VIProfile: John Hood




Story by Lee Rennick | Photography Submitted

The word gentleman is defined as “a chivalrous, courteous or honorable man” or one whose “conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior,” according to the Oxford and Miriam Webster dictionaries, respectively. These words describe John Hood perfectly. Always impeccably dressed, he is kind and gracious. He knows no strangers, and wherever he goes people stop to say “hello.” While his list of friends is prodigious, so is his knowledge of and contributions to Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.

Much honored, Hood remains humble and thankful. Some of the many awards he has received in the last few years include the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Business Legend Award in 2014 and induction into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2020, the Rutherford County Communications Headquarters was named for him. Although he has slowed down in recent years, he continues to keep his finger on the pulse of the Heart of Tennessee that he loves.

Born and raised in Murfreesboro, Hood grew up in a house on Church Street. He remembers walking to Crichlow Grammar School, which sat on Maple Street. He went from there to Central High School and then on to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), when it was called Middle Tennessee State College.

It was while he was in high school that Hood began his career. It started at WGNS radio. “We had something called a Diversified Education Program,” explained Hood. “We would go to school in the morning and then work in the afternoon. I was lucky enough to be hired by Cecil Elrod, Jr. who owned the station back then. I worked there through high school and college.”

Hood loved the work, especially the remote broadcasts. In those days, in order to do an off-site broadcast, a telephone line had to be rented from Bell Telephone, now AT&T, and the broadcast ran through it. He would hook up all the cables and be the ‘on air’ guy.

“We used to broadcast the Cumberland Presbyterian Church services every Sunday,” said Hood with a mischievous, lopsided smile. “And I would be there to run the broadcast. Then, one Sunday they asked me to do the service!”

Destined to go into a job in communications, it was a passion from an early age. There was a vacant lot next to his family home where the boys in the neighborhood would play ball games. His father, Emil, purchased his son an amplifier and Hood used it to call the play-by-play of those childhood games. He fell in love with announcing then and there. 

Wishing to pursue broadcasting after college, Hood hoped to gain a degree in public speaking, but MTSU only offered public speaking as a minor at the time, so he received his undergraduate degree in Social Science.

In 1951, while in college, Hood married Marilyn Stockard, who would remain by his side for almost 65 years, until her death in 2016. She is still the love of his life. They built a family and a full life together. The first of their children arrived a few days after Hood graduated from MTSU.

“I graduated from Middle on June 6, 1954,” Hood noted, “on June 11, my first child was born, and on July 21 I was on a bus to Fort Hood, Texas where I got my basic training in the Army.”

His first child, Garry, went on to do movie, television and live event production. For a number of years, Garry was the stage manager of the Academy Awards. In 2001, John and Marilyn made a trip to Los Angeles to experience the glittering awards ceremony. “We sat with the group from Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon,” said Hood. The movie won several awards that year, including Best Foreign Film.

The ‘group’ that the Hoods sat among included famous Taiwanese film director Ang Lee, who went on to win another Academy Award for Brokeback Mountain. Also in the area where they sat were equally famous Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh; Zhang Ziyi, one of the top four actresses in China and Chow Yun-fat, a well-known Hong Kong martial arts actor.

These are only a few of the famous people that Hood met in his lifetime, include others in entertainment, as well as government officials and business leaders. One of his favorites was James Cash Penney, Jr., the founder of J. C. Penney Department Stores.

“Many people today do not know that there really was a J. C. Penney,” explained Hood. “I met him when I was working for WMTS after getting out of the Army. He came to Murfreesboro twice, once during the construction of the multi-level downtown store that stood just off the square, where Pinnacle Bank is now and once for the dedication.”

Hood’s aunt, who lived with the family, worked at the original J. C. Penney store that was located on the square. He remembers his clothing coming from there when he was a kid, especially his suits.

Another famous person that Hood enjoyed meeting was Eva Marie Saint. Hood was appointed to the initial Murfreesboro/Rutherford County Arts Commission which was given the task by Mayor Joe Jackson of turning the old Linebaugh Library into some kind of artsrelated facility.

They created what is now the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro.

“Intermedia, the precursor of Comcast, was very involved in the dedication of the Center for the Arts,” noted Hood. “Eva Marie Saint came for the dedication through them. She was in many films, Hood remembering her most from On the Waterfront. Others may know her better for her work with Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

Proud of knowing several governors, Hood served under two as State Representative of the 48th District for six terms, beginning in 1996. A position once held by John Bragg. The two governors include Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist.

“I actually knew Don Sundquist before he was governor, when I worked at Samsonite as the Personnel Manager…Sundquist was at Josten’s Jewelry in Shelbyville, before he moved to Knoxville.”

Hood was brought on at Samsonite when the plant started, before the building was even finished. It was a job he acquired through his long-time friendship with Whitney Stegall. He worked there until 1966, then went to work for MTSU, then on to serve for 20 years as the Vice President of Marketing for SunTrust Bank in Murfreesboro, beginning when it was Murfreesboro Bank and Trust.

Not only has Hood been involved in business in the county, but long before he served in the state legislature, he was a member of the Murfreesboro City School Board, where he took the office of chairman. It is no surprise that in 2012 the system honored him with the Murfreesboro City Schools Foundation Award for Excellence in Education.

A charter member of the Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, Hood served the organization as National President from 1980 to 1981. And, along with Margaret Heath, he is one of the longest members of the Chamber of Commerce Diplomats. He has been a Diplomat for 26 years, an office he still holds. He has also served as president of the Chamber of Commerce; served as a County Commissioner, when it was known as the Rutherford County Quarterly Court; and was a board member and treasurer of the Rutherford County Emergency
Communications District.

Having a long-standing association with MTSU, he served as Director of Development and Assistant to the President for 20 years and currently serves as Director of Government and Community Affairs. When working for MTSU in the 1970s, he completed a Master’s Degree in Education. In 1976, he was named as an MTSU Distinguished Alumni in Communications.

John Hood has seen a lot of changes in the city over the years – in business, government and education. He has enjoyed the recent growth in locally owned businesses, especially those who are bringing the downtown back to life. And, he enjoys all of the technology that has brought instant communications with anyone, anywhere.

Although there are times he misses the care-free days of summer when he and his high school friends would swim in the Stones River, he is proud of all that he has accomplished in his 90 years. Being most proud of his family: Garry, his oldest; Mark who works for SunTrust Bank in Nashville and Rebecca Hagan who lives in Franklin, Tennessee. He grins widely when he mentions his four grandchildren and one greatgrand child.

“I am blessed to have been able to live and work and raise a family in my home town,” Hood emphasized. “And, to serve so many organizations that work to make this a better place for everyone to live.”

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