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The Grand Divisions are geographic, cultural, and legally recognized regions, each constituting roughly one-third of the Statemarker of Tennesseemarker. The Grand Divisions are represented prominently by the three stars on the flag of Tennessee. The earliest reference to the Grand Divisions is in The Acts of Tennessee 1835-1836 Chapter 3, "An Act to establish a Supreme Court in pursuance of the 2nd sec., art. 6, of the Constitution of the United States", at which time the boundaries were roughly the same as they are now.

Geographic and cultural characteristics

The three grand divisions, East, Middle, and West Tennessee, are geographically and culturally distinct.

East Tennessee is dominated by the Appalachianmarker mountain chain, including the Great Smoky Mountains on the eastern border of the state, the ridge-and-valley region where East Tennessee's principal cities are located, and the rugged Cumberland Mountains. East Tennessee is one of the few areas in the South which has consistently voted Republican since Reconstruction.

East and Middle Tennessee are separated along the Cumberland Plateau. The boundary between the two grand divisions is close to the line between the Eastern and Central time zones. Middle Tennessee, which includes the state's capital city of Nashvillemarker, is dominated by rolling hills and fertile stream valleys.

A portion of the Tennessee River demarcates the boundary between Middle and West Tennessee. West Tennessee's other border is the Mississippi River, and most of the region lies within the Mississippi embayment. Outside the greater Memphismarker area, the region is mostly agricultural.

Legal meaning

The Grand Divisions are defined in Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 2, Grand Divisions and State Capital.

The Tennessee State Constitution mandates that no more than two of the five Justices on the state's Supreme Court can be from any one Division to help keep the court free from geographic bias. The court must also meet regularly in each Division. Similar rules apply to some other state institutions such as the former Tennessee Public Service Commission, of whom one commissioner was required to be from each Grand Division, although the commissioners were elected statewide.


  1. Tennessee Department of State, Tennessee Symbols and Honors, Tennessee Blue Book, 2005-2006.
  2. TNGenWeb Tennessee's 3 Grand Divisions
  3. Tennessee Department of State, A History of Tennessee, Tennessee Blue Book, 2005-2006.
  5. Tennessee State Constitution
  6. FindLaw | Cases and Codes

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