Ethel T. Chaffin (née Tison, born Corinne Ethel Tison) (born 1921 and died 2018) was a modern dancer and dance instructor at Louisiana State University and Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College), graduate student at the University of Georgia in dance and theatre history, and founding member of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, and was instrumental in the preservation of the old Fire Hall.
Ethel T. Chaffin was born on January 13, 1921 in Natchitoches, Louisiana where her father was president of Louisiana State Teacher’s College (now Northwestern State University). Ethel T. Chaffin majored in Modern Dance at Louisiana State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree at age 19. She was a member of Chi Omega Sorority and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. Following her graduation, she studied under Ethel Butler, Martha Graham, Doris Humphries, and Charles Weideman at the University of Maryland, New York University, and Bennington College. She taught dance at Georgia State College for Women and at Louisiana State University. She also lived in Washington, D.C., Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Tokyo, Japan prior to living in Athens, Georgia.
Chaffin moved to Athens, Georgia with her husband and children in 1957 for her husband to serve on the faculty of the University of Georgia School of Law. While living in Athens, she matriculated at the University of Georgia College of Arts and Sciences to earn a Master of Arts degree in dance and theatre history. She received this degree in 1982, upon completion of her thesis “Professional Theatrical Entertainment in Athens, Georgia: 1865-1888.”
While living in Athens, Chaffin helped found the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation with Joanna Traylor, John Waters, Robert Carson, Kenneth Coleman, Ruth J. Downes, Jeanne Downs, Carol Downs Fowler, Robert Kimbrell, John Linley, and Jeannette Lund. The ACHF was founded in 1967 to save the Church-Waddel-Brumby House, Athen’s oldest residence, from demolition to make room for a new federal building in an Urban Renewal Program. The residence was moved from the north side of East Hancock Avenue in the middle of the block between Thomas and Jackson streets to its present location at the corner of Thomas Street and rerouted Dougherty Street. Chaffin was involved in the Foundation’s movements to save the Fire Hall from demolition for a new Civic Center, advocate for the passage of the Historical Preservation Ordinance, and convert the former Church-Waddel-Brumby House into the Athens Welcome Center. The ACHF still exists in 2019 as an active organization in Athens, Georgia.
She married Verner Chaffin in 1943 during World War II, in which her husband served. They have four children – Ethel, Frank, Mary, and John. Her husband Verner died in April 2018 and she died in December 2018.