Red Cross to honor John Hood for legacy of community service

Nancy De Gennaro, The Daily News Journal, February 24, 2017

Wedding photo of John and Marilyn Hood DNJ file

Former state Rep. John Hood will be honored as being an unsung hero at the fifth annual Heroes Breakfast sponsored by the Heart of Tennessee Chapter of the Red Cross at 7:30 a.m. March 8.

Hood, a Murfreesboro native, has served in numerous capacities and been involved in community service his whole life.

“Mr. John just personifies what an unsung hero is to me —  his service to Rutherford County, the state house, MTSU,” said Mike Cowles, executive director for the Heart of Tennessee Chapter of the Red Cross.

Hood will join the ranks of past honorees, which include Liz Rhea, Andy Womack, Gorgon Ferguson and Bob Mifflin.

The Daily News Journal recently sat down with John Hood at the Red Cross office to talk about his career, his family and his commitment to community service.

This last year has been a hard one for you and a lot of transitions, since losing your wife, Marilyn. How are you doing?

I’m making it fine. People have been so supportive of me. We had a good marriage. We were three months shy of being married 65 years and have a good life and a wonderful family.  I’m so thankful and so blessed.

Why has it been important to be involved in the community?

I just think we have a duty and responsibility to put something back into the community. The community has been very good to me and my family. I’ve tried to be involved and make it a better community. It may be a little trite, but somebody said, “Service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy here on Earth.” I’ve been trying to keep my rent paid.

State Rep. John Hood is master of ceremonies Friday at a reception honoring retiring County Mayor Nancy Allen at the Rutherford County Courthouse. DNJ file

Mark Hood and his Dad John Hood.

Leslee Dodd Karl, Nancy Dodd, Marilyn Hood, Rep. John Hood

John Hood interviews former Rutherford County Commissioner Bob Bullen, MTSU instructor Kent Syler and Election Adminitrator Alan Farley about political stories in Murfreesboro.

John Hood talks with Juan A. Morales, the Director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System as Hood takes a tour of the new Tennessee Fisher House on Thursday Nov. 7 2013, during it’s dedication.

Do you think you’ve been an overachiever in service to the community?

I’ve been very blessed to have a long life and I think it’s important to have something to do, somewhere to go, something to be involved in to give you some health and vitality.

What is the most important thing you’ve done in your lifetime as far as community achievement?

One thing has been my membership in the Exchange Club of Murfreesboro. I’m a charter member since 1951, and one of two surviving charter members. Through the Exchange Club we have a national project of child abuse prevention. That’s what I’ve worked on nationally as well as locally. I was four-term president of the National Exchange Club Foundation.

Locally over the years, we’ve raised money to put back into the community … and the facility we have here, the Child Abuse Prevention Center. Most recently, the Celebrity Waiters Dinner.

How do you think that has impacted families in the community?

We try to educate families in the way they need to act and raise their children … to help prevent further occurrence (of abuse).

As far as state policies during your six terms as state representative for the 48th District, what do you think has had the most impact?

I guess one particular issue stands out in my mind. For many years we had a law about wearing a safety belt in the car. It was a secondary offense. … I sponsored and passed a law, with the help of others, to make it a primary offense. They could stop you and charge you for not wearing a safety belt. When that was passed I think our percentage of usage was somewhere in the 60 percent range. Then it rose to the low 80s, partly from the impact of that bill. That, to me, was saving lives and that’s what it was all about. … According to Tennessee Highway Patrol, it’s around 90 percent compliance now.

Why did you take that issue up?

I was a member of AAA Auto Club South board of directors. Through that organization we were interested in that issue.

You’ve got your True Blue pin on and you’re pretty loyal to Middle Tennessee State University? Why to you think it’s important to support MTSU?

I realize there are graduates of other institutes that have their own loyalties. But MTSU, if nothing else, is such a vital economic factor in our community. But more importantly, it’s educating our children and our students … to be able to be prepared for life’s work. We have more and more people coming back to college due to Gov. (Bill) Haslam’s programs (Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect). About 22,000 students now, about 2,000 to 3,000 employees. … And we have a lot of the faculty at MTSU involved in community affairs that work to make it a better community.

Let’s talk about MTSU athletics. You’re just a big fan of MTSU.

Yes, we try to attend every all the Raider home games, football and basketball. We’ve had reserved seats at basketball for 38 years or more. Years ago I used to do the (public announcing) for Blue Raider home games, and I enjoyed doing that. Sports is sort of a front porch for an institution. That’s what gets a lot of publicity and notoriety. That gets a lot of people interested. Beyond attending athletic events, they get involved in other things.

What would you say to encourage people to be more involved in the community?

I would encourage people to find out about organizations. The Blue Raider Athletic Association, in particular. The Rutherford Count Chamber of Commerce Diplomats, I’ve been a part of that for a number of years. Those give you an opportunity to meet folks in the community and spread the good word about the community. Organizations like the Red Cross are always looking for members to serve on the board. So many civic and service clubs you can get involved in. While you can’t do that much as an individual, you can get involved in a group and be very effective in making a better community.

What about being involved with the Red Cross?

The Red Cross is probably best known for its blood program. For years I donated my blood, but now, because of my age, they won’t take my blood (laughs). The disaster relief, the Red Cross brings that to the community and they help take relief to other communities.

You’ve been honored in several ways over the years. But how does it feel to be called an unsung hero?

It’s very uncomfortable (laughs). I don’t consider myself a hero. But I appreciate the honor, being able to be among (past winners) who are all long-time good friends. If it helps the Red Cross — more awareness in the community — I’m glad to be a part of it.

Do you want to give a plug for the Celebrity Waiters dinner for the Exchange Club?

Sure. We sponsored a horse show for 49 years. We got out of the horse show … and selected the Celebrity Waiters Dinner. Eight years ago we started doing that. And we do it on the first Thursday in April, which is Child Abuse Awareness Month. (The event is 6 p.m. April 6 at Stones River Country Club, 1830 N.W. Broad St. in Murfreesboro. Reserve your spot by calling 615-893-2067 or 615-849-5300.)

We’ve been able to get local celebrities. In most recent years, we’ve been able to come up with a number of country music entertainers. They even ask to come back, it’s so much fun. I think last year we raise over $50,000.

Anything else you‘d like to add about this community and what you love about it?

We’ve grown tremendously in the last few years. But we still have a lot of that small town community feel, where people know each other and enjoy being with each other. … It has a flavor few communities have.

What is the pinnacle of your career?

My 12 years in the legislature. … My father, when I was growing up, served as a sergeant and arms at the legislature. He’d catch the Greyhound bus and ride to Nashville every day to do that. I still have a Tennessee Blue Book from that time that he gave me. Never would I have thought in my later years I’d be in the Tennessee Blue Book myself. It’s such an honor.

Reach reporter Nancy De Gennaro at 615-278-5148 or degennaro@dnj.com, and follow her on Twitter @DNJMama.

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