Darris K. Upton has been elected chair of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) Board of Commissioners. He was unanimously voted to the role of chair at the THRC Board of Commissioners meeting on November 17. Gov. Bill Lee appointed Darris Upton, of Knoxville, to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission on February 23, as a representative of the Eastern Tennessee Division. Chair Upton attended his first THRC Board of Commissioners meeting on July 21, 2023. He will serve his term until June 2024.
Darris Upton is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs manager for United Clean-up Oak Ridge (UCOR). In his role, he helps UCOR build a more diverse workforce and develop internal supports for employees. Some of his work includes assisting in recruitment efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, launching employee resource groups, and developing community events such as the Scarboro Community Workshop. Previously, Mr. Upton served as the Diversity Development manager for Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ office. During his tenure there, his projects included implementing a summer intern program with Project Grad, developing employee resources groups for Knox County, and partnering with private sector companies and non-profit organizations to provide jobs for individuals seeking second-chance employment.
He is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran, serving nearly 12 years. After his naval service, Darris attended Pellissippi State Community College and the University of Tennessee, ultimately receiving a Master’s degree in social work. He is a member of several community boards including Pellissippi State Foundation Board of Trustees, Knox Education Foundation, and Project Grad Knoxville.
Muriel Nolen, executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, said: “I am excited to work with Chair Upton and the rest of the Board of Commissioners. With his leadership, I am hopeful the Commission will further the mission of THRC and continue to serve the citizens of Tennessee.”
At the Board of Commissioners meeting on November 17, the board also elected Chris Crider as co-chair of the Board of Commissioners and Mark Kelly as secretary of the Board of Commissioners. Under the Tennessee Human Rights Act, the THRC is governed by a nine-member Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House of Representatives. Commissioners represent the three grand divisions of the state: East, Middle, and West Tennessee.
The mission of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission is “safeguarding individuals from discrimination through education and enforcement.” THRC is the primary agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws in Tennessee in employment, housing, and public accommodation. The Commission prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age (40 and over in employment), familial status (housing only), and retaliation.