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Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley passes

Dale Kelley
Dale Kelley

Huntingdon Mayor and TML Past President Dale Kelley died Aug. 20, 2022, at his home surrounded by family at the age of 82

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of our friend and colleague Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley,” said Bobby King, TML President and Henderson Mayor. “Mayor Kelley served as president of TML in 2010, and as a member of the board of directors for more than a decade. He will be greatly missed. On behalf of the TML Board, I offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Kelley family.”

Kelley graduated Huntingdon High School in 1957 and then receives a bachelor’s degree from Bethel University – then Bethel College – and later a doctorate from the university. He also served for four years as a communications specialist in the U.S. Air Force.

His government career began when he served for four years as the Carroll County Assessor of Property and then for five years as a Carroll County commissioner. During his county service, Kelley would help develop what is now the Carroll County Watershed Authority and the creation of the Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreational Lake.

Kelley also served three years in the Tennessee House of Representatives as well as serving as Commissioner of Employment Security and Commissioner of Transportation under Gov. Lamar Alexander, a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission under Gov. Don Sundquist, and Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to Gov. Bill Haslam.

However, his most well-known government role was the 30 years he spent as mayor of his hometown. Kelley was a past president of the West Tennessee Mayor’s Association, on the Tennessee Municipal League Board, the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool (now Public Entity Partners) board, and chairman of the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund. TML also honored him as Mayor of the Year in 2008. During his tenure as mayor, he led the development of the Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center, home of the Hal Holbrook Theatre as well as the development of the Kelley Sports Complex, named in his honor.

Sports were among Kelley’s passions, and he was an accomplished basketball and baseball player during his time as a student at Bethel University. Kelley later served as athletics director for the university from 2012 until his death.  He also served as an on-court basketball official for SEC, OVC, SunBelt, SWC, and Metro conferences, where he worked nine consecutive NCAA tournaments, including three NCAA Final Four Competitions. He was also coordinator of officials for the Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, Sun Belt Conference, Southland Conference, and Ohio Valley Conference.

He was a member of the Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame, the TSSAA Hall of Fame, the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame, and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.  He served on the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

“Our hearts are saddened with the passing of our Bethel University alumni, former co-worker and dear friend,” Bethel University President Walter Butler said. “His legacy to our university as a student, graduate and Director of Athletics will live on for generations to come. Dale Kelley lived his life to help others in our area, state and even across our nation.  He lived to improve our local area and to create jobs that changed lives. He loved to help young people achieve their goals. Our local area has lost truly ‘one of a kind’. Our prayers are with his wife, Carlene and his three children–Amanda, Meredith and Cliff and their families. We mourn with his family but can rejoice in the fact that we were blessed to know a Coach, a County Official, a State Representative, a Mayor, a Commissioner, an Athletic Director and a friend to all.  Our lives were blessed because we all knew Dale.”