“Arrowmont is proud to have Margit Worsham as a long-standing board member and Earl Worsham as a devoted friend and major supporter. Arrowmont appreciates their years of advocacy and support,” the arts center said in a release.
The Worshams are the latest addition to a notable list of Tennessee conservationists to earn the title, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, Commissioner James H. Fyke, and Sen. Lamar Alexander.
“We honor the impact our Conservation Achievement Award winners have made across the state,” said Mike Butler, chief executive officer for the federation. “Dedicated conservationists and a collaborative approach are critical to safeguarding our great outdoors. Earl and Margit, you have contributed so much to conservation. We are grateful for your commitment and that Tennessee’s wildlife and places are beneficiaries of your generosity.”
The award is the most recent recognition of Margit and Earl’s long-standing positive impact. They share a dedication to improving the land and the lives of children and families, veterans, artists, and residents in Sevier County.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation described fishing as their “love story” when presenting the award to the Worshams. Margit and Earl grew up fishing as children. As adults, they became deeply involved in conservation efforts, serving on the boards of renowned international organizations, including the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Iceland Atlantic Salmon Fund, Trout Unlimited International. Their passion for the outdoors drew them together when they met at a Norway salmon fishing lodge. They purchased Norton Creek 30 years ago and spent decades creating a haven for Smoky Mountain native plant and animal life.
Norton Creek is one of the top trout streams east of the Mississippi, with world-class trout fishing. Margit and Earl worked with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate the property as a sanctuary for endangered Eastern brook trout, native to the Smokies. The couple established the Norton Creek Conservation Easement to protect the creek’s pristine waters and forested banks. This ensures the land will never be developed — it will be preserved as a safe place for native wildlife and plant species in perpetuity. Margit and Earl are committed to sharing their love of the land, and fishing, with future generations.
Norton Creek is a sanctuary for fireflies, fish, and flora. The Worshams share their property with nature-lovers, sportsmen, and in the past several years, veterans. Margit and Earl welcome veterans to experience the peace of the Smokies through Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans overcome the pain of their past through fly-fishing.
Quiet bird calls and flowing water are the backdrop for veterans participating in a day of fly fishing at Norton Creek. For some, spending time in nature — alongside fellow veterans and volunteers — is lifesaving. Margit and Earl’s efforts to protect and maintain their beloved mountain home sustains more than wildlife. Their generosity of spirit helps many who would otherwise not be able to find the community or support they need.
Margit and Earl’s dedication to conservation was the beginning of a lifetime of serving their community. The couple devote time and service to East Tennessee organizations that benefit the entire region. In a 2020 Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Banquet ceremony, Margit and Earl were acknowledged for their profound commitment to the city, receiving the William C. Stevens Volunteer Spirit Award. Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau President, Mark Adams, said:
“It is hard to succinctly describe the Worsham’s contributions to the city and countless non-profit organizations, including our beloved Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Together they have worked quietly behind the scenes raising millions of dollars to support the advancement of the community.”
Margit and Earl served as board members for United Way of Sevier County, supporting local organizations to address children’s education, health care, and business development across the county. The Worshams raised $1.5 million for United Way. Arrowmont’s annual Souper Bowl event benefiting United Way of Sevier County is the result of Earl and Margit’s advocacy for the organization.
Margit and Earl love art and are committed to arts education. Earl served on the board of directors for the Knoxville Museum of Art, contributing to the economic development of the museum and downtown Knoxville. Margit became involved with artists in the community, revitalizing the Gatlinburg Arts Council. Through Margit’s efforts, the Arts Council broadened its reach and established exhibition opportunities with generous juried prizes and awards for artists of all ages. The organization established an annual Sevier County Juried Student Art Show and, over the course of 26 years, awarded more than $28,000 to Sevier County children in the arts.
The Worshams joined Geoff Wolpert and other community leaders to form the Gatlinburg Gateway Foundation in 2000. Their work led to environmentally sensitive projects that elevated the entryway to the city for visitors and community members. Power lines were relocated underground; handcrafted road signs were added; the Gatlinburg Fine Art Festival was hosted for the first of a ten-year tradition. Soon, Margit Worsham would join the Arrowmont Board of Governors. She has been a board member for the past 15 years, raising $2 million to benefit Arrowmont’s arts educational programming. Margit and Earl’s generosity and dedication to the community continue.
In early June, Margit and Earl Worsham opened their home to 50 guests for a unique and magical experience. As the sun set over the mountains, the party exited the comfortable lodge to experience something that is only found in the Smokies: synchronous fireflies. Margit and Earl support Discover Life in America by hosting this intimate, annual event. It is a further way they contribute to protecting our Smoky Mountain home.