Aubrey Lee Totten was born to Riley Totten and Anna Scales Totten on December 5, 1906, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Aubrey moved to Knoxville sometime in the 1930s. On September 11, 1940, he married Knoxville-native Annetha Vineyard. Aubrey worked as a porter at the Andrew Johnson Hotel, and Annetha worked as a cafeteria worker in Knoxville’s public schools. Aubrey enlisted in the United States Army on October 9, 1942, where he served as an automobile mechanic in the 9th Quartermaster Training Company based at Camp Lee, Virginia. He was one of five Totten brothers to serve in World War II.
Following the war, Totten enrolled at Knoxville College where he graduated with a degree in chemistry. In 1950, he, Lincoln Blakeney, Joseph Patterson, Jack Alexander, and Gene Mitchell Gray attempted to enroll in the University of Tennessee’s graduate school but were barred by the school’s president and the state attorney general on the grounds of race. Knoxville attorney Carl Cowan represented the men in a court case, but the decision did not go in their favor. Two years later, however, Gray successfully enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee.
Totten went on to work as file clerk for the Tennessee Valley Authority and as a janitor. Aubrey Totten died in December 1987.
Knox County Archives, located on the second floor of the East Tennessee History Center, is proud to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces by preserving the history of their service. Team members at Knox County Archives are digitizing military discharges (military form DD-214) that were registered in Knox County, Tennessee. These permanent records represent every conflict from the American Civil War through the Vietnam War and reveal a great deal about a veteran’s service. This biographical and historical information may not exist in any other form due to a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1973; it destroyed an estimated 80% of United States Army discharges from World Wars I and II. Using these rare and important DD-214s, Knox County Archives hopes to share the stories of some of East Tennessee’s veterans.