Let’s harness our heritage to revitalize Tennessee main streets and communities (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN |Tennessee is rich in history, but the physical evidence of our heritage is increasingly threatened by our state’s dramatic growth. The structures that have served for generations as the center of spiritual, social, cultural and economic vitality are being torn down or left in disrepair because of the misguided notion that it’s always cheaper to build something new rather than restore and preserve the old.

For example, in rural areas across the state the inability to save important historic structures or landscapes that once played a vital role in the success and identity of those communities is widespread. Buildings around our many courthouse squares, within “Main Street” districts or places that were once farming homesteads are disappearing due to neglect, the lack of adequate financial resources or, like our cities, threatened by uncontrolled development.

Just in my hometown of Nashville, the nationally celebrated Music Row, which tells the story of country music and planted the seeds that built Music City USA, is being demolished at an alarming rate. Between 2013 and 2019, at least 55 music-related buildings were torn down, replaced by apartment and condominium buildings. The places that defined the heart and soul of Nashville, and of Tennessee, are quickly disappearing.

There is a way to save and revitalize the storied buildings of our downtowns and communities while repurposing them to spur economic growth at the local level. The answer is enacting a state historic preservation tax credit. The credit works by incentivizing substantial rehabilitation of historic buildings for income-producing or business use. It requires preservation of the historic character of the property and makes it feasible to preserve older structures that would otherwise be too cost-prohibitive to renovate or restore. Simultaneously, it can save our state’s tangible past in a way that conserves resources, reduces waste and creates jobs.

Read the full article here: https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2022/12/01/opinion-harness-heritage-to-revitalize-our-main-streets-communities/69687722007/

65 Years Later: A School Bombing, A Steady Leader, And A Message Of Hope (Forbes)

FORBES | In times of uncertainty, we know leadership matters more than ever. I see this from leaders firsthand every day – leadership in improving health outcomes, in driving better policy, in rising to the moment to solve tough challenges – from conservation to economic mobility. Recently, I have been reflecting on the power and importance of great leadership in education, and marking the anniversary of a painful event in Nashville where leadership mattered.

This Saturday, September 10th, 2022 marks the 65th anniversary of the tragic bombing of the Hattie Cotton School, which occurred just after midnight following the very first day of mandated integration at six elementary schools in Nashville in 1957. This major cultural advance was spurred by the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education.

On that first day of school, Hattie Cotton had just one six-year-old black girl enrolled, Patricia Watson. My aunt Margaret Cate, who we lovingly called Aunt Bonnie, was the principal at Hattie Cotton and she had led the school since the day it opened seven years prior in 1950. Never married, her life was centered entirely around educating children, teaching with high values and high expectations, always gently and humbly — and later leading as principal in the style of servant leader. She was gentle but strong. Her convictions were ahead of the times.

From old letters, we know a close friend sensed an air of worry and concern when visiting with Aunt Bonnie the day before the opening of school because of planned, organized, community-wide protests. Little did she know that soon her beloved, tiny school would be making national headlines, and she would be called upon to unify and courageously lead the Hattie Cotton community after a vicious, violent attack.

Read the full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2022/09/09/65-years-later-a-school-bombing-a-steady-leader-and-a-message-of-hope/?sh=5bb97298c792

Nashville Health Care Council Fellows

“What we witnessed is bipartisan dialogue, exposure to world-known individuals, new methods of learning, strategies and tactics I have put to use, and a consistent and engaging forum for dialogue. I consider this class one of the single most important investments I have made in myself.” -Laura Beth Brown, Vice President, Vanderbilt Health Services, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Fellows Class of 2013

Nashville is a one-of-a-kind city.  It is a melting pot of music, culture, people, and healthcare, the often-neglected facet of Nashville, despite being Nashville’s biggest industry.  In Middle Tennessee alone, there are 250 healthcare companies, 16 public companies, $70 billion in global revenue, and 400,000 global jobs, making the “Athens of the South” also the Silicon Valley of Healthcare.  While other cities throughout the country can meet those numbers, none other can beat the unprecedented collaboration, one-of-a-kind innovation and implementation, and combined expertise of current healthcare leaders.


Recently, I developed and began teaching a course in conjunction with the Nashville Health Care Council.  In the ever-changing industry of healthcare, what worked yesterday or today does not translate into what will work tomorrow, which many of these students have already come to realize with their existing experiences.  The only way we can combat the upcoming tough challenges of the healthcare industry is for the leaders of today to come together and train the leaders of tomorrow to face challenges in the context of privately-held start ups all the way to publicly-traded companies through innovative collaboration.  Together, we can develop strong solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow.

Nashville Health Care Council Fellows Dinner on June 28, 2013. by Donn Jones.

To adequately teach this course on collaboration, I had to collaborate myself, so my colleagues from the healthcare industry of Nashville came together with me to create and teach the innovative curriculum.  The healthcare legacy needs to be carried on, and I hope that the future leaders from this Fellow course will launch themselves with the skills needed to think outside the box and collaborate to solve healthcare’s toughest problems, all while bettering themselves, their companies, and, ultimately, their communities.


Nashville Flooding and What You Can Do

The numbers from the flooding in Nashville continue to astound. Twenty-one people have died in Tennessee and thousands of people have been driven from their homes. The pictures that are continuing to come in show the level of devastation in Middle Tennessee, and many families are just now being able to get back and see the damage sustained to their homes. Nashville institutions like the Grand Ole Opry House, Broadway and the Opryland hotel have sustained heavy damage. The Obama Administration has declared Cheatham, Davidson, Dyer, Hickman, Montgomery, and Williamson counties federal disaster areas, and it will take months and lots of hard work to repair the areas damaged.

However, with the barrage of bad news, I find it very uplifting to see people from all over the area coming together to help those in need. With every picture of devastation, you see three pictures of neighbors, first responders and families pitching in to rescue people in need and lend a hand to those who have lost so much. This truly captures the essence of the Volunteer State. Our leaders have also done a fantastic job including Mayor Karl Dean and Governor Phil Bredesen.

I continue to have people come up to me and ask, “how can I help?” I have been directing people to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. They have been working in partnership with Davidson County’s Office of Emergency Management for the Metro Nashville Disaster Response Fund. According to the CMFT, grants from the fund will support relief and restoration in the Davidson County area. For more information, you can visit http://www.cfmt.org/floodrelief

Chapters of the Red Cross have been operating shelters all across Middle Tennessee to help those suffering from loss. For more information about the Red Cross’ work, please visit http://www.nashvilleredcross.org.