I n 1911 Sevierville was a sleepy little farming community. The town was surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains. In this setting K. Rawlings, Sr. saw a need for a funeral establishment and opened for business using the top floor of his furniture store to show caskets. The first reported funeral conducted by the K. Rawlings Funeral Home was for C. M. McMahan who died October 11, 1911.
There were two other funeral homes in the community at this time. Even with these other established funeral homes, K. Rawlings, Sr. recognized the need for a business and offered personalized and compassionate service to the families that they served.
The first location was on Main Street and was called K. Rawlings Furniture and Undertaking. The furniture store was established in 1902 with a hundred dollars of merchandise. Out of this humble beginning, a legacy of compassion and caring became synonymous with the name K. Rawlings Funeral Home.
Other members of K. Rawling's family who went into partnership with him were his father, Milton Rush Rawlings, and a brother Edgar L. Rawlings. M. R. Rawlings retired in 1928 and died on July 16, 1937.
Edgar tended the horses that were used to pull the hearses until the first motorized hearse was purchased in the early 1920's. Edgar withdrew his partnership in the business in 1923 to pursue other interests.
Fred Rawlings, brother of K. Rawlings, Sr. became a partner in the business in either 1919 or 1920 following WWI. In 1929, the first licensed embalmer in Sevier County; W. R. Miller came to work full time for the funeral home. As the business flourished there became a need for more dedicated people to provide the service that the funeral home had become known. In 1929, another brother Lynn Rawlings, became a partner.
The year 1931 brought another change to the business. The brothers started an ambulance service serving all of Sevier County. During this era, most funeral homes operated an ambulance service. The service operated until 1972 when the county took control of the ambulance business.
In 1935, the brothers bought the Davis Hotel. The hotel was built in the 1920's with 22 rooms and four bathrooms. During 1935 and 1936 the building was renovated to accommodate the funeral home.
With a growing business and the name recognition of K. Rawlings Funeral Home in Sevier County, the family decided it was time to start another funeral home. In either 1939 or 1940, K. Rawlings and family joined into another funeral home with W. R. Miller opening another business in Maryville. Both funeral homes went under the name of Rawlings and Miller Funeral Home.
In 1951, shortly after WW2, K. Rawlings, Jr. entered into the business. He was a graduate of a Nashville School of Embalming. K. Rawlings, Jr. served in the Navy during WWII. In 1952, Lynn P. Rawlings, Jr. joined the partnership. Lynn served in the Air Corps during WWII.
In the early 1950's, as both funeral homes flourished, the partners recognized that the business was growing so rapidly changes needed to be made. It was agreed that the funeral homes would each become a stand-alone business. K. Rawlings and family kept the Sevierville funeral home and W. R. Miller took the Maryville funeral home.
In 1955, the business bought an adjoining lot that had a garage on it. After tearing down the garage, a new chapel was built. No expenses were spared in the building of the chapel. Beautiful wood paneling was installed on the upper part of the walls and was accented with knotty pine on the lower part. Stained glass windows were installed. Church type pews were used instead of the traditional folding chairs, giving the chapel a church like appearance.
K. Rawlings, Sr. remained active in the business until his death on May 8, 1966 at the age of 86. Mr. Rawlings had been very active in community service. He had served four years as chairman of the Board of Education and was a member of the Board of Alderman of Sevierville.
In 1976, Mark and Mike Rawlings, the sons of L. P. Rawlings, Jr. joined the firm. Fred, L. P., Jr., Kenny, Mark and Mike Rawlings all remained active in the family business until 1986 when the business was sold to Jeff Gamble of Winchester, Tennessee. Chester Bridges was manager until Jeff sold the business to the Loewen Group in 1991. During this time a local person, Jack Parton was hired to assist in the business.
Following the acquisition of the business, the Loewen Group brought in Gary Hicks as general manager. At this time remodeling was done with new carpet and painting of the chapel ceiling. The exterior, which was red brick, was painted gray. An open house was held to show the community the new look of the funeral home. The theme of the open house was "A New Look for an Old Friend".
Gary Hicks remained as manager, with Jack Parton assisting him until 1997. In 1992 or 1993, Georgia Parton, wife of Jack Parton, joined the staff as secretary. Kenny Rawlings, Jr. remained active in the business until his death in December of 2005. Kenny helped tremendously in the business with his expertise and knowledge of the business and community.
In December of 1997, Gary left to pursue other interests. In 2008 Gary came back as Manager of Rawlings Funeral Home. Gary, Jack and Georgia Parton, the staff of Rawlings Funeral Home, are still dedicated to serving the families with the same kind of care and compassion they always have.
With the dedication of the staff and the continual support of the community, Rawlings Funeral Home should be prepared to enter the 21st century. The funeral service business is becoming more competitive with the passing of each year, however we feel that our staff is dedicated to offering the families the caring and compassionate service that they have come to expect since 1911.