Retired Lebanon attorney and a character in his own right, Ernest Cotten Sr., died peacefully shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon September 1, 2019 at the Pavilion in Lebanon following a period of declining health
Funeral services from the Lebanon First United Methodist Church were conducted Thursday evening September 5th at 7 p.m. with Rev. David Hesson and Dr. Jonathan Richerson officiating. Interment was Friday Morning September 6th at the Mt. Pisgah Methodist Church in White County near Mr. Cotten’s farm.
Born Ernest Wilford Cotten in rural White County on May 30, 1924, he was the one of six sons and six daughters born to the late Albert and Mary Cotten of the Walling Community where Mr. Cotten was reared and he was a 1942 graduate of White County High School.
All of his eleven siblings preceded him in death.
On December 28, 1953 at the Carthage First Baptist Church he was united in marriage to Carthage native, the late Joanne Jenkins who preceded him in death on October 4, 2014 at the age of 84 following sixty one years of marriage.
He was also preceded in death by a son, longtime Lebanon City police officer Ernest Wilford “Ernie” Cotten Jr., who died at the age of 67 on March 13, 2016.
Immediately following graduation Mr. Cotten enlisted with the United States Coast Guard during World War II.
Following his honorable discharge he enrolled at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and completed his education at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute (now Tennessee Technological University) where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in education.
He furthered his education and received a Masters in Education and his Ed. S. degree from George Peabody College in Nashville.
His first employment was as principal at Findlay Elementary School in Sparta from 1949 – 1950.
He applied for and was hired as principal at Gordonsville High School where he served from 1950 – 1955. In the fall of 1955 he became principal at Watertown High School where he served until 1958 when he was elected Superintendent (now Director of Schools) for the Wilson County School System.
He held this position until resigning in 1962 to accept the position of Executive Secretary of the Tennessee School Board Association.
He was simultaneously attending night school at the Nashville School of Law and received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1962. He subsequently began his practice of law in September of 1965 and actively practiced law at his College Street law office in Lebanon until retiring in 2009.
A Southern Gentleman who was very active in the Lebanon and Wilson County Community, he was a member of the Lebanon Lion’s Club, and along with others was active in the operation of the Lebanon Babe Ruth program from 1970 until 1983.
For his distinguished and unwavering service to many Lion efforts he was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow Award for Distinguished Service by Lions International and was named Lion of the Decade for the period from 1970 thru 1980.
He was a member of the local and 15th Judicial Bar associations.
He also served on the Wilson County Commission for a number of years and was a member of various commission committees.
Mr. Cotten was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, a Master Mason, a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of the Al Menah Temple in Nashville for over seventy years.
He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and served in many capacities, notably a teacher of the J.O.Y. (Jesus Others Yourself) Sunday school class at the Lebanon First United Methodist Church for over thirty years.
He was a longtime member of the Lebanon Golf and Country Club where his late wife was an outstanding Women’s golfer.
With a multifaceted life in public and community service, Mr. Cotten was a devoted and dedicated family figure and his life of love for his family was never in question.
He was a “straight shooter”, if you asked him a question you would get a straight answer and he expected the same from others, whether they were family, friends or clients.
He loved a good joke and loved to make people laugh.
His generosity to all was legendary and a role model for all with whom he came in contact with. Mr. Cotten always appreciated a good cigar, loved his family, his farm and Black Angus cattle, tomatoes, buttermilk, the Tennessee Volunteers, and of course his favorite restaurant, The Cracker Barrel.
Surviving are his two daughters, Mary Jo Cotten Cote and husband Greg of Goodletsville, Pat Cotten Campbell of Lebanon; two sons, Billy B. Cotten and wife Sally of Lebanon, Dr. Daniel W. (Dan) Cotten and wife Darcie of Knoxville; daughter-in-law, Amanda Cotten of Sparta; eleven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The Cotten family requests memorials to the Lebanon First United Methodist Church Music Department.
LIGON & BOBO of LEBANON