The Grandparents Oral History Project began as a result of a conference that Andrew Johnson Elementary School (Kingsport, Tennessee) teacher Betty White attended at ETSU in October 1976. Guest speaker Alex Haley told how the saga of Roots would have gone unwritten if he had not taken the time to sit on the front steps of his grandmother’s home as she recalled stories from his family's past. He reminded the group that now was the time to start collecting local and family histories before they are lost forever. He challenged the audience to find a way to preserve the rich cultural history of East Tennessee for future generations.
Beginning in 1976 and until her retirement in 2003, Mrs. White asked her first grade students to collect stories from their grandparents and great-grandparents. Each year the letters containing these memories were illustrated and published in booklet form for every student in the class. Through these stories the students received a sense of family pride, memories, and traditions which can be passed to their future generations.