By Anne B. Pope, Executive Director –
Tennessee lost a true arts advocate when Ms. Alma Katherine Beasley Parker passed away on December 18, 2016. Ms. Parker was a force for the TN Arts Commission for almost 20 years. She was appointed in 1986 by Governor Alexander, reappointed by Governor McWherter in 1991 and then two times again by Governor Sundquist in 1997 and 2001. During her tenure on the Commission board, she was a part of much growth and expansion.
Eleanor Yoakum, former Commission board member, said, “I served on the Commission board with Alma Katherine for several years. She was the consummate lady. She had a gracious and beautiful spirit about her, and was passionately devoted to her family, her community and the arts. Alma Katherine led with intelligence, compassion, strength and grace, and accomplished so much in her uniquely subtle and powerful way. I treasure the memories and the time I had with her. It has been such an honor to call Alma Katherine my friend.” said.
Former Commission executive director Bennett Tarleton, who worked closely with Ms. Parker over the years, said, “Alma Katherine was a treasured commission member during all her years of service from the mid-1980s until and beyond 2000. Everyone — other commission members, the staff, and all in the arts community who came to know her, treasured her. She was supportive in every way — she was there, she was positive, she was a peacemaker, she had velvet-gloved political knowledge and skills, she was a caregiver and a comforter, she spoke wisely. Alma Katherine was generous with her time, her home on many occasions, her memories of life in Smith County and Hartsville and various political adventures. She was so often appointed or re-appointed to the Commission (by a Democratic governor and two Republican governors) that almost all my Commission memories include her. A breathtaking smile and a good, warm laugh. Her Champagne-colored hair and roses. Her elegance and style in both manner and dress. Her home, Camel Hill, at Christmas. She walked in beauty. She took her roles and tasks seriously, but less so herself — what fun and funny moments we had laughing at life in general and ourselves in particular. She would never put herself in the spotlight or take any credit, but Tennessee’s cultural life is richer and better because of her. Having Alma Katherine as a colleague during my Commission years and then as a friend in the years since — my life is richer and better, too.”
All of us at the Commission, board members and staff, past and present, send our condolences to her family and friends.