Founding family of Knoxville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade walks for second year, remembers parents

Local News

Every St. Patrick’s Day in Knoxville, there’s been some kind of celebration since at least the 1850’s. 

The Irish holiday, celebrated at first in Knoxville as a parade around Market Square, grew into something bigger. 

The organizers: John and Pat McLaughlin wanted to bring that tradition back. So, in 1981, they did. 

“St Patrick’s day with his community was something he took very seriously. His plans for future parades were to dye the fountains green.” said Molly McLaughlin Miller, McLaughlin’s daughter. 

McLaughlin wanted to make the celebration special. His daughters, Sue McLaughlin Greer, Linda McLaughlin Howard, and Miller (and their brother too) involved in the planning of the event. 

Sue says she vividly remembers her father being frustrated that the city wouldn’t allow him to paint a green line down the center of Gay St. But, he had other plans to make it happen. 

“I remember him pulling his hair out and then someone said, well I’ll donate the paint and he got his green stripe down Gay St.” said Sue. 

His family, now larger thanks to grand children and great-grand children, celebrating his memory — and their family’s favorite holiday, together now 30 years later. 

“He has 10 grand children and 3 great grand sons. He would be all over it. Wouldn’t he?” said Linda.

 McLaughlin saved everything he did regarding the parade. With the Knights of Columbus, McLaughlin planned parade routes, media coverage, special Irish guests (like, for example, an air stewardess from Aer Lingus, an Irish travel company, who was in attendance for his first parade). 

Handwritten notes, detailing highlights from the parade, newspaper clippings, and hand drawn budgets — all saved in a scrapbook. 

Now, it’s a time capsule for generations of his family. 

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