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Meet Wilma Maples of the Gatlinburg Inn

Published: June 25, 2009

Those who have visited The Gatlinburg Inn are likely to return—and bring their children, and someday, their children’s children, and before you know it, the endearing owner of the enchanted hotel situated among the Great Smoky Mountains is welcoming fifth generation guests to her historic inn. Mrs. Wilma Maples dedicates each day to the legacy built by her husband, R. L. (Rellie) Maples, in the late 1930s.

The 450 rose bushes she planted for Rellie in the 1950s are still in bloom today, as they welcome visitors season after season. It’s easy to see how celebrated artists, writers, singers, and movie stars draw inspiration from the breathtaking beauty and genuine hospitality characteristic to the inn.

Mr. and Mrs. Maples lived in an apartment at the hotel for 25 years before building a home together in the mountains. An inspiring profile published in the Greater Knoxville Homes & Living shares the story of how Liberace used to stay at the hotel when he was performing in the area and “loved having Wilma cook southern dishes for him in the apartment’s small kitchen. He watched and talked while Wilma cooked.”

A portrait of Robert Silvers of <em>The Saturday Evening Post</em> hangs on the famed wall of the Gatlinburg Inn. Mr. Silvers is honored by the gesture and looks forward to many return visits to the inn.

A portrait of Robert Silvers of The Saturday Evening Post hangs on the famed wall of the Gatlinburg Inn. Mr. Silvers is honored by the gesture and looks forward to many return visits to the inn.

Celebrity portraits and autographs (including The Saturday Evening Post’s very own Robert Silvers) grace the walls of the inn. But at the end of the day, whether you’re visiting from Hollywood or Oklahoma, you can expect southern hospitality at its finest.

Perhaps Gatlinburg’s former mayor, Chuck Bradley—who worked at the inn from 1967 to 1974 before going to work for the state—said it best when he credited Mr. and Mrs. Maples for “helping to instill the right work ethic along with courtesy to the public that you serve.” Bradley attributes much of the community’s culture to the generosity and philanthropy of Mr. and Mrs. Maples. By establishing scholarships, building an outdoor theatre, and founding the Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts, Mr. and Mrs. Maples “have played a wonderful role in the history of Gatlinburg and the surrounding area,” says Bradley, who upon retirement was asked to come back and help manage the inn. “I said yes without hesitation. It was just like coming back home.”

Click here to read “Hit Song Born at an Inn.”

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  • Nola E. Radcliffe

    My mother was a first cousin to Wilma. I went to the Inn as a child and many times as an adult. Ther is no one more gracious than Wilma. I love her dearly. I have not seen her in 5 years, but plan to return to the Inn next month. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing her again.

  • Douglas Reed Miller

    Wilma is one of my Grandfather’s cousins. In 1978, my Grandfather Douglas “Reed” Miller Sr. flew our entire family (11 in all) from California to Tennessee for a Family Reunion. Wilma invited us all to stay at the Inn, she would have it no other way! Her house was amazing, nestled on the Hilltop in the Great Smoky Mountains, away from the hustle and bustle… I will always remember her “Southern Hospitality”. Wilma invited me to stay in the Spring of 1993 as I left Eastern University and head to work in Clearwater Beach, FL for the Summer, she treated me like Royalty, I will never forget that about Wilma! And, of course, upon my return north was another invitation to stay at the Inn that September! My grandfather flew us back a couple of times before his Passing in 1998. I will cherish those memories: Riding up the chair lift and watch my brother lose his shoe on the way up, or Rocking in the chair on the front porch of the Inn…Good Times at the Gatlinburg Inn!

    Douglas Reed Miller III
    Sacramento, CA

  • Wilma Dorrell

    Since I’m Wilma, I feel that name is special. I was named after Buck Rogers girlfriend in the comics. My mother always read Buck Rogers and she said if she had a girl, she would name her WILMA. That’s the honest truth! And, I recognized that Bob Silvers at first glance! Bless you both!