As a baby born July 3, 19O9, to Jessie Marie Comer Donnell and Oscar Alphonso Donnell I donít remember too much! I was born in Lebanon on the street that now connects North Cumberland to the street in front of the Woolen Mill. There were three houses on that street, and the Sweatts lived in one of them. We moved to a house on the farm belonging to my grandparents on Cainsville Road. (Ewing Alphonso Donnell and Molly Mount Donnell - his second wife. The Graves relatives are descended from his first wife. My other grandparents were the Comers (James Freeland and his wife, a Layne, who died when my mother was about five years old). Bob was not yet born. In 191O (December 10) Bob (Robert Dorris Donnell) was born. Oscar Howard was born November 17, 1912.
Papa was a rural mail carrier who also ran a farm. He was tall (6'1"), slender, dark hair. He chewed tobacco; one Sunday he was taking a nap in the living room and his tobacco fell out of his pocket. Bob and I decided to try it and we both got sick as dogs! My motherís wedding picture hangs on the wall here in my dining room. She's wearing her wedding dress; she made that wedding dress. She and Aunt Mamie Comer sewed for the public. They had a place above Weir's Dry Goods Store on the Lebanon Square. When my mother made up her mind she wanted something she was willing to work for it, but she was going to get it. When she decided she wanted electric lights, she made enough money sewing for other people to install an electric system, a generator operating off batteries. She was about 5'2" or so. She was very pretty with light brown hair.
We went to Union Methodist Church on Tater Peeler Road. When I was small we would drive a horse and buggy and cut across Frank Comer's farm and the Lannom farm - that way it was about a mile or a mile and a half to church. We only had two gates to open. Somehow the five of us got in the buggy. Later when we got a car we'd drive around by road -approximately 5 miles.
At church Dad led the singing and Mother taught Sunday school. I guess Martha got all that singing, because we boys didn't get any of it!
We got in trouble every once in a while. We had fun living in the country - there were about nine boys within a mile's radius: the Thackstons, the Laynesí and we three. We'd get together and play Fox and Hound on Sundays. The fox gets in the woods and every once in a while drops a piece of paper down. You're supposed to chase him and catch him. We played baseball and also rode cows, mules, and horses. We didn't ride too many cows, but I do remember one old steer that we rode. We saddled up that steer one day and just before we could ride we looked up and saw Dad coming in. We just let the steer go around the back so he ended up in the woods with a saddle on. We caught up with him the next day
One day we were all down at the Thackston farm. It had been raining arid for some reason we started a corn cob battle around the barn. Joe Thackston stuck his head around the corner and someone hit him on the back of the head, knocking him out as cold as a cucumber. He was soon able to get back into the fight. I was in the loft and they got to throwing cobs up there. There was a wasp nest up there and I couldn't get down. I finally got stung hut just once.
We were down at the Thackstons'another time when it was snowing. They had a horse pulling a sled and we were taking turns riding around on it. Blake had a smaller sled and looped the rope to the one being pulled by the horse and he was riding on it. Mrs. Thackston ran and got on the sled with Blake, holding on to him. That pulled the sled out from under them and Blake fell on her, breaking her leg.
When I was twelve or fourteen, somewhere right along in there, I was out in the woods helping my Uncle Walter cut wood. At that time he was supplying people in town with wood. Bob was doing something with the cows and the young bull got out and came after us. We both climbed up in a tree and started calling the dogs to come chase the bull back. The dogs didn't come, but Bob did, riding on a pony. He chased the bull who then went over next door across the fence where there was an older bull. The two had been bellowing at each other that morning. They got into a fight and the older bull whipped ours who came running home back over the fence!
Later on Bob and I decided we'd cut some wood and we got into a grove of persimmon wood. We cut at least a rick and when we got home Papa told us that we'd just wasted our morning. Persimmon wood wouldn't burn!
When I was in the eighth grade, a bunch of us boys were kicking the football back and forth. Jim Vance and I ran into each other and it knocked me out. It was about noon. Old Brother Harris (Tom's dad) was the principal and he carried me down to the doctor's office on the corner of College Street and East Main, upstairs. Dr. Ray and Dr. Huffman and one other were there - I don't remember for sure. I was still unconscious and the doctor sent me home with my dad when Dad finished his route. On the way home in the horse and buggy we came to a package in the road and we stopped and picked it up. That's the first thing I remember. After I got home I began to come back to normal. My nose was broken, and my face would turn black and blue. I was out of school about a week or ten days. Some might say the size of my nose is related to this incident!
My mother's mother died when my mother was only five years old, leaving my mother and her brother Frank. My grandfather Comer would remarry (Jenny Birchett) and have two children more: Herman and May. May married John Hewgley and had three daughters and a son: Dorothy May, Frances, Katherine, and John , Jr. Uncle Herman and Aunt Nancy (Rushing) had three boys: Herman, Jr., Billy, David.
My motherís brother Frank married Mamie Young. A short time after they married they lived in town on East Spring Street and later Cherry Street and then moved out on Cainsville Road on a farm. (Before he married, Uncle Frank had bought a farm on Coles Ferry Pike. When he went to service in World War I his father - my grandfather, "Captain" Freeland Comer - sold the farm!) When I was big enough Iíd come to town to stay with them. Out on Cainsville Road Uncle Frank had a shop where he'd build furniture and restore antiques. They would later move to Lebanon sometime in the forties and buy a house on North Greenwood behind the Law Barn later Lebanon Bank/First Tennessee Bank. He built a shop there. He would live there until his death in 1968. Aunt Mamie clerked in a ladies shop on the Square until she retired. She and my mother had established a business sewing, but Aunt Mamie didn't continue after my mother's death. Aunt Mamie would move to McKendree Manor and live there for many years until her death in 1997 at the age of 103. Aunt Mamie loved the news of Lebanon and kept up with community events until the end of her life.
Papa had a brother and a sister, Walter and Vera. Both of them married and had children. Vera first married a man who was killed by a runaway team in Chicago. They had a daughter Lucille who eventually would live in Texas with her daughter. Vera later married Ed Smith and had one son (Ed) and they lived in California. Walter lived in this area.
When we were in about the fifth or sixth grade, we had ponies we rode to school. People would holler at us and want to know when we were going to get off and let the pony ride awhile - they were so little. Bob and I could do anything we wanted with that pony, but if Howard came around the pony would bite him. Then the pony would run into the corner of the fence because he knew we were going to whip him for biting!
While we were living on Cainsville Road, it was a one-way road kept up by the people living on the road. They would either pay six dollars cash or work their time out -six days, a credit of a dollar a day. At that time there was a pencil factory on Cainsville Road and the people there either had to pay the six dollars or work the six days. Bob and I would contact them to pay us the six dollars and we would work their time out on the road. Papa would let us use the wagon and team (that was worth $4 a day)and one of us would be the driver. The other one would get a rock hammer and sit on a sack full of hay and chip the rock -that was worth $1 a day. We'd alternate jobs.
I started first grade in Lebanon and Miss Mary Mosher was the teacher. We'd ride in with our father every morning as he went to the post office. After school we went to the post office and he'd bring us home. He was a mail carrier (rural route). Later after we got big enough we drove a horse and buggy to school. The horse's name was Frank. You could turn him loose and he'd go right to the barn.
Recess was surely the best part of school. We played baseball and marbles. I liked math the best. English was my worst subject. I got along fairly well with spelling - you might say we were on speaking terms. I went there through the eighth grade and then went to Shop Springs for two years and then back to Lebanon High.
Miss Ida Cason, the music teacher at Shop Springs, formed a group of musicians, about seven or eight of us, and we performed in public. These performances were a part of the plays put on by the school and were held in different locations. I played the saxophone. Ida Bryant and Allie Coe Arrington played violins; Georgia Hankins sang and played the piano. Ollie Foutch from Smithville was the bus driver and he played saxophone with us. Jay Evins, an attorney, would come and play trumpet. There about two or three others. We would go as far as Old Hickory and put on these plays. Our group furnished the music.
We also had moot court. It was very carefully done with cases prepared and argued before the "judge." It was so well done that once when a bunch of jennets got out and crossed the road onto someone else's property, the property owner sued for damages done by these animals. He sued in moot court, with both parties agreeing to go by the verdict. The whole community got involved in this.
Mr. Davis, the principal at Shop Springs, presided over one of the best high schools around. We had to learn. Mr Davis was a good school man. He kept discipline, no matter how big the boy. I remember one big old boy said something Mr. Davis didn't like and Mr. Davis told him he had two choices: either leave the school or get a whipping. Mr Davis involved the whole community in school activities. People would crowd in to come see the plays, for example. Later he would leave to go to North Carolina where he did a fine job also.
I started my football career in Shop Springs. There were only thirteen boys in school and twelve of us went out for football. We had one substitute! Our coach was named Hugh Bass; he had graduated the year before and was coaching us for free so we learned very little about football. It was hard for us to score and even harder to stop the opposing team! We played McMinnville and when the game was finally over the score was 60-0.
Dad didn't want us to play football at first. We finally persuaded him to come to see one game (I don't remember who) and luckily I caught a pass and ran for a touchdown. After that Dad wouldn't miss a game! After I went to Lebanon I played there; the team was pretty good.
One of the reasons teams were so tough on Shop Springs was that the year before I joined up they had imported some really tough boys from GPI (Gallatin Preparatory Institute) to play. The coach was Fred Delay. All the teams that had been stomped the year before wanted to pay us back.
I played on the Lebanon High School football team, right end. Stroud Gwynn played left end. We had a right good team: Bob played fullback. Others players were Ralph Eskew, Robert (Shabby) Harrison (a doctor up in Maryville now), Ned Vaughan, Carl Swann, William Carlos, Mat Carlos, James Ray Harris, and I can't think of the rest of the names besides a boy whose last name was Moore. We used to play up at Cumberland and have approximately 1OO people for spectators. We didn't win too many games, but we played a right good game. My senior year I was captain.
At Lebanon High School one of my teachers was Winstead Bone's sister. She was my homeroom teacher and she also taught me one or two subjects.
When I came to Lebanon High I would first meet my lovely wife Mattie (my junior year). I fell right in love, but she was busy courting Cumberland boys and couldn't notice us country boys! Perseverance pays off. She was always kind; she never in her life did anything unkind. I had my eye on her, but she didn't have much of an eye on me! I made an excuse one day to sit in the seat with her and put my arm around the back. She said for me not to do that. From then on we all ran around in the same group, but I don't think I started dating her until we got in college. That year I remember dating Margaret Eatherly.
Mattie and I played the leads in a high school play. I remember her character was called Amy, and mine was named Bright. Those plays were given in the old Law Barn.
When we were in high school Penhook Moore who was from Cookeville had a one-engine airplane. We met downtown one night (Carl Swan and I) and we decided to take an airplane ride. We drove out where he had his plane parked and I parked my dad's car ('29 Chevrolet) and left the lights on. We took off using those car lights and landed safely. We flew around Lebanon taking in the sights.
The next day the Goodyear blimp was coming to Lebanon, so we decided to meet the next day and go up and fly around the balloon. However, Bob was courting Peggy Harrison, and Dr. Harrison had bought a new Oldsmobile and was letting Peggy have it for she and Bob to drive to Rock Island. They asked Mattie and me to go with them. However, Carl and Penhook decided they would fly and go around the balloon, but for some reason he lost control of the plane and fell into Winstead Bone's house on West Spring Street (across and down from the present Bone house). Carl broke his arm but there was no other injury; even the plane wasn't too badly damaged. Winstead was home for lunch!
I don't remember anything in particular about my graduation in 1928.
In the summer of 1928 1 worked in Cleveland, Ohio. Roy Crowell, Guy Thackston, and Carl Swann were with me. We bought a $25 Ford T-model to drive to Cleveland. It took us about 3-4 days to get there. The biggest excitement was hitting a railroad track and blowing out a tire. No one stopped to help; we had to walk into town, get a tire tube, bring it back, and put it on the car. We continued on, taking time to view the scenery along the way. I have some pictures from this. We arrived at Cleveland and rented an apartment in a nice brick apartment house. We moved in and Carl and I decided to take a walk. To go to Cleveland, Carl and I bought high-topped boots which we were wearing at this time. Several of the Ohio folks hollered at us , "Hey, cowboy! Where's your horse?" We were already homesick and this didn't help a bit.
Roy Crowell had worked in Cleveland the year before so he had called before he left home and gotten a job in a restaurant. Guy got a job selling shoes; hefore that he and I went hunting for a job. Our first offer was with East Ohio Gas Company. They sent us out to the edge of town. When we got there the job was digging ditches. The ditch was so narrow you had to stand sideways to dig. There was also water - about 2 or 3 inches. We set down on the edge of the bank. I said, "Guy, are you going in?"
He said, "What are you going to do?" We set our picks down by the side of the ditch and went back to town.
There were several Lebanon boys in Cleveland: George Evins had a job in a factory welding. He carried Carl with him and got Carl a job working in the same factory; however, Carl got homesick. He worked two weeks and headed back home. The restaurant that Roy was working for had another restaurant on another street about a block away and I got a job waiting on tables from 11-2 and washing dishes from 4-7. I have always said I've washed enough dishes for a lifetime!
We soon found out that our rent was higher than our paychecks. We moved into a frame house on the third floor for the rest of the summer.
We used to ride around in the Ford (which we would sell for about what we paid for it) and we noticed the police were keeping an eye on us. One day after one of us had run a red light the police stopped us and said, " You boys from Tennessee think you can come up here and run the place."
When it was time to come home to Tennessee we called Mr. Herbert Watson, the Dodge dealer in Lebanon, and made arrangements to drive some new Dodges from Detroit to Lebanon. We met Mr. Watson in Detroit (Guy, Roy, and myself) and each drove a new car back to Lebanon. At that time the highways were not marked very well. Very often we got off on a side road by mistake, but we all stayed together with Mr. Watson as the leader. Finally we landed in home territory. Even with that arrangement I had to borrow $50 from George Evins to come home on! I liked to have never paid that back.
My freshman year I worked at Williams' Drug Store on the first block of West Main, next to the hotel. I jerked sodas and clerked. Roy Crowell worked there, too. The three of us ran the store, and Mr. Williams got it in mind that he should sell it to us and just get out of the business. Roy and I talked it over and decided to do it. My mother lent me the money, and I set out from home to open the store as the proud co-owner, the check in my pocket. On the way I met Mr. Lewis Chambers, a fine local attorney, who warned me against the purchase, telling me that in Tennessee law, the debts of the business went with it when it was sold. I went on to the store with a lot on my mind. After a while Mr. Williams came in to say the sale's off - he wouldn't make enough from it to pay his debts! I had spent only one night as the owner of a drug store.
In the summer of 1929 I was working at Wilson County Motor Company selling cars when a fellow named Trusty came in looking to buy an automobile. I showed him a cleam little 1928 Chevrolet roadster. He acted as if he were interested in it and would like to try it out. So I drove out on Sparta Pike and I asked Him if he wanted to drive and he said yes. He seemed to get along very well until we came to a one-way bridge out at Greenwood. As we approached the bridge another car came up on the other side. I told Mr. Trusty to stop and he asked me how so the two cars ran together. As I was trying to help him stop the car my head went through the windshield, cutting my nose and chin. They carried me back to the hospital and it took three doctors -two holding and one sewing! I told them I came to get it sewed up but they were hurting me more holding me on the table than the sewing! After he had sewed it up on the outside Dr. Gaston asked me if I wanted it sewed on the inside. I said no. An infection later set in and claimed four lower front teeth. The man we hit was named Winfree. When it was all over Mr. Trusty said he'd never driven before and just wanted a ride to Watertown.
On page 118 of the 1932 Phoenix, the Cumberland College annual, you'll see Mattie and me in a picture. On page 129 of that same annual you can read in "Campus Chatter":
DONNELL DISMISSES GUARD
The secret bodyguard who for the past several weeks has watched over the safety of Comer Donnell of this city was dismissed today. Mr. Donnell made a statement to the local papers in which he declared that he no longer needed the protection of the guard, since Red Cook, who recently visited Lebanon, had returned to Kentucky.
It was only recently revealed that Mr. Donnell's life had been threatened, and that the guard, heavily armed with a slingshot, had been his constant companion for many days.
Miss Mattie Walker, alleged sweetheart of Donnell and the "Red Knight from Kentucky," refuses to entertain reporters from Liberty, New York Times, and other periodicals, to say just what was her feeling in the whole affair. It is rumored, however, that she vigorously opposed the dismissal of the guard.
I was in the Lit School one year and than on to law school. I never planned to practice law. I thought that would he as good an education as I could get and then go into business.
I went to the Lit School at Cumberland University in 1929-1930. I worked the next year at Wilson County Motor Co. and then attended Law School starting in 1931. Winstead Bone paid me $50 a month and let me go to school half a day. We had moved to town in 1928.
I enjoyed my two years at Cumberland and still have friends who graduated at about the same time. Ralph Donnell was one of my teachers as was Mrs. Mabel Jones. I already knew my future wife Mattie Walker from high school. I had quite a bit of competition from another of her admirers, Red Cook. Years later my young son would call him "Blue" Cook.
I remember Bob Turner's wedding in a small town (Allardt) the other side of Crossville. I was best man and Mattie was in the wedding party, too. Lois Johnson, Ethel Kidd, and Miriam Edgerton, Mattie and I set out in my dad's 1929 4-door Chevrolet sedan. After the wedding we came out into snow - so heavy there was no chance to return to Lebanon. We spent the night in Crossville and the next morning the town was all excited. A man and woman had come to town with a baby and folks decided it was the missing Lindbergh baby! We drove home safe1y after that.
When school was out Winstead said he'd have to put me on a commission basis. He didn't intend to keep paying me $5O a month. In 1933 Wilson County Motors bought the Chevrolet garage in Carthage and named it Cumberland Chevrolet. He paid me $135 a month (and furnished a car and gasoline) to operate the motor company in Carthage. I moved and lived in Carthage until I got married August 3, 1933, to Mattie Walker. I commuted to Carthage.
One sale I made while I was living in Carthage involved a large amount of silver in a tin bucket. I picked out the old silver and took it to my room at the hotel. It was stolen.
When I first went to Carthage it was hard - very competitive. After I got to know the folks of Smith County I enjoyed the work very much.
Mattie and I married August 3, 1933, at First Methodist Church (then on Fast Main Street). The reception was at the Walker home on South Hatton. The preacher's name was Jarvis. Enoch Comer was in charge of taking care of my car when we got married. He got a fellow named Wooden to put a cowbell with a chain and lock on it on the car. We drove all the way to Carthage with it on. They took it off for me at the garage. We picked up Buddy Humphries who was hitchhiking to Cookeville to school.
When Mattie and I were married she had already taught school a year - first grade which paid more, $95 a month. We rented a house on the first block of South Tarver (the first house on the right after you turn off West Main). Our rent was $22.50 a month. My mother gave us a coal oil New Perfection stove. Mr. and Mrs. Walker gave us a lot of used furniture. I bought an antique bed and an ice box from people I ran across in the car business. With our wedding gifts we set up housekeeping. We went to Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., on our honeymoon. I still have the bill -$12 a night (American style which included meals). We missed one meal and they gave us $3 credit so our 2-night stay was $21. We then went to Blowing Rock for 2 nights and then came home.
Mattie was teaching at Highland Heights.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer in September of 1933. She lived only a few more months and died in March of 1934. Later my dad remarried; he married Mrs. Coe and he died in 1952. Dad had retired and was operating the farm. John and Laura Ann Tapley were living on the farm. My dad was on the back side of the farm, which is a long distance from the house. They had been planting seed for hay and finished and started to the house. It had begun raining, and Dad went to open the gate, and when he did, he fell over dead. John picked him up and held him in his lap on the John Deere tractor and brought Dad to the house. Laura Ann helps me today by cleaning and generally keeping house.
In 1933 Mattie and I and Evelyn and Gwynn Vaughan went to a movie in Hillsboro Village in a Model A Ford Sports Roadster. "Roadster" means a seat for two in the car and a rumble seat for everyone else. The Vaughans rode over in the rumble seat. When we got out of the movie it was snowing heavily. The only thing to do was to have all four of us ride on the front seat! Someone also had to operate the windshield wipers which were hand operated.
In 1934 I came back from Carthage and Oris Philpot and I signed July 4, 1934, the contract for the Ford agency for WIlson County. We operated the Ford agency until 1940. During that time we took on also Plymouth and Chrysler and the Sinclair Oil distributorship. We had some good and some bad times during this period In 1940 we sold the Ford agency to Bob Padgett. I made Philpot a give or take proposition. He'd take the Sinclair agency and I'd keep the Plymouth-Chrysler and Ford Ferguson tractors. He accepted this (with a stipulation to pay me a certain amount of money).
I sold Mr Tom McAdoo a Plymouth 4-door sedan and be traded me a lot on Greenlawn Drive giving him credit of $400 on purchase price of the car (about $800). At that time I did not think about building a house, but later my grandfather died and we three boys each received $2500 inheritance. Mattie was teaching and I was of course in the automobile business so we decided to build a house and got Clyde Seal to draw the plans. After several changes we decided to use these plans and contracted with Mr. Hugh Chenault (who bought the first new car I ever sold, in 1929) to build a house according to specifications - contract price: $5400. He started in March of 1936 and completed it by August 1936. There were several ups and downs. I came home one day and Mattie was crying; they had put the furnace controls in the middle of the large wall in the living room just where she wanted to hang pictures. We got it changed. The carpenters were paid $1.35 an hour; helpers, 35 cents an hour. After the house was completed, Hugh Chenault told me he had some lumber left and he would build me a garage for $75. I took him up on it.
I had $2500 to pay down on purchase price and borrowed the balance from Mr. Ed Jackson payable annually at 2% interest. We were fortunate enough to pay for it in about three years. We moved in on August 3, 1936, our third wedding anniversary, also election day. Mr. Walker suggested we wait to move in until we voted so we spent the night before in our little house on South Tarver, voted, and moved our bed (and everything else) to Greenlawn!
In 1954 we added the den and added the part which is now the bathroom - this enlarged the kitchen. This cost approximately $15,000. For the kitchen cabinets I swapped the fellow who sells them a Plymouth, taking the cabinets in as part of the deal.
I filled in my yard and I had traded for a dump truck at the garage to haul the dirt in. It came from a creek bank at the farm. I got the bricks from a building face being removed downtown. I hauled sand in from the creek to build the driveway. You could run a truck over it and it wouldn't move.
One of the most striking features of our house is the staircase. In 1928 my parents moved to town. They eventually moved into an apartment house on the corner of Greenwood and Gay, renting out the apartments. Part of the house is still standing - most of the part we lived in. Our staircase was in the frame part of the house which was taken down. Frank Neal tore it down. I passed by one day and saw the staircase. I asked Frank what he'd take for it and he said, "$25." I bought it and stored it at the garage. We had an elevator and I could store it up above. I didn't have any idea what I'd do with this staircase at the time because I wasn't thinking of building. We built our house around it!
Bob Donnell and I formed a partnership, Donnell Motor Company. We kept the Chrysler and Plymouth contract and sold the Ford Ferguson contract to Bob Padgett and Clark Harrison. We took the John Deere farm equipment contract. The company stayed in existence until 1968. During World War II we were interrupted; 1942-1944 I worked for OPA (the Office of Price Administration) Bob took a job with US Geological Survey, working from here and was around the garage on Saturdays with the help of Finney Hamilton as manager. I was there on some Saturdays, but I started traveling and wasn't always here.
Mr. Walker took me to Carthage to check with Judge Gardenhire about a job during the war. The judge was quite a character and when Mr. Walker came again (with R.P.Gibbs) the judge quite colorfully said something like, "Lewis, what are you doing here again trying to get these Methodists a job?" The judge called his friend John T. Gray and sent us to see him. Gray said he'd be in touch. I came to Lebanon and was talking to Howard Edgerton who turned out to be a good friend of Gray's. Howard called him that night. Gray was being appointed administrator of the Office of Defense Transportation. Gray sent word for me to see Tom House in a certain building in Nashville. I knew the young fellow who was acting as his secretary so I got right in to see Tom. It turned out his sister lived with the Walkers when she went to Cumberland! I got the job!
I was sent to Atlanta for a week's training. They wanted five of us to go to North Carolina to help install the gasoline-rationing plan. German submarines off Cape Hatteras, N.C, had sunk American tankers. The man sending people up to North Carolina was a Chrysler Plymouth dealer from Atlanta, so I got sent! Tom House was in charge of the group and was stationed in Raleigh at the ODT headquarters. Later the name was changed to Office of Price Administration. I was stationed with another fellow at Little Washington, N.C. The regulations weren't even printed - just mimeographed. I was given about 3 days to study the regulations before I started making calls. We were given towns on the East Coast to contact and explain the regulations. Our mode of transportation was buses with no air conditioning. The first ones there got the seats so you had to be on time or early.
My first meeting was at Wilmington with about 200 fresh vegetable growers. I explained the regulations the best I could at a meeting which lasted over 2 hours. Each one there wanted more gas than allotted. We had a good meeting. After two hours I was exhausted. My main objective was to go to the county seat towns. Usually they would have a board set up with secretaries and a man or woman as manager. My job was to explain the regulations to the board and staff and assist them in issuing ration stamps. Also, we would hold meetings with oil distributors and service stations, instructing them on the rules of the gas plan.
I worked in Windsor, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Newbern, Jacksonville, Wilmington, Swan Quarter, Fayetteville, Morehead City, Jackson, Camp Lejune, Cherry Point, Hatteras Island. In Jackson I couldn't find a hotel room so the local chairman of the board kindly offered me a bed at his home. Right outside the window where I tried to sleep a dog scratched all night long.
At Cherry Point difficulty in establishing the board meant that for three days we opened the Marine gasoline tanks and let the workers use them until we could get the board set up.
We ran into a problem on Hatteras Island ( I wanted to go over there but I never did). The cars there were not required to have license tags and our plan called for cars with license tags. We accommodated them by using the rules for "non highway use".
While I was staying in Morehead the German subs were destroying the tankers. People were driving down trying to see this. The lights from their cars were making the tankers an even more visible target. Finally the cars were all turned away. We were in blackout conditions with blackout shades and curtains to prevent any light escaping.
In Swan Quarter there was only one bus in and one bus out so you had to spend the night. The mosquitoes were so bad that you couldn't turn your light on at night. You ate supper (a very good meal there - I enjoyed my stay) and then stayed in the darkness.
In Tarbor, I got word from Raleigh to return to Nashville. I was on my own to get back. I called Bob and he wired me money. I'd been gone from home 5 weeks with only one paycheck. I was lonesome for my wife and my 2-year-old son. I had lost 25 pounds from all the traveling and exertions; Mattie said she hardly recognized me, but we surely were glad to see each other! I also had to learn to shave myself I never had; I just went by the barbershop and usually Jack Swafford did the honors. I had to buy a safety razor and learn how!
When I got back the name had been changed to Office of Price Administration Later I spent two weeks in Athens, Georgia, visiting towns in the vicinity - this time with a rental car. I drove my car from here to Knoxville; Mattie went with me. I got the call to go to Georgia and I took the train and Mattie drove the car back. They never did pay me back.
I was transferred to the Price Department and Sam Boney was the director. I was assigned the Price Regulation on automobiles, trucks, tires and tubes, farm machinery, manufacturing equipment, and construction equipment. I worked with the OPA 2 years: 1942-1944.
My office was in Nashville and we controlled from the Tennessee River - all of eastern Tennessee. I had a secretary and 2 men in the Nashville office and a man stationed at Knoxville. I worked in the price department. It was very effective because most of the people were very conscientious about supporting the war effort and, given the information that applied to their particular item, they would be very cooperative. Of course there were always a few who caused problems. Most of these were investigated by an attorney and referred to the legal department.
After we got back from North Carolina Mattie thought we should have the group up from North Carolina. We had Tom House and his wife, Eugene Frazer and his wife, and others: a man named Hall and his wife and Craig Moss and his wife. We all enjoyed it very much. I also remember Mattie's visiting the Nashville office. The women there had all bobbed their hair and were very impressed with my wife's beautiful, long hair. Mattie cut her hair about six months after everyone else!
During the Army maneuvers we operated five taxicabs. We started off in Lebanon with a fellow by the name of Everett Alsup managing the operation. We then set up in Tullahoma with five cabs there being managed by a fellow by the name of Pepper McDonald. We had several rather interesting experiences and no unfortunate events. Bob and I were partners in this for about three years. When the maneuvers were over we got out of the business. Since we were in the Chrysler business we got some of the cars from there. We were able to get five cars from a dealer in Detroit before the sale of cars was frozen by the war. We were able to get these and license them.
I resigned in 1944 when Bob was drafted into service so I could operate the auto and implement business; however, I was appointed as chairman of the Wilson County local board and served until the boards were discharged.
During the war people had money to buy merchandise, but most all the factories had been producing for military needs. Dee Manning, a partner in Wilson County Motors had a son living in Connecticut, J. D. Manning, whose wife was a sister to Hamlet Halbert. Hamlet is married to Linda Halbert a longterm and invaluable part of the staff at church. I couldn't remember why we had gone to Connecticut to get cars until I was telling this story to Gerald Noffsinger at the church and Linda overheard. She recalled a family member driving a car from Connecticut and we put it all together, including the tie between the Halberts and the Mannings. Anyway, about 1943 or so, my brother Bob from Donnell Motor Company, Dee Manning from Wilson County Motors, and John Robert Turner, manager of the Smithville Motor Company, went to New Britain, Connecticut. Going or coming back, they weren't able to get passenger tickets and they had to ride in the baggage car! J. D. helped them locate the cars and buy them - I think the total was about 12. They were shipped to Lebanon by boxcars. We made pretty good money on them. I sold a Pontiac sedan to Mary Williamson Thomas. She worked in Nashville and used the car to go back and forth. I rode with her to Nashville to work, also, as did Mary Lester Smart and Byron Dinges.
That was so much better than riding the bus to Nashville. It would be so crowded that I'd often have to stand up the whole way. For a while I rode an Army bus that was pulled by a truck with a fifth wheel. We had two drivers - one driving the truck and one checking on him in the bus.
We were able to get Army surplus to sell. One of the places that we bought it was at Oak Ridge,Tennessee. These sales were made by the War Production Board. R. P. Gibbs was working with them at that time. He and a fellow named Hunt were in charge of the sale. Dee Mannning, Jim Home Hankins, Bob and I were able to buy (bidding on them) and got 20-25 cars and trucks and a bus! We sold the bus to Ashland City and did right well. The problem was getting the vehicles back to Lebanon - they'd blow out a tire or something. We had them scattered from here to Knoxville! We made several other purchases at different camps of cars, trucks, motorcycles, trailers.
During the time I was gone, Mattie moved with our little son, Comer Lewis (born October 15, 1940 - weighing close to ten pounds. Before his birth two little girls were playing across the street - Mary Ann Bone and Katherine Gilreath or her sister - and one of them said, "Mrs. Donnell's about to have a baby," and the other one said, "Reckon she knows it?") into our dining room and rented out the bedrooms. She had not meant to rent the downstairs one out, but confusion in orders left a couple without a place, so she let them have the downstairs bedroom.
In 1945 (May 12) we added Martha Marie, a beautiful girl, and always the apple of my eye! Around this time my son and Billy Ray Lea (next door) "smoked" Walter Lea's supply of pre-war cigars (rationed and hard to get). What they couldn't smoke they chewed and threw away. When Alice Leath and Martha were in McClain School together they would both ride home with whichever mother got there first leaving the other one waiting! Martha suffered from the careful "attentions" of her older brother who served as a patrol guard in front of the school.
One day during the war Comer Lewis and either Billy Ray Lea or Bobby Vaughan were missing. The store on the other side of West Main called to say they were there having slipped through all the Army traffic to get to it.
In 1958 when my son had started his freshman year at Duke University (after graduating from Castle Heights Military Academy here in Lebanon) my father-in-law Lewis Walker died. I was the administrator of his estate and I purchased the small insurance agency he had run in conjunction with his law practice. I thought I could just run it out of the garage, but I found out differently. I began buying small agencies with a total of 5 or 6. Later I sold Bill Regen a half-interest in the business. After that we consolidated with the Lawlor Agency operated by George Bradford. After four or five years we bought out Bill Regen. George and I sold out to John Majors and a group. I bought back in with the group. We incorporated and sold the agency again. At that time I retired.
While I was still in the insurance business, Alvin (Snooks) Hall and I bought ten lots in a new subdivision in the western part of town. We built five houses and sold the other five lots. We built a house down on Highway 70 and another out on Highway 231.
Bob and I went into the real estate business. We built some houses, bought some property, traded and sold. When Bob died I only had an affiliate broker's license so I quit advertising, but I bought several pieces of property and traded in real estate as long as I was able.
In March of 1951 twelve of us bought the Lebanon Bank from O.W. Stephens. In 1951 the total deposits in Wilson County were 12.5 million dollars; today (1998) the estimated total is 800 million dollars in deposits! The twelve of us buying were Fred Maggart, Fred Adams, Frank McDaniel, Theo Floyd, Paul Smith, Bob Van Hoosier, Jim Horn Hankins, Kenneth Lester, Sr., Bob Padgett, Elmer Woolard, Ernest Cooksey, Comer Donnell. We bought Ernest Cooksey out a short time after that. We operated very successfully until we sold it to First Tennessee in 1987. During my time we built six buildings: Watertown, Mt. Juliet, the Lebanon Square (tore down the existing building and built there on the South end of the Square), three buildings on West Main -one on the site of the Law Barn,one across from the shopping center where Dick's Market is located, and one on the present site of Wendy's in the shopping center with K-Mart .Later the bank would expand and locate its main building out further on West Main, past the by-pass.
I served on the Board of the First Tennessee Bank for one year, but their policy was to retire everyone over 65 -50 . Theo Floyd and I had to retire. Lebanon Bank gave me a watch and a clock for 38 years of service, but adding my First Tennessee time I served 39!
In 1958 we bought Mt. Juliet Bank. The Board was composed of Charlie Moss, Horace McMenaway, Herman Agee, Floyd Smartt, Bob Bass, Ernest Sutherland, and Comer Donnell. We bought a lot and built a new bank building and operated very successfully, too. We sold it in 1978 to a group from Knoxville and Kentucky. I got worried about my notes and put some pressure on them to pay it off, and they did. One of the buyers was a professor from UT. I served twenty years on that board.
After we moved to town in 1928 when I was a senior in high school, I transferred my membership from Union Church to First Methodist Church then (1928). In 1934 I was elected to the Official Board. Later I would become chairman of the Board, chairman of the Parish Committee, Finance Committee, and remain on and off the Board until the present. In 1954 we bought the property next door and voted to build the Sunday School rooms. I was then chairman of the Finance Committee, composed of Fred Maggart, Al Partee, John Freeman, Dr. Chili Lowe. It cost $104,000. We put on a financial drive and paid for this building within 3 years time. The Building Committee was Bob Donnell, chairman, Jimmy Draper, Bud Phelan.
A few years later we began making plans for remodeling and adding some needed improvements. The problem was not enough parking space. One rainy afternoon after a bank meeting I got to talking to Jim Horn Hankins. I asked him what he'd take for the garage building next to the church. He said $125 per frontage foot (on East Main). I asked him what he'd give for the church building and he said the same thing, which would total $175,000 for the church building Later Charlie Baird and I would try to get that figure up some, but we never did! Jim Horn would agree to let us stay in the church building for a year's free use and he would pay $75,000 down and give a note for the rest to be paid interest free.
After that Charlie and I got the idea of moving to West Main and buying the Mort Harkey property. After getting some estimates for building (we'd already got estimates for the repairs at the old building), we found we could move to West Main. Build a new church and still not owe any more than we would if we stayed in the old building with its parking problems still unsolved.
We contracted with Mort Harkey to buy his house for $35,000 In the mean time we'd had bids to build the new church. The contract was given to Dick Hunt. We also contracted to move the parsonage to face on Hill Street.The house had been on West Main between the Coffee house and the Harkey house. It had been in use for many years as the parsonage. The Mooneyhans owned a lot adjoining the new church property facing on Hill Street. He was living in Washington and I called him to give us a price on that lot, which he did - $4500. This would give us parking space and an exit on Hammond and on Hill Street. The Board was meeting that night and I told them we could buy it for $4500 and they voted to buy. We finalized the deal in about ten days. A Week after that Mr. Mooneyhan died.
The Building Committee was Charles Baird, chairman, Fred Maggart, Melville Freeman, K.I.Todd, Comer Donnell.
The building was complete and dedicated in 1966 to the best of my recollection.
I was on the board of McKendree Manor when it was being built. I received a ten-year service pin. I served on the Admissions Committee as chairman for three years. In 1976 1 put in an application for Mattie and me to live there. It's still in there in effect! Her good friend from childhood, Virginia Golladay, does live there and even found a husband there.
I served on the conference board for many years - I still am; however, my job hasn't been doing anything the last couple of years. I served on the conference Church Location Committee for many years and on other conference committees.
The October 9, 1957, The Midweek Call to Worship from the then-named First Methodist Church began with this column:
The honoree for our word of appreciation this week is one who was suggested by a large number of you. He has been an active member of this church since his youth and during those years has been active in every phase of the church life. The church has honored him by election to many positions of leadership. He has been a member of the Board for many years; has been a trustee, lay delegate to Annual Conference, and chairman of the Board. He is now a trustee and a District Steward. When the building program was launched over four years ago he was appointed chairman of the Finance Committee, a position in which he has given much time and energy and one he will continue to hold until our building debt is wiped out.
In the positions he has held and in the committees on which he has served the man we honor this week has demonstrated the kind of Christian devotion that has endeared him to all with whom he has worked. He continues to be a strong force in the church and gives his best to whatever task he is given. His loyalty to the church and to the Christian Faith is strong. He rarely misses a service of any kind and the church is better able to do its duty by his friendly spirit and reverent attitude. This week we are happy to salute Comer Donnell and to express to him our appreciation for what he means to our church and community."
In recent years I have volunteered for visiting and for answering the phone. The Reverend Gerald Noffsinger is currently pastor. I can't express how much all his and his wife Helen's kindness and attention mean to me. He has helped me almost daily these last few years. He carries me to Rotary and we often go visiting together.
At this time of writing Gerald has been here for six years. He can be credited with the building of our Family Life Center and with the increase in the congregation with many more young families in regular attendance. He has carried the work of the church into the community through such activities as Leadership Wilson and Rotary. Every Sunday his nice wife Helen stops by my pew to give me a hug. She's always been kind about taking care of me at church events - seeing that I have a seat, getting my plate for me. She's careful to see me and speak to me every Sunday. I will miss them very much when they leave Lebanon, and my love and prayers will go with them.
I love my church and enjoy working with all the staff; Flora Caplenor, Linda Halbert, Patty Caldwell, Alex Jackson, and Charlotte Hurd are more than friends to me. They have done so much for our church and have been an encouragement to me many times. All the people in the congregation and on the staff have certainly been wonderful to me.
I joined the Chamber of Commerce when I started in business here in 1934. I served on the Board off and on several times. I was elected President in 1970. Before that I was given a Certificate of Award for "Promoting the American Free Enterprise System as Chairman of the Economic Education Committee and Lebanon's First Annual Business-Education Day." I was awarded Lifetime Membership #9 in January of 1988.
One of our projects was to buy the Christmas decorations for Lebanon streets. We did this and the city put up the first such decorations. We also did a survey and laid some groundwork for obtaining a vocational school. Doug Thurley did the survey.
I joined Rotary in 1944. I was elected President for 1946-47. I knew very little about Rotary at that time and I contacted a friend of mine, Dick Lowery1 in Nashville and he helped me very much. The president before me was Will D. Young. He had been responsible for all the programs. I agreed to become President if we would change this to each member's being responsible for a program, as indicated by a program chairman who would coordinate this. That is how it's still being done. There's only one other person who joined the year I did and that's Dr. Sidney Berry. He and I together have over 100 years of Rotary attendance. There's only one member who can beat the two of us - Sam Bone joined in 1926.
Bill Regen, Winstead Bone, George Bradford. and I played a lot of golf together. One Rotary Club lunchmeeting Winstead called the club from Florida. What I remember about this call is he said," Comer Donnell is the only person e knew that I am able to beat playing golf." He announced it to the whole club. I kept it to myself that he always refused to hit on the long tee on the fourth hole, second round, the way you're supposed to! The four of us played together a long time, though I can't say I ever got really good, but I enjoyed playing. Later I would play with Homer Bagley, Tate Hutton, George Bradford, and that, too, was a source of pleasure for me. I enjoyed playing golf very much and would like to have continued longer than I could. I did play after I broke my hip, and after my golf clubs were stolen. We let Charlie Baird play with us sometimes. My brother Bob enjoyed golf, too. He helped lay out the course at Lebanon Golf and Country Club.
In the spring of 1996 I became a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary's highest accolade.
In 1988 the Wilson County Commissioners voted to install the Wilson County Emergency Communication District (B 911 Board). Appointed to this Board were Homer T. Bagley (elected chairman), W.J. (Mac) McCluskey (vice-chairman), Robert L. Martin (Secretary-Treasurer), Dale Leeman, Mahlon Cantrell, Comer A. Donnell, Carter Purnell, Doug Carpenter, A. C. Wharton, Comer L. Donnell, Attorney. We were given the rules and regulations for installing this system and the responsibililty for carrying them out. I was chairman of the User and Mapping committee which would assign a number to every piece of property in Wilson County. That would include Lebanon, Watertown, and Mt. Juliet. We hired two people to assist us in this. The board was responsible for buying the necessary equipment and for locating an office. The office was located in the old Methodist Church Building on East Main. Homer Bagley died in 1989 and Mac McCLuskey was elected Chairman. Carter Purnell became Vice-Chairman. Ken Davis was appointed to fill the vacancy. Doing this job book about three years. It became very effective once in operation, receiving details of accidents and calamities, including my own accident on Christmas Day of 1990 when I fell down my son's front steps and broke my hip. I remained on the Board until 1993.
Looking back over my family through the years some experiences stand out. In the winter of 1933 Mattie and I and Mr. and Mrs. Walker, Bobbie and Grissim went to Sarasota, Florida, travelling in Mr. Walker's Essex. If you got up to or over 55, the car would burn a rod. We had to stop on the way down to take care of this. That and a heavy fog meant we arrived very late. We were visiting the Nathan Robertsons and the John Bite Robertsons. John Fite was then the mayor of Sarasota; the Nathan Robertsons lived downtown on Orange Street. They showed us a fine time, including an oyster bake on the beach, John Fite fed Grissim so many oysters that Grissim never wanted to eat them again! We set out for home on a Saturday and burned another rod. On Sunday morning in Jasper we found a mechanic who rebabbited the rod - this took all morning and on into the day. The trip home involved going up and around the mountain in Chattanooga so with all this delay we made it to Lebanon just in time for Mattie to get to school to teach!
In the summer of 1934 Mr. and Mrs. Walker and Mattie and I went to the World's Fair in Chicago, staying in a nice apartment not far from the Fair. The World Building and Sally Rand, a fan dancer, were the most famous attractions of the Fair. Meeting some friends from Nashville, we enjoyed seeing the Fair together. This was the first time I ever saw a robot.
In the summer of 1935 Mattie and I were all set to take a vacation. We were all packed, but we were not sure where we wanted to go. That evening I was downtown and I ran into Howard Edgerton. He said, "Meet us at Pier 34 on Thursday morning in New York." He gave a time, and I said it was O.K. by me, but I'd need to ask Mattie. It was O.K. by her so off we went. There we took a boat trip over to Boston and spent the night. We came back the following night. We spent a day or two in New York; we left New York and drove to Marlborough to visit some of Mattie's kin, including Edna Earle Key who had lived with the Walkers when she went to Cumberland. She is a sister to Anne Smith (Mrs. Miles Smith). We enyoyed our visit. We started out for Niagara Falls, stopping to spend the night in a bed and breakfast. It was a beautiful house, full of antique furniture. Mattie began to talk to the lady and she said she had more antiques out in the house in the back. Mattie admired several pieces which were for sale. Mattie said she's write the lady back and let her know about them. Later Mattie got in touch with her and bought the sofa and the what-not, a love seat and some other pieces of furniture for Evelyn Vaughan. These people were very nice; they boxed the furniture in heavy oak. The crating weighed more than the furniture! We left there, went to Niagara Falls and over into Canada for one or two days - then back by Cleveland, Ohio, to show Mattie the restaurant I worked in! Then we came home - a wonderful trip.
In 1942 Mattie and I took a train trip to Detroit to pick up a new Plymouth sedan; it was just before Christmas and we came back by Pittsburgh to visit one of Mattie's friends, Josephine Harris, for a few days and then on home. Driving over to Pittsburgh through all the towns, especially Hersey, Pennsylvania, we enjoyed the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations.
Mattie and I went on The Nashville Tennessean New York Theatre Flight on April 2-6, 1968. We stayed in the Taft Hotel and saw Plaza Suite, (with George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton), Hello, Dolly! (with Pearl Bailey and Cab Callaway), The Happy Time, and There's A Girl In My Soup) (with Gig Young and Rita Gam), as well as The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie. We saw Red Buttons, had a picture made with Gig Young, and met the mayor of New York, John Lindsey, in front of Radio City Music Hall. We didn't believe him, but we saw his picture in the paper later and realized that it was actually the mayor! We were there to see Easter at Radio City Music Hall which featured Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, John Davidson, Lesley Ann Warren, Janet Blair, and Wally Cox. On the trip (100 people total) also from Lebanon was Mrs. Frank Baddour. We enjoyed the company of Sarah Fite's sister, Mrs. H. Farrell Shipp, and her friend, Dora Cooper.
In the mid seventies we enjoyed a cruise to the Bahamas with Grissim and Mary Walker, N.B.and Robbie Dozier, and Jimmy and Louise Grissim. The ship left from Miami and we drove down. We sailed on the S.S.Emerald Seas. We rented a limousine to drive us around and the driver had just been to Indiana for a church meeting. He had gotten to know Grady Lou Winters and her husband David. Grady Lou had helped us for years, assisting Mattie many times in family dinners. My grandsons remember fondly Grady Lou's good homemade rolls.
We told the limousine driver the occupations of the four men and asked him if he could pick out the lawyer. He selected Grissim Walker with no problem!
Mattie and I used to go pretty regularly to the Kentucky Derby. Sometimes we'd stay at a hotel in Elizabethtown, Evelyn and Gwynn Vaugan and Mattie and I. We'd go to the Derby the next day and drive home afterwards. There was a fellow who travelled by the name of Sinclair and for four or five years he'd write the name of the winner (or second place) on a calendar on the wall of the garage. We'd bet on his predictions and we came out pretty well!
On a trip to Rocky Mount to visit Robbie and N.B. we stopped at Duke University Stadium on the way home. Comer Lewis was ten or twelve, and he and I got out of the car and threw a few passes on stadium grass. He says that's why he went to Duke a few years later.
In 1952 (we were driving a green 1952 Chrysler) we went to Curie Beach at Nags Head. As we drove in we saw "Welcome Donnells" written on plates, hanging on the clothesline. N.B. '5 brother Johnny and his family as well as Robbie and N.B. and their family were all there. We played bridge and fished - but not deepsea fishing. We had planned to do that, but when we saw the boat - an old torn up shell of a boat - we changed our minds!
A bunch of us here in Lebanon had season tickets in the end zones for Vanderbilt. They were playing a little better than they do now. The Bones, the Meadors, the Vaughans, and others went.
A short and funny trip to Nashville involved Comer Lewis. Sometime in the early fifties I took him to Nashville. We were planning to catch a bus to go to Frazer Motor Company, and Sam Gilreath and Neal McClain came along and gave us a ride. They left us down at First Avenue as I directed, thinking we'd catch a cab up Broadway. I reached in my pocket and discovered I had not brought my billfold, so we had to walk. We drove a new car back, after the folks at the motor company were kind enough to cash a check for me!
For many summers we enjoyed a vacation in the North Carolina Mountains with the Dozier family and the Walker family. We would turn at Ghosttown, go to the back of the parking lot to the left and take the road up the mountain to Lost Ridge. There we might wake up some morning in the clouds! We would go hiking, berry picking, and just have fun together. We would rent the Robertson's home. There are only about five homes up there. Later the Walkers bought a cabin in Balsam and we would go there to stay. We also went to Florida every winter to visit the Walkers and the Robertson's as long as Mattie was able to go.
In 1966 we carried Mrs. Walker up to visit the Doziers in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. We went on to visit Josephine Harris in Pittsburgh. When we arrived at her home we had a call from Robbie that Mrs. Walker had fallen and had a stroke. We only spent one night in Pittsburgh and left the next morning to go back to Rocky Mount. Mrs. Walker was seriously ill and we had nurses with her around the clock. After a few days Mattie stayed with Robbie and I came back to Lebanon. After a week or ten days Mrs. Walker got somewhat better; I drove back up there. We hired an ambulance to bring her back to Lebanon. We would drive back along with the ambulance. The nurses, Mrs. Bradley and another lady, said they would ride with Mrs. Walker in the ambulance to Lebanon if I would carry them to see the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. We made the trip home fine, and I carried the ambulance driver and the two nurses to the Opry. We didn't have tickets; however, I knew the man on the door, a Mr. Davis, and he let them in free. They had a big time and the next day returned home. On the way home they decided to go through Gatlinburg. The traffic was heavy; one of the nurses got on the cot, the other one covered her up, and they turned the siren on. They made right good time through Gatlinburg and returned to Rocky Mount safely.
My son Comer Lewis graduated with honors from Castle Heights Military Academy in 1958. While he was in college one summer he went out West with Charlie Teasley, Jimmy Smith, Bill Rose. The mothers back home shared the few letters that came back and spent time together in tears over what might be happening. The boys were involved in many jobs including fighting forest fires, waiting tables, working in the kitchen, building fences, driving trucks hauling beans for Green Giant. They saw a lot of the West sometimes by freight train. That same summer Martha went to Dallas with a friend and we went out to get her, visiting Norman and Katharine Beard, who originally lived here in Lebanon. Norman was raised right down at the corner here of Greenlawn and West Main.
Comer Lewis graduated from Duke University in 1962. While he was there he joined Kappa Sigma fraternity and quit using the "Lewis" in his name. He finished Vanderbilt University School of Law in January 1965, right after he married Anne Evans of Florence, Alabama, on December 21, 1964. I was best man at the wedding and Martha was Maid of Honor. They met at Vanderbilt where she was getting a master's degree. She would teach school for many years and he would practice law here in Lebanon, except for a few years in the seventies when he worked for the Tennessee State Department of Revenue in Petrol~m Tax. He was Director for the state, and at one time was elected governor of the thirteen state Gasoline Tax Conference. His family joked he was governor of thirteen states. He was Lebanon City Attorney, Watertown City Attorney, Wilson County Attorney, and the first Public Defender for the Fifteenth Judicial District (five counties). He was appointed in 1989 and still serves, and is currently the state president of the Public Defender Conference. He's also in Rotary. He loves golf and watching baseball, football, and basketball. His wife has talked him into a house full of dogs and cats. He's a deacon at College Street Church of Christ and that reminds me that when he was born (down the street from the church building at Martha Gaston Hospital) there was a service and it seemed like the whole congregation came down to see him!
Anne is a watercolor artist and has been in several Lebanon women's clubs through the years. Now she's a volunteer at Mariner and Hearthside, leading a Bible study. She taught school for over twenty years at Cumberland, Lebanon Junior High School, Lebanon High School, and Friendship Christian. Their two children (Edward Evans, born August 21, 1966, and John Comer, born July 14, 1968) live in Nashville, but get here frequently.
Evans graduated from Friendship Christian in 1984 and went to the University of Tennessee. His freshman year was marred by the death of his beloved "Gigi," the name he gave Mattie. She died Easter Sunday (April 7), 1985. Evans' blood runs orange. A talented journalist, he worked in Bowling Green on the staff of the paper. He met his wife Ann Stathos and they married in a beautiful Birmingham wedding on Labor Day weekend (September 4, 1994). They bought a house right by the Vanderbilt campus and rent out an apartment there.
Jack graduated from Lebanon High School in 1986; he was an officer in the student council and played football until he hurt his knee and had surgery. He went to the University of Tennessee, and still enjoys his roommates from then. Jack graduated in 1991 from UT and went to work at Cumberland Mental Health here in Lebanon. He loves computers and now works in Nashville as a computer tech.
Martha attended McClain School and then Lebanon High School, graduating in 1963. She attended George Peabody College, served as president of her sorority, was in several beauty contests, and graduated from there in 1967. She and some friends from Peabody have kept in touch through the years. Nancy Ingram of Pulaski is now part of the family.
One of Martha's high school boy friends was a Wooden boy and one night when they had been standing by the front door longer than Mattie thought necessary, Mattie called for Martha to come in. The boyfriend, in a slow drawl, said, "It must be nice to be wanted." We didn't let her forget that.
The church youth group was having a cook-out at the Sportsmen's Club; I was helping with the cooking. Martha was very late - she and her date were lost.
For Martha's sixteenth birthday we had a party at the Country Club. Randy Johnson and Jamie Crutcher I remember were wonderful dancers and really put on a show; all of the guests had a big time dancing.
Martha remembers the Wilson County Fair Car Show. I would help her practice driving. She drove a blue and white Chrysler and later another blue car. There were four girls dressed in the colors of the cars. Each girl had a corsage to match the car. The girls drove around the ring several times, parked the car, then back out around the ring and park again. The girls enjoyed this more than we did as we had to polish the car and get it ready. I could get mine done at the garage.
I have to tell about one family trip although I didn't go. Mattie, Harriet Meadors, her daughter Pet, Martha, and Comer Lewis went to Canada in a light blue Cadillac convertible. They came back through New York visiting some friends who had horses. These people came to Lebanon to visit later. At one point Pet's behavior caused her mother to swing her arm back in the backseat, but she didn't hit Pet. She got Comer Lewis! When a policemen stopped them about running a red light, he asked, "Didn't you see that red light?" The driver (I think it was Harriet) said no, but one of the children said yes!
A friend of Martha's told her she was leaving her Atlanta teaching job and would Martha be interested? She was. Martha taught school in Atlanta and would get her masters there and meet her husband.
On March 25, 1972, Martha married Thomas Anthony Timlin (Tom) and they have lived in Atlanta ever since. Tom has worked in insurance,at one time even starting his own company with some partners. Now he's specializing in commercial insurance. He comes from Pennsylvania and he met Martha at the recreational building of the apartment complex she lived in. They have a beautiful home in the section of Atlanta known as Sandy Springs. They have three sons, two of whom are at the University of Georgia right now. Their oldest son is Michael Anthony, born October 28, 1975. Stephen Donnell was born January 12, 1979. John Thomas was born June 6, 1983. Martha returned to teaching a few years ago and teaches Language Arts in a middle school. She and Tom have done a fine job raising their boys. They have good manners and make our visits a lot of fun. I have to say I have altogether five very fine grandsons!
The summer my youngest grandson John was born was also the summer of our fiftieth wedding anniversary - 1983. The Christmas before a gift to Mattie and me was a scroll which read, "You're invited to the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina, August 3, 1983, for a family celebration of your fiftieth anniversary." Needless to say, we accepted! We left Lebanon with Comer Lewis, Anne, Evans and Jack, early on the morning of August 2 and arrived within a few minutes of the car from Georgia with Martha and Tom and the boys. That afternon we unpacked and relaxed. The next day we toured the Biltmore. Mattie was getting weaker by this time and so she toured in a wheelchair. We ate at the Biltmore Dairy and returned to Grove Park Inn. The Inn was happy to give us some attention; at dinner that night on the terrace there were complimentary flowers and wine. They announced that we had returned to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary and we received a round of applause. The Inn gave us a cake for dessert. All five grandsons were handsome and well behaved, even little baby John, not quite two months old.
Comer Lewis, Jack and I played some golf that day as well and the rest of the children went swimming. We had a grand holiday and I have a scrapbook of cards and pictures from it.
Less than two years later Mattie would pass away on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985. Martha and Tom and the boys were here for Easter and Mattie seemed well on Saturday. Sunday morning just before breakfast she was sitting in her chair in the den and fell over, hitting her head on the wastepaper basket. Later she went to breakfast and had trouble feeding herself. I walked her back to bed. She said, "What do you think I should do?" I told her to lie down and rest and so she did.
When I checked on her minutes later she was already in a coma. I called Dick Puryear and he came over and recommended she be put in the hospital. Dick thought it wouldn't be long. Comer Lewis and Anne were in Alabama because Alice Evans had broken her shoulder. We called them and they came right home. Dr. Snyder looked at Mattie and thought we should send her to St. Thomas Hospital. We had not been there long; they ran a test and told us what to expect. She seemed stable so Martha and I went down to get something to eat. In minutes Anne came for us because it was over. I never thought she'd go first.
We sat at St. Thomas and began sadly planning the funeral service. Jackie Partlow was the funeral director and the service was held at First United Methodist Church. We greeted friends and family at the funeral home on Monday. There were two rooms full of flowers and many, many people. I have the registry book still. I am grateful to all the people who were so kind to us.
Honorary PallBearers were the Board of Lebanon Bank, the Administrative Board of First United Methodist Church,
Dr. T. R. Puryear, George Bradford, W.P. Bone, IT, Sam Bone, Tate Hutton, Burton Wilson, Reid McKee, Dr. Stephen Snyder, Jim Harding, John Major, Gwynn Vaughan, Ken Clinard, Lynn Nokes, Donna Sloan, Tex Maddox, the Mary Circle.
Active Pall Bearers were Joe Walker, John Walker, Nathan Walker, Stratton Bone, Gordon Bone, Dr. Robert Carver Bone, Dr. Jimmy Lea, Glen Martin, Lane Martin.
Mattie's brother Grissim Walker, his wife Mary, and their son Lewis came, as did Mattie's sister Robbie and her husband N. B.
Choir members from different churches came to provide beautiful music. The order of worship for the funeral on April 9 included the prelude "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barter. Scriptures included John 11:25, Psalms 27 and 121, I Corinthians 15, and others. Hymns sung were "How Great Thou Art" and "The Lily of the Valley." This last hymn had been a great favorite of Mattie's father. Once when be was ill, the congregation sang it and someone called him on the phone from church so he could hear it. He was often humming it or singing snatches from it. The anthem was "The Cross" by Lovran. This was used for the John F. Kennedy Memorial in New York by the New York Philharmonic and used for Princess Grace's Memorial by the Monaco Symphony Orchestra. The meditation was based on Revelations 14:1? - "Blessed are those that die in the Lord" and on II Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient." The postlude was "0 God Our Help In Ages Past."
Mattie is buried in our family plot in Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Bob and Mary Donnell are also buried there. Howard is buried in the Jones Cemetery in Watertown after a long, terrible fight with cancer (about 5years). Bob passed away in May of 1986. He left behind his wife of many years, Mary Jackson. They had met at Cumberland and raised two beautiful daughters, Mary Ann and Cindy. They gave Bob and Mary four granddaughters and a grandson.
In the summer of 1997 cancer claimed my other brother after many years of suffering. Howard left behind Grace Vaught, his wife of many years. His son Jimmy was killed in an automobile accident while he was in the service. His son Albert Howard has two children and a lovely wife Susan. His first wife Joan was killed in an automobile wreck. Howard also left a daughter Diane who lives near Marietta, Georgia. Howard and I both donated girls to that state!
In 1997 one of our favorite cousins (Mattie's first cousin Frances Walker Martin, a close and dear friend) lost her husband of many, many years, Lillard. Lillard bad flown many missions in World War Ii and returned to raise a family of four: two girls and two boys. By coincidence his oldest daughter also lives in the Atlanta area!
In 1989 my eightieth birthday was celebrated in a huge way. All of the family on both my side and on Mattie's who could come were there: Mary and Grissim Walker, Lewis Walker, Roy and Carolyn Bruce, John and Peter Bruce, Robbie and N.E. Dozier, Elizabeth Dozier, Lewis and Rosalyn Dozier, Mary Donnell, Aunt Mamie Comer, Howard and Grace Donnell, Albert and Susan Donnell, Tammy and Tony Donnell. The first evening we had dinner for out of town folks at Comer Lewis's house. The next night we had dinner at the country club for everyone. Martha and Anne decorated the tables and tbe party favors were pictures of me! The next day we had a big reception at my house and many people came to wish me happy birthday.
On Christmas Day of 1990 I was visiting Comer Lewis's house for dinner. It had been exciting because Jack had given his girlfriend an engagement ring hidden on the Christmas tree. We had all watched her get it. When I left to go home, I had no idea that I wouldn't reach home for 29 days! It had been snowing and the steps had ice on them. I slipped on the top step and landed on the bottom step, breaking my left hip. A doctor visiting at the Leathers' house across the street saw all this and came running. 911 sent an ambulance and I went to the hospital for surgery that evening. Two very fine orthopedic surgeons were available, Dr.Neely and Dr.Chernowitz, and the surgery seemed to go without a hitch.
The third day I was able to walk to the bathroom, but late that afternoon my stomach began hurting. The doctor came by, punched me in the stomach, and prescribed a pill. By midnight I begged a nurse to please call a doctor and she said they'd been trying to get in touch with him. I have very little memory of my hospital stay from then on other than riding up and down the elevators to the x-ray department. My trouble was that my stomach had stopped functioning. Dr. Patsy Manning finally figured all this out, calling it an ileus. I told them that when a cow got this trouble someone just punched a hole in her stomach - I knew exactly wbere! I also told a nurse weighing me after she had put an inflated figure for my weight that I wish she'd weigh any hogs I took to market. I don't remember this next one, but someone used the word "exposed" in my hearing and I said, "Exposed! I'll tell you what exposed means!" This was the first hospital stay of my life.
I came home only to go back for three more days. Mrs. Martha Murphy stayed with me. My most lasting problem from all this has been difficulty in getting my balance. I really appreciated all that my family and friends did for me with many visits, flowers, and gifts. Comer Lewis even shaved me in the mornings, Martha came up from Atlanta, and everyone pitched in to help me.
My most recent travels took me to Atlanta in June of 1997. My grandson Stephen Timlin was graduating from high school and my favorite baseball team would be in town: the Atlanta Braves! They were playing Baltimore in a cross leagues series. Much as I love the Braves, I didn't root them to victory. They lost. My favorite thing was to see Chipper Jones in person. Comer Lewis liked him so well that his newest puppy is named Chipper Duke. Tom had done a lot of arranging, but we had handicapped parking and handicapped seats that had a lot of room and were even with home plate. This time I was the one in the wheelchair, but that made it so easy to come in and go out. Jack drove back and me down in his truck. I enjoyed the trip very much. Martha and Tom went to a lot of trouble, even fixing us a delicious parking lot lunch before the game and a wonderful steak lunch the next day before graduation and then dinner afterwards.
I have had a very happy life with my wonderful wife Mattie, two children and five grandchildren. I have a fine son-in-law and a fine daughter-in-law and now a granddaughter-in-law! My health has been good and I've been lucky to be in the right place at the right time for some good business deals. I joined the church at an early age. Since that time I've taken an active part in church, attending regularly, serving on committees and boards, serving on conference committees, building committees, financial committees and other jobs. I've known some mighty fine people and pastors, especially Helen and Gerald Noffsinger and the rest of the current church staff.
Through the years I've enjoyed fine neighbors:
Mary Etta and Walter Lea, Sarah and Albert Fite, Margaret and Sam Bone, Gwynn and Evelyn Vaughan, the Curry Dodsons, the Travis Phillips, the Kenneth Tilleys, the Sam Gilreaths, the Herman Eskews, the Phillip Turners, the Fords and then the Williams, the John Sellars, the Ott Darwins, the Elmer McAdoos, the John Sloans, the Van Rodgers, the Ed Standfords, the Jimmy Walkers, the Jim Hardings, Judge Dan Seay, the Charlie Teasleys, the Will Scheuermans, and others!
Dear Lord, I want to thank You for my wonderful wife Mattie and for my wonderful family. I also want to thank You for the many, many people who have blessed my life through kindness and friendship, both in business and in pleasure. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.