacy for the citizens of Tennessee and the nation. York's legacy endures in his home county in a number of ways; Alvin C. York Institute, as it is now called, was his greatest personal achievement.
Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown TN
Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown, TN.
By: Dr. Michael Birdwell

Alvin York left a strong and lasting legacy for the citizens of Tennessee and the nation. While most Americans' memory of him is inextricably linked to the Warner Sergeant York Movie Brothers' motion picture Sergeant York (1941), and Gary Cooper who portrayed him, York left much more. When asked on numerous occasions how he wanted to be remembered, York often said, "for helping improve education in Tennessee, bringing in better roads, and just helping my fellow man." Alvin York was a man of largesse and humility. He treated people fairly and turned down dozens of opportunities to profit from his war record. He wore the mantle of "war hero" uncomfortably and found no joy in talking about his exploits on the battlefield. Though he was singled out and had celebrity thrust upon him, he stayed true to his roots and did not let his notoriety corrupt him or his values. Using his fame to help others was the hallmark of York's life.

York's legacy endures in his home county in a number of ways, Alvin C. York Institute, as it is now called, was his greatest personal achievement. Against all odds, he brought the fruits of modern education to a rural area. York elementary school is named in his honor as well. The state highway, 127, that runs in front of his Pall Mall, Tennessee home is named York Highway, and the bridge across the Wolf River also bears his name. The park that sits on the 400 acres he called home is a reminder of his accomplishments. The structure used by the Church of Christ in Christian Union in Pall Mall, where York worshiped, bears the name York Chapel.

The National Guard Armory in Jamestown, Tennessee is named for him as well. On the east lawn of the state capitol in Nashville, a statue celebrates him as a Tennessean and war hero. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Veterans Hospital is named for York and contains a small exhibit in his honor, including a bronze portrait bust of the famed Tennessean. Every year a commemorative muzzleloader-shooting contest is held in York's name near his old home place.

York has been honored in a number of ways, from the production of limited edition Sergeant York sidearm pocketknives to a special limited edition reproduction of the Colt .45 (semi automatic colt .45 model 1911, also know as a colt .45 acp) like the one he used in the Argonne. He has been the subject of serious scholarship (see the bibliographies associated with this site), religious revivals, inspirational literature, folk art, T-shirts, coffee cups, cartoons, posters, and even novels. York shows up to save the day once again in Newt Gingrich's rather bizarre novel, 1945. In Pennsylvania, a paint ball establishment bears his name, and in San Diego a sandwich is named for him. During the Reagan administration, a new weapon was introduced, the DIVAD system, or Sergeant York Tank. The tank, intended to parrot the marksmanship of the famed mountaineer, ironically could not hit M247anything it shot at and was mothballed immediately after its rollout, to the embarrassment of Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. (A model of the tank can be seen at the York home and in the Jamestown National Guard Armory).

The legacy left by York continues to grow. His life still proves to be an inspiration to people throughout the country, and thousands trek to his home each year in homage. York has been the subject of a segment of the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) Channel's Biography series, and immortalized by the United States Postal Sgt. York Stamp issued 2000Service.

Alvin York represents for many people the simple values of the American frontier hero from Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and Abraham Lincoln to the fictional American hero archetype Natty Bumppo. But he was much more than that. York embraced the fruits of technology and looked forward to a promising future rather than backward to an idealized agrarian past. A man of incredible generosity and equipped with a marvelous sense of humor, York embodied the best America has to offer. His values were simple--love of God, home, family, and country--but he was by no means simplistic. He was a complex, complicated man who grew to greatness without compromising too much.

Alvin York, when asked "How do you want to be remembered?," always replied, "For improving education in Tennessee."