The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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The State of Politics in America's 51st State - Cumberland

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

Cumberland's Governor, Jackie Epperson, sitting beneath the Cumberland State Flag.Cumberland's Governor, Jackie Epperson, sitting beneath the Cumberland State Flag.About a year ago, we did a Backroad tour into Scott County, Virginia and by Natural Tunnel State Park. At that time, we learned of a complex tongue-in-cheek subversive plot going on in that area. Cumberland Gap is surrounded by three counties in Virginia (Wise, Scott and Lee), Tennessee (Claiborne, Hancock and Hawkins), and Kentucky (Bell, Harlan and Knox) who decided they had more in common with each other than they did with their own state capitols. In a spirit of cooperation and a lot of fun poking at politics, they decided to secede from the Union and form the 51st state - The Great State of Cumberland.

On May 4, 1987, they declared Inter-Dependence Day. Shortly thereafter, they held Gubernatorial and state cabinet elections, designed a flag, the whole works. Cumberland was off and running, promoting travel to their fine state and having a whole lot of fun doing it. Cumberland is an equal opportunity state and it was no surprise that their very first elected Governor was a woman, Jackie Epperson of Middlesboro, Kentucky.

One year later, May 4, 1988, Governor Epperson will issue a proclamation and present awards to individuals who have made contributions to expand tourism and to further the well being of the State of Cumberland.

On May 28, 1988, the first annual Inter-Dependence Day Celebration will be held in Duffield, Virginia. The festivities will start about 4:30 pm with an outdoor barbecue and will be followed by lively entertainment throughout the evening. There will be gospel and bluegrass music and the highlight will be the appearance of the famous singer, songwriter, Dale VanHorn. Many songs written by VanHorn have been recorded by such artists as Lee Greenwood, Ronnie Milsap and perhaps best known and loved is "All The Gold In California" recorded by the Gatlin Brothers. The public is invited to attend. All it takes is a $10.00 membership card and the barbecue and entertainment are free! A card may be purchased on the day of festivities or obtained by mail prior to the event. For more information about the festivities and obtaining a membership card, contact the Secretary of State, Sandy Leonard at the Claiborne County Chamber of Commerce, Tazewell, Tennessee, phone - 615-626-4844.

If you happen to have political aspirations, Cumberland may be the place for you. They recently published a criteria for the qualifications to become Governor of their fair state. The Mountain Laurel has reprinted it as follows:

The Governor must:

1. Be age 21 to 121.
2. Have traveled through Cumberland Gap at least five times.
3. Know how to shoot a bear with chosen weapon.
4. Be willing to devote 25 hours per day, 8 days per week through rain, sleet, snow and sunshine with a smile on his/her face, to promote the State of Cumberland.
5. Be a commoner (not holding elected political office).
6. Be a member by filing time of first election and member six months prior to election thereafter.
7. Be a resident of State of Cumberland for six months prior to filing.
8. Have attended at least a one-room school.
9. Provide own mode of transportation - horse, donkey, etc.
10. Have time and ability to promote State of Cumberland extensively.

The Mountain Laurel wishes the Great State of Cumberland congratulations on their first successful year and for many more in the future.