Murfreesboro Historian Nelson Smotherman Dies at age 89

Mar 03, 2023 at 04:28 pm by WGNS

(MURFREESBORO) Beloved sports historian Nelson Smotherman died early Friday (3/3/2023) morning while recuperating from a heart attack.

The first visitation with the family will be from 2:00 to 6:00PM this Sunday(3/5/2023) afternoon at Woodfin Funeral Chapel (1488 Lascassas Pike). Graveside services will be at 10:00 o'clock this Monday morning (3/6/2023) at the Evergreen Cemetery. A memorial service will follow at 11:00AM in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church (210 N. Spring St.). A reception will immediately follow the service.


In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to Mr. Smotherman for either the Legacy Capital Fund at Murfreesboro First Presbyterian Church or to Oakland High School for the Nelson Smotherman Fund.

Lifelong Murfreesboro Resident

If you described the 89-year-old lifelong Murfreesboro resident, you would have to say that he loved local sports, local history and his church. He would proudly let others know that he was the longest surviving baptized member of Murfreesboro’s First Presbyterian Church, but the longest active member of the congregation.

Smotherman was volunteering in his church’s office only 2-weeks before he passed away.

Nelson loved the community and the people who live here—that included native born as well as newcomers to the Heart of Tennessee.

He always searching for memorabilia dealing with Rutherford County.

WGNS’ Bart Walker remembered, “Nelson was a regular at the radio station. One day he bubbled into my office with some old milk bottles that he found tucked away in the attic of an old building on the historic square. Another time, he found a 70-year old bill for advertising on WGNS that he gave to us. We treasured it and have it on display in the radio station’s lobby. The same is true with a miniature cedar bucket with WGNS burned onto it. Nelson was a giving person and insisted on giving it to the radio station.”

Loved Sports

That same love described Nelson’s love for local sports, and the community returned that love.

WGNS' Sports Director Bryan Barrett said, "The Oakland softball field is named after Nelson. He’s been a huge supporter of the program and Oakland athletics over the years."

Their softball coach Charlotte Peay said, “Nelson was the definition of a true patriot. He loved the Oakland community and boldly supported our athletics. He was loyal and reliable. He will be missed!”

TSSAA Executive Director Matthew Gillespie and Murfreesboro resident told WGNS, "Nelson, basically, in my eyes, was a walking encyclopedia. He worked thousands of TSSAA events over 60-years. I've worked closely with Nelson since I started at TSSAA nearly 25-years ago, but knew him a little before then. Our state tournaments won't be the same without Nelson being there and providing tid bits of knowledge to myself and countless members of the media covering the event. We always made sure to have a reserved spot for him on press row for basketball and credentials for every event. He was inducted in the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 1997 as a Contributor. He is the definition of what a TSSAA contributor is, better than anybody."
On Friday, the TSSAA sent a Tweet that described Nelson as a "fixture at TSSAA events for more than 60-years." They credited him with keeping stats at more than 4,000 games. The message concluded with "Nelson will be missed by his TSSAA friends, and our prayers are with his family at this time."

Pastor of Murfreesboro's First Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. John Hinkle, and Nelson developed a strong friendship. Hinkle quipped, "There is a right way. There was Nelson's way and Nelson's way was always the right way." 

By the way, Nelson was a lifelong member of that congregation. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, and later had a career in the United States Postal Service. 

TSSAA Hall of Fame in 1997

That instant recall was also linked to players and games across the Volunteer State. As a result, in 1977 Nelson Smotherman was inducted into the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s HALL OF FAME. In fact, his love for high school sports was noted by the TSSAA and he was that organization’s official Sports Historian.

The Voice of the Blue Raiders Chip Walters said, "Nelson was as loyal as they come. He loved working with statistics and was always willing to share historical information about MTSU sports, the local high schools, and TSSAA events. He was definitely a fixture on the local sports scene that will be missed."

Share Your Memories

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 CLICK HERE to see the complete obituary from Woodfin Funeral Chapel. 

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