James, Marquis. The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1929. Possibly the most remarkable Tennessean in history, Sam Houston was raised by the Cherokee, memorized Homer’s Iliad, and was twice elected governor of Tennessee before he headed west to the new American frontier to become president of the Texas Republic.
Leeming, David. Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney. New York: Oxford University Press (USA), 1998. Beauford Delaney was a brilliant but often overlooked modernist painter who was born in Knoxville  in 1901. African-American and gay, Delaney later moved to New York where he worked as an artist and moved in circles that included James Baldwin and Henry Miller.
Moore, Carmen. Somebody’s Angel Child: The Story of Bessie Smith. New York: Thomas Cromwell Company, 1969. The illustrated story of Chattanooga native Bessie Smith’s remarkable rise to, then fall from, the top of the music world.