A Family Remembers
By CHRIS CROWELL
The “Good Life” in Wilson County is as much here today as it has been for years. We all enjoy the beautiful geography that makes our area special – from the rolling hills to the groves of cedar trees and even the limestone sinks that cover our area, but the part of Wilson County that makes it the most special is much deeper than that. This is true in many ways, even in ways that sometimes aren’t readily apparent.
Take politics. Most of us today have a negative connotation of even the mention of it. Many in Wilson County have been involved in the political process before. Sometimes for a long-term purpose like accessing the public water supply, and other times for a short term purpose like collecting our tree trimmings – before company comes! But inside the political process there is usually an election — an event that can come quickly in a small room or slowly over an entire country. It is said that everyone should run for public office at least once in our lives, and here is a walk through an experience of that “good life” in Wilson County.
The radio was tuned to our local AM station, barely audible through the roar of friends and family. A blended spirit of excitement and exhaustion prevalent among those present, the common mission created exhilaration akin to a marathon finish. Anticipation of updates came slowly as cars came up the driveway with paper and pencil and a story of how the day went. It was well before the days of cell phones, where communication was preserved often until a face to face meeting took place. There were little if any television updates, as often the results they were looking for were from events much larger than just Wilson and Trousdale counties. This scene was repeated four times in our family and in many other families in Wilson County and well beyond. It was the primary election night in Wilson County. A time when the lever-type voting machine was full of names and communities across our area spoke through their pull of that lever. There was no early voting, so everyone had to cast their ballot on the same day. Polls were taken by simply asking our neighbors at the grocery store or as “scientific” as calls into the radio station.
The first time my father, Gentry Crowell, ran for State Representative, my birth was expected the month following the election in September 1968. Some of the supporters said that my father might get votes from those who were sympathetic to my mother’s condition as she did her part to help in the election. He won and then was elected and held the seat until 1976, before going on to become Secretary of State. At the time, the county was rural and agricultural and overwhelmingly Democratic. If you won the Democratic primary, you were in as there would be no Republican contender in thegeneral election. Over the years, he had several prominent Democratic opponents such as B.F. (Jack) Lowery and the late Robert E. (Ewell) Lee, who was the founding partner of the firm where my wife now practices law.
Many good times were had as we traveled Wilson and Trousdale Counties, meeting people and asking for their support. One time at a campaign rally just before the election, several cakes were auctioned. My parents purchased one of the cakes for $75.00 — an enormous amount to pay for a cake at that time. My brother Brooks was carrying it to the car when he decided to pick a cherry off the top. In the attempt, he lost balance in his hand and the cake hit the ground, upside down! One of our dear friends, the late Margaret King, came running to help pick up the cake from the ground exclaiming, “Pick it up fast, if they see it on the ground they may think that we didn’t like it!”
The seat my father held was subsequently held by the late Joe Bell and then Stratton Bone. Though many things have certainly changed from that era, one constant is the great people who live here. They are people who find surprising joy in actually meeting their neighbors and discovering more about how their community works. They are people who share the victories and defeats in our lives. And they are people who are there for each other in celebration and despair. These are the great people of Wilson County, who for generations have taken pride in participating in their community through public service in many forms. The great part is that there are so many good folks here to work with along the journey. So this is how we build and enjoy the good life – by being an active part in making our community a better place.
Thanks to my mother, Terrijean Crowell for providing the pictures included in this article