Murfree rarely thinks of hometown’s namesake

Ralph Vaughn, The Murfreesboro Post, September 4, 2011

Matt Murfree

Matt Murfree, a prominent business and community leader, never gave much thought about his famous name while growing up in a town that honors the legacy of his great-great-great grandfather.

Murfree, 66, said his life was almost like any other youngster because his parents emphasized looking forward rather than resting on the laurels of history.  “Of course I was told about Col. Hardy Murfree for whom the town is named,” he said. “A Revolutionary War hero, he served in the Continental Army and fought in several battles that played a significant role in defeating the British.”

For his meritorious service, he was given land grants and also permitted to purchase additional ones in the North Carolina Territory that became Tennessee, the 16th state in the Union.  Later in his life, he moved to Franklin, Tenn., to be near his children.  Three children lived in Franklin and four in Murfreesboro, but he never actually lived here.

While reflecting on his own youth and growing up in Murfreesboro, Matt Murfree recalled, “If a person wandered a couple of blocks from Main Street back when I was a child, then he or she would be standing on farmland; out in the country.  I am amazed how the town has grown, especially in the last 30 years.”

He attended Campus School, Central High School and then was off to Nashville for Vanderbilt University. It was not until his junior year at Vanderbilt that he decided to enter law school.  Murfree graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1969, passed the bar and then began his practice with former Murfreesboro mayor and attorney Jack Todd; hanging his shingle in 1970.

Murfree said, “Mr. Todd was in his 70s at that time and had built a good practice.  We did almost everything from real estate to litigation. There were only about 12 lawyers in Murfreesboro then.”

In addition to practicing law for more than 40 years, Murfree has been an integral part of the county’s economic and community development.  He was a member of the Rutherford County Commission; helping in negotiations that brought Nissan to Smyrna.  As chairman of the Rutherford County Commission, Murfree had to assume the duties of county executive when the late Ben Hall McFarlin became ill.

“During those nine months when I served on behalf of Mr. McFarlin, I knew that a life in public service was not what I wanted to do,” he remembered.  “I believed that I could make a greater impact in the community by other means.”

When one looks at some of the things Murfree has given his hand to do, it is easy to see what he means.  Most notable was helping to negotiate the sale of Middle Tennessee Medical Center, formerly Rutherford Hospital, to a joint-venture by Baptist and Saint Thomas hospitals.  The two hospitals spent $47 million to purchase the Murfreesboro facility, which led to creation of The Christy-Houston Foundation that has given away more than $60 million to worthwhile programs in Rutherford County.  Its endowment still exceeds $80 million for future projects while continuing to grow in value.

Murfree is chairman of the board for MTMC and beams with pride when talking about the new $267 million state-of-the-art facility on Medical Center Parkway.  He is also on the board for Saint Thomas Health with auspices over Saint Thomas Hospital, Baptist Hospital, MTMC, Hickman Community Hospital and 18 other subsidiaries.

Murfree met his future wife, the former Kitty Davis, while they both were students at Vanderbilt University.  The couple has two sons, Bricke and Davis.  Bricke practices law with his father in Murfreesboro.  Davis resides in Washington, D.C.

The Murfree couple enjoys traveling with their many adventures taking them to almost every corner of the world.

“We have enjoyed all of our travels, but I must say that no place is like home in Murfreesboro, Tenn.,” he said.

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