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Captain Tom Ryman

  • Built the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which was later renamed the Ryman Auditorium
  • Prominent Nashville businessman and riverboat captain in the late 1800s

Riverboat Captain Thomas Green Ryman was a Nashville businessman and the owner of a major riverboat company who built a church that forever changed the face of music. On the night of May 10, 1885, Ryman arrived at a downtown Nashville religious revival to see what all the fuss was about; he left town that evening called by God to build a big, beautiful church by the revival sermons of Reverend Sam Jones on the very spot where the Auditorium now sits. Construction took seven years and approximately $100,000, and the Union Gospel Tabernacle opened in 1892 with Jones at the pulpit. When Ryman died in 1904, he was widely regarded as an exceptional businessman and a pillar of faith, generosity and kindness in the Nashville community. At his funeral on Christmas Day, Sam Jones proposed to the 5,000 mourners in attendance that the building be re-named in the Captain's honor as the Ryman Auditorium. Today, a copper statue of the Captain stands on Ryman Plaza near the Auditorium's entrance, facing east toward the river that fueled the fortune behind what would become affectionately known as the Mother Church of Country Music.


Inducted to the Music City Walk of Fame on September 14, 2017.