Captain Thomas Ryman Statue

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Captain Thomas Ryman Statue

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The statue stands in front of the modern entrance to the Ryman Auditorium.

Ryman was a prominent 44-year-old Nashville businessman and the owner of a major riverboat company.  He started the business with his father and quickly took over management of the venture at 15, fishing the Tennessee River near Chattanooga during the Civil War to support his mother and four siblings after his father died. Over time, Ryman amassed a 35-ship fleet as well as various saloons and side businesses catering to rowdy river life. Ryman directly profited from the alcohol, gambling, and unsavory behavior that the popular Reverend Sam Jones was set to rail against on that hot revival night in May, and he arrived with a few friends to see just what the good reverend had to say about the situation.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Reverend Jones was famous for his tent revivals, and this one drew a crowd of thousands to Spruce and Broad (8th Ave and Broadway). Though Ryman arrived as a curious spectator, the Reverend’s sermon and the energy of the faithful crowd stirred something deep and surprising inside him.  He pledged then and there to use his wealth and influence to construct a building large enough to hold every person who wanted to hear Sam Jones and others preach. Seven years and approximately $100,000 later, in 1892, Reverend Jones stood behind the pulpit of Ryman’s brand-new Union Gospel Tabernacle. 

When he died in 1904, Ryman was widely regarded as an exceptional businessman and a pillar of faith, generosity and kindness in the Nashville community. At Ryman’s funeral on Christmas Day, Sam Jones proposed to the 5,000 mourners in attendance that the building be re-named in the Captain’s honor; from that day forward, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was known as Ryman Auditorium. 

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Captain Thomas Ryman Statue

116 Fifth Ave North
Nashville, TN 37219

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