In 1847 William B. Scott, a free black, traveled to East Tennessee with his family from their home in North Carolina. After a brief stay in Knoxville, Scott moved to Blount County where he worked as a saddle and harness maker. At the start of the Civil War, Scott moved his family back to Knoxville, where they befriended Reverend Thomas Humes, former editor for the Knoxville Register. Humes arranged for Scott and his son, William B. Scott, Jr., to apprentice as printers at the paper.
In 1865, the Scott family moved to Nashville where Scott, Sr. was one of the delegates to the Colored Men’s Convention, which, amongst other causes, lobbied for the freedman’s right to vote. During his time in Nashville, Scott and his son established the state’s first African American newspaper, the Colored Tennessean. Within a year, Scott realized that most of the paper’s support came from East Tennessee, so he moved the paper to Blount County, where in October 1867, he printed the first issue of the Maryville Republican. At the time, Maryville had no other newspapers, so although the Republican circulated amongst the county’s few blacks, the majority of subscribers were white. The paper–a weekly–“advocated equal political, economic and educational opportunities for blacks, but rejected the pursuit of social equality with whites.” Editorial control was initially held by Richard C. Tucker and Moses L. McConnell but later went to William B. Scott, Jr. Outlining the paper’s purpose, the second issue’s editorial stated its commitment to Radical Republicanism, the type that “recognizes and believes in the universal brotherhood “by nature” of all mankind […] and that no man has any right to trade and trafic [sic] in human flesh; […] and industrial worth should be man’s passport to favor and respect, without any regard to race, color, or previous condition.” With the exception of brief competition from others, Scott’s paper remained the only newspaper in Blount County for a decade. In the early 1870s, William B. Scott, Jr. became publisher of the Republican and the town’s name was dropped from the masthead. Scott, Sr., returned to his saddle and harness making business but remained at the paper in an editorial role.
William B. Scott, Sr. was devoted to serving his community (regardless of race), and in 1869 he was elected mayor of Maryville. He was also instrumental in establishing the town’s Freedman’s Normal Institute. In 1872, Scott, Sr. and Yardley Warner established the monthly Maryville Monitor. Warner, a black Quaker, had recently arrived from Massachusetts to help establish the Freedman’s Institute. The two men used the paper’s editorials to build support and raise funds for the Freedmen’s Institute. The paper focused on education issues and had a literary slant; subscribers were encouraged to contribute to the publication.
By the mid 1870s, Scott had become disillusioned with the Republican Party. He felt that the state Republicans were not doing enough for blacks. In 1876, Scott supported the Democratic presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden, as he believed he would bring blacks and whites closer politically. Scott, Sr. was invited to give speeches in support of Tilden in several states. To further show his support for the Democratic Party, in 1879 Scott Sr. established the Blount County Democrat. The masthead described the paper’s contents as, “News, Miscellaneous Home Readings and Blount County Industries.” Advertising often dominated the publication, and on occasions a single ad occupied the whole front page. Publication ceased in 1883.