Mills honored as tourism pioneer

Knox County is known for its rich tourism history.

More than two dozen people gathered Saturday afternoon to honor a woman hailed as a tourism pioneer in the county – Flat Lick resident Hazel Mills.

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The Barbourville-Knox County Tourism Commission hosted a reception for Mills, who many say was instrumental in getting the tourism ball rolling in the county.

Randall Young congratulates Hazel Mills on being honored as a tourism pioneer.
Randall Young congratulates Hazel Mills on being honored as a tourism pioneer.

Former county judge Carnell Sprinkles recalled how Mills spearheaded the first tourism commission in the county back in the late 1986.

“She came in one day and wanted to talk about tourism because we didn’t have a committee,” Sprinkles said, adding that, at the time, the county did not have funding for tourism. “She said that she would like to get started. I said ‘fine. I am for that 100 percent, if you will run it.” Sprinkles said. “I told her ‘we’ll start a tourism committee I’ll help you all I can, and next year we’ll finance some for you, if you will chair it and take care of it. She agreed to do it…I made the right choice.”

Sprinkles said Mills was always looking out for the best for the county, adding that in the early days, Mills and others who worked with her paid their own way to tourism meetings and events.

“What they spent and done getting this started, they did it on their own,” he said. “She is a pioneer in herself. She started a lot of stuff, like the little park up at Flat Lick. The monuments that she put up there will live from now on.”

Sprinkles said he will always have fond memories of Mills. “She will always be in my heart.”

Barbourville-Knox Tourism Commission member Charles Frazier presented Mills with a plaque honoring her as Commissioner Emeritus.

“We appreciate your efforts,” Frazier said.