July 10, 2020 July/August Frow Chips, Bill Wilson, aka “Mr. Murfreesboro”
Our showcased Rutherford Historical Society member for this newsletter is Bill Wilson, also known throughout our community as Mr. Murfreesboro. Bill has been very instrumental in bringing many visitors to the Ransom School house as well as recruit new members to the Rutherford County Historical Society.
The original Mr. Murfreesboro was Tommy Martin, a local businessman and ambassador of Murfreesboro. He was an insurance salesman for Mutual of New York. Tommy Martin was known for being nice and always remembered folks on their birthday by calling or sending a handwritten card.
Tommy Martin helped recruit businesses to Rutherford County such as State Farm, General Electric and Chromalox, just to name a few.
Bill Wilson says what is funny, is how he (Bill Wilson) has worked for all three of these companies. One could argue that Murfreesboro would not be the progressive way it is without the leadership and forward thinking of businessmen like Tommy Martin.
Bill said that Tommy Martin was great friends with his grandfather, Bill Wilson (for whom he was named). His grandfather, Bill Wilson was a well known Rutherford County Sheriff in the 1950-1960s, and the County Road Superintendent in the 1970s. Bill’s father, Floyd Wilson was one of the first local State Farm agents in town. His father also served on the Rutherford County Commission which today is the Mayor. Bill laughingly said, “So one could say I grew up at the courthouse, the workhouse, or the jail, because of his father and grandfather’s positions in the community. When election time came around, they would all go door to door asking for votes and support. Election night, he said they would all sit around the radio to listen to the election results and that was always a big thing to do!
Bill Wilson, our Mr. Murfreesboro, was born in Murfreesboro at the Old Rutherford Hospital in 1966. He was educated at the First United Methodist Church kindergarten, Campus School, Central Middle School, Riverdale High School, and graduated in 1992 from Middle Tennessee State University with a Political Science degree with a minor in Physical Education and History.
His mother’s father, he stated, were the Rogers family, educated landowners from England. They helped settle, in 1880, the last English settlement in Rugby, East Tennessee. The family migrated to Sullivan Bend, and then on to Murfreesboro. Bill’s great grandfather, Thomas Rogers purchased nearly 1,000 acres on Bradyville Pike in the 21st district of Rutherford County, TN. Bill said he grew up in what was left of the family farm in the 1970-1980s. He said that he, along with his cousins, hauled hay, cut tobacco, gathered eggs, chased cows, and if he was very good, he got to ride on the tractor and drive his grandfather Roger’s Ford Truck. He said that his grandfather Roger’s home was actually two old log cabins dating back to the 1830s. He had them put together and covered with stucco. They had a very self sufficient farm—raising their own cattle for beef and milk, pigs for bacon and sausages, chickens for eggs and poultry, and all the vegetables they needed. They always had an abundance of vegetables and at harvest time, they would put all the excess under the shade tree to share with their neighbors.
Bill has many fond memories of the farm, stating he remembers playing horseshoes and that his papa had a large minnow well for live bait for fishing. There was time when he took the worn path between the fields of his parent’s house and the home of his grandparents to check on them and the garden. You could hear the screen door slam and you knew someone had come to visit.
Papa Rogers donated 10-15 acres to the City of Murfreesboro for a park to be used by the citizens. It is known as the Rogers Park and contains basketball courts, tennis courts, greenway, soccer fields, play gym for kids, and pavil-ions with bathrooms. He would sell off 40 acres of the farm to put his kids thru college. Real estate was a commodity back in the day just like it is today.
His other grandfather, Bill Wilson, as previously noted, was a politician and hard worker. He taught Bill how to drink a cup of coffee at a very young age. He remembers going with him to Jerry’s Restaurant on South Church, the City Café on the square, and the Huddle House on Broad Street to have coffee with him. He had many adventures with his grandfather Wilson, going to the rock quarry and watching the workers dynamite rocks. He would eat breakfast at the County work-house with jailers and prisoners—it looked like a scene out of Cool Hand Luke. After his grandfather, Bill Wilson died, the County Commissioners named a bridge on Betty Ford Road after him, “The Bill Wilson Bridge”.
Bill, like his ancestors and the original Mr. Murfreesboro, wanted to do something to promote local history and give back to the community, so he developed his Facebook page, Mr. Murfreesboro. He knew there had already been a Mr. Murfreesboro, Tommy Martin and that he grew up with two of his grandsons, Hunter McFarlin and Bren Martin. So, of course, with their blessing, it was only natural for him to call his page Mr. Murfreesboro both honoring Tommy Martin and to promote Murfreesboro. With social media of Facebook and Instagram, Bill Wilson/Mr. Murfreesboro has around 22,000 followers. He also co-hosts a radio show on WGNS 1450, called the Ed Raymer Show where he promotes his community.
In his personal/professional life, Bill Wilson, has been a realtor for over 20 years and he and his partner, Meredith Thomas, has helped over 1,000 families buy and sell real estate in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, and middle Tennessee. He serves on many boards and committees such as Read to Succeed, Teen for Tots, and Mindful Care. He is a member of the New Vision Baptist Church and the Rutherford County Historical Society.