Joseph Hayes Acklen (1850-1938)


Joseph was the first born child of Joseph and Adelicia Acklen.  He was born at their house on Cherry Street in downtown Nashville.  He was educated at home with private tutors before attending Burlington Military College, near Burlington, New Jersey, in 1864 and 1865. 


Following the Civil War he graduated from two foreign universities, Ecole de Neuilly in Paris and Swiss University in Vevay.  His law degree was received from Cumberland College, School of Law in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1871.  He began practicing law Memphis.   Joseph married Hattie Bethell of Memphis in 1871.  They moved to her sugar plantation in Patternsonville (now Patterson) St. Mary Parish Louisiana.   Hattie died in 1873 giving birth to their first child who also died.  Joseph inherited the plantation and resided there until 1884.


While in Louisiana, Joseph was elected to the United States Congress and served from 1878 to 1881.  In December of 1884 he returned to Nashville to practice law.  After Adelicia and the rest of the family moved to Washington, D. C. in 1885, he lived at Belmont until the house was sold in January of 1887.   Joseph married Jeanette Tillotson and together they had eight children. He died in Nashville on September 28, 1938, and is entombed in the Acklen mausoleum in Mount Olivet Cemetery.


After moving back to Nashville, Joseph served in many roles in state and local government including:

  • Chairman of the Davidson County Democratic executive committee, 1886-1894

  • Member of the Nashville City Council, 1900-1904

  • President of the State Bar Association, 1901 and 1902

  • State Warden of the Department of Game, Fish, and Forestry, 1903-1913

  • General Counsel of the National Association of Game and Fish Commissioners of the United States, 1905-1912, for which he also served as president.

  • Middle Tennessee Counsel of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, 1907-1911

  • First Chief Game Warden of the United States, 1913 and 1914

  • Chairman of the State Central Committee on the constitutional convention, 1923-1927

  • Author of numerous articles on ornithology, fish culture, forestry, and field sports.

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Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212


1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212


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The architecture of Belmont Mansion makes it one of the most significant homes of 19th century Tennessee.

Sold by the Acklen family in 1887, the house went to a developer who began one of Nashville’s early suburbs.

It was then purchased by two women who in 1890 started a college which evolved into Belmont University. Today the Belmont Mansion Association, which was formed in 1972, owns the collection, runs the museum, and shares this unique story of 19th century Nashville with visitors from far and near.

Photos by Ed Houk