Brian Wilson, Daily News Journal, March 8, 2015
At 83, Murfreesboro resident John Hood still isn’t one to slow down.
The former state representative and Middle Tennessee State University graduate and longtime employee still goes to the state Capitol in Nashville to lobby on behalf of his alma mater and the community he is proud to serve. He and Marilyn Hood, his wife of 63 years, are still frequent fans at Blue Raider home games.
Hood is also one of the people organizing the Murfreesboro Noon Exchange Club’s annual Celebrity Waiters event at the Stones River County Club on April 2.
Several tables are still available for the event that is slated to have a distinctly country flair. Grand Ole Opry member Jan Howard and country music artists Tommy Cash, Barbara Fairchild and Lynn Anderson are some of the people who will wait tables to raise money for the Exchange Club to fight child abuse and neglect. Tables for the event are still available at 615-904-2700.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News Journal, Hood spoke about the Exchange Club event, his current work at the state Legislature, and how the community and the people who served it have changed since he was first elected to office nearly half a century ago:
Tell me about this year’s waiters event. How have you all been able to get so many country stars?
HOOD : One of our members have largely been responsible for this. He’s had contact with a lady in Nashville that I guess she’s a resident from here and has given a lot of the contacts, managers and even personal contacts.
It seems like a fairly big guest list.
HOOD: Yeah, I guess it’s more star power, if you will, than we’ve ever had. All the people that have served as waiters we’ve always considered to be stars though. We’ve had the mayors; we’ve had a lot of the top business people in different industries. They’re all celebrities in their own right, but true celebrities is what we’ll have.
What’s been your role in the Exchange Club as of late?
HOOD: I’ve been on the committee
helping put the program together. We had a walking horse show for 48 years, a fudraiser out at Old Fork Park. We lost that location out there and started looking for something else to replace it to support the Exchange Club Family Center. And one of our club in Houston, Texas, has been very successful with the Celebrity Waiters Dinner. What they’ve done, they had a chain restaurant turned over to them for the night and have different personalities in the community come in. This has been our sixth year doing it, and we’ve enjoyed pretty good success. I think the year before last, we raised around $50,000. Last year, it was somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. So we hope to do a similar amount this year.
Why do you think there’s been this level of success with this event? HOOD: We’ve tried to make it a fun event. We have a reception at 6 o’clock. We have a reception at 7 o’clock, and then we have a live auction at 8 and are out of there by 9 o’clock. We just try to make it a fun event and not to drag it on all night long.
We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of people in the past as well as this year that add a lot to the evening. People enjoy talking with them. I think Dr.
(Sidney) McPhee, who’s going to be back this year, he was there the first year and got over $300 in tips that first year. The idea is “Oh, you need a napkin. I c an get you a napkin, but it might cost you a little.”
Just fun kinds of things.
Is it odd for these folks to volunteer and have a different experience than they usually do?
HOOD: Some it is, I think. It’s a whole different type of thing than they’ve done before.
The Exchange Club isn’t the only thing you’re working on still.
Why is this such a passion for you that you’ve stayed with it through the years? HOOD: I guess we enjoyed friendships and fellowships with the various people in the club. It gives me and us a vehicle to do things in the community much more than we could do as individuals.
One thing I could say that’s a little trite is that I feel like we have to do something to give back to the community, to leave it a better place than we found it. Somebody said service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on Earth. Unity for Service is our motto for the Exchange Club. I’m just keeping my rent current, I guess.
Some might argue that your service goes beyond the Exchange Club. You were back on Capitol Hill (Wednesday) with Leadership Rutherford?
HOOD: With Leaders hip Rutherford, I just help Stephanie Brackman put together a panel of folks down there. I guess started doing it when I was down there as a member. We always try to put together a snapshot of what’s going on down there to give people an understanding. This year on the panel, we had the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, the state treasurer, the head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. We had news media, we had lobbyists, we had the head of the Department of Education and the Tennessee Education Lottery. It’s what puts it all together, and it’s a real pleasure to have a group c oming down from the community to get a better appreciation of how state government runs and how it works.
How has state government and the Legislature changed since you were in office, other than the majority?
HOOD: Well that would be the biggest change, I think. There are some different committee setups, but that’s probably the biggest difference. We have a very fine person as the first female of the speaker of the House, which is a change as well.
How often are you back up on the Hill, with Middle Tennessee State University? HOOD: As part-time with government relations, I’m there one to two days a week, but not every week depending on the education issues or bills in the respective committees.
What are some of the issues and bills you’re watching right now?
HOOD: Right now, there’s not much we have a concern about. For several years we worked trying to put together the funding for the science building. That was successful, and we have that constructed. We don’t have any major building projects on the list right now.
Does it feel odd the science building has come to fruition? What does it mean for the university that the building is in place?
HOOD: Well, it helps students prepare for not just the jobs of tomorrow, but the jobs of today. High schools had better facilities than some of the ones we had. We just had outd ated laboratories, some of which we not even totally safe. We have not the state of the art facilities there to train young people. About 80 percent of the students will have classes through the science building for one reason or another. It affects a large part of the student body at MTSU.
It’s been nearly 50 y ears since first elected to office with the County Court?
HOOD: It’s been that long? I guess so. ’66 to ’76, right? I guess it was.
How has the community changed since you started serving in a public capacity?
HOOD: Oh my goodness. First of all, it’s grown so much. We’ve had and still have two wonderful school systems, which have grown with the community. We’ve had so many people move in. It’s certainly broadened our culture, though that may not be the right word. We’re a completely different community than the one I grew up in, but s till it has some of the small town aspects it once had.
What does it mean that some of those aspects have stayed in place? HOOD: I think it gives people a sense of community and a pleasure in living here. Seeing people o n the streets that they know and can call their names, we still have some of that. On the County Court, as it was called then, we had two MTSU professors file a lawsuit under the “one man, one vote” rule, so, therefore, the County Court was reapportioned.
At that time we had 52 members, four of which were from Murfreesboro and the other 48 in the rural area. It was completely out of balance.
After the lawsuit, that’s when I ran. A lot of people who never were involved in politics or held office ran for office ran at that time.
What spurred those folks to get involved, just those seats available?
HOOD: I think the availability of the seats, the opportunity to be of service. It was obviously a rural court; most of the people were from the rural areas. This gave it a real balance. We, the group that came in, changed a lot of things with the operation of the court. It was the Rutherford County Quarterly Court, and that was it. We met once a month, in the morning, for a couple of hours, and we’re trying to operate with a budget like this? And most of us were working jobs where it was very difficult to come in the mornings. So we started meeting at night to accommodate most of the members. We just changed the whole operation of the court, and hopefully for the better.
What advice do you have for young people who want to get into in public service now?
HOOD: I would urge them to get involved in the community, in the civic clubs, the service clubs and other organizations.
You get to know people in the community, be involved in events and get to be known. You find out what the needs of the community are and what you need to do to work on them.
What do you hope your legacy might be in this community? HOOD: Oh golly, I don’t know. Hopefully, that I’ve done some work to make it a better community for our children and our grandchildren and those that come after me.