At the east entrance plaza of Ryman Auditorium is this statue standing next to a captain’s wheel (helm). Meet Captain Thomas Green Ryman. He was an eminent steamboat entrepreneur. Toward the end of the 19th century, he operated a fleet of 35 riverboats on the Cumberland River plus saloons. His enterprise specialized in alcohol and gambling. In 1885, he was inspired by evangelist Sam Jones. After hearing the reverend’s sermon, Tom Ryman became converted, stopped serving liquor on his riverboats and poured his money into building the Union Gospel Tabernacle. At Ryman’s funeral in 1904, Reverend Jones proposed the venue be renamed the Ryman Auditorium. Over 4,000 mourners stood up in agreement.