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Obit – Dr. Gordon Petty

Dr. Gordon Petty,

A highly respected and well known Carthage physician and World War II veteran has died at the age of 101.

Retired Smith County physician Dr. Gordon Petty died at 2 a.m. Monday morning January 24, 2022 at his Jackson Avenue home with his loving and caring family at his bedside.

Dr. Petty was at the Carthage Chapel of Sanderson Funeral Home. His funeral services were conducted Friday afternoon January 28th at 1 p.m. from the Carthage United Methodist Church with the church pastor, Rev. Monica Mowdy, officiating and his grandson, Rev. Don Petty, delivered the eulogy. Burial followed in the Petty family lot in Section one of the Ridgewood Cemetery. He received full Navy military honors at the graveside.

He was born David Gordon Petty in South Carthage on September 19, 1920 and was one of five sons and the second son of the late Lester Baalam Petty who died August 29, 1989 at the age of 98 and the late Electa White Petty who died August 17, 1970 at the age of 78.

Three brothers preceded him in death, Victor Petty, Rob Neal Petty and Ray Petty who died at the age of 30 on December 19, 1953.

Dr. Petty was a graduate of the Smith County High School class of 1938 and was the last surviving member of that class.

He was in the top ten of his class and less than two grade points below the Valedictorian.

While in high school he worked for the J. R. Smith Grocery which was in sight of his family’s North Main Street home to earn money for high school and save for college.

He enrolled in Cumberland University in Lebanon (then Cumberland College) and received a degree in mathematics and chemistry and assisted in teaching mathematics courses to other students.

At Cumberland he graduated, being again in the top ten of his class and receiving the honor of being the Salutatorian of the class of 1941.

Dr. Petty was employed as a draftsman for the Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation in Nashville which later became AVCO and now Vaught.

On June 26, 1944 he joined the United States Navy and proudly served our country for two years, one month and one day before being honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant on July 27, 1946 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He served as a communication officer on board a destroyer in the Pacific Theatre and after being discharged served four years as a Naval Reserve officer.

For his unselfish and meritorious service he was awarded the American Theatre of War Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Dr. Petty was the last Smith County native World War II veteran surviving in Smith County.

On June 25, 2020 he was awarded the “Quilt of Valor” from the Quilts of Valor Foundation for his lifetime achievements and military service to our country. This quilt, which held a lot of meaning to him, adorned his casket for the visitation and service.

In 1950 he attained a medical degree from the Vanderbilt University of Medicine and completed his residency at the former Nashville General Hospital in 1951.

In Nashville on May 28, 1951, he was united in marriage to Ashville, North Carolina native, the former Betty Lou Fowler, and to this union was born two sons, Dave Jr. and Sam. Mrs. Petty died on April 24, 1991 at the age of 64.

He then married Carthage native Dorothy “Dot” Baker Gilbert and she died at the age of 68 on April 7, 1995.

Following the death of his second wife he was married to his neighbor, Sue Woodard Maggart who had lost her husband, Orville Matthew “O. M.” Maggart Jr. who died unexpectedly on March 8, 1966 at the age of 38. Dr. Petty and Mrs. Sue, who was the retired Gordonsville Postmistress, enjoyed retirement and traveled extensively all over the world. Dr. Petty was saddened by her death which occurred on December 1, 2018 at the age of 89.

In July of 1951, he and fellow 1938 Smith County High School classmate, Graveltown Community native Hugh Edward Green, constructed what would become the Petty-Green Clinic which had birthing rooms, an emergency room, and patient rooms and would be the first licensed hospital in Smith County. The clinic was located on North Main Street which now is the location of Smith County Drugs. The facility also contained the home of the Petty family until the late 50’s when he constructed the family home on Jackson Avenue where he resided until his death.

The County of Smith constructed the Smith County Hospital which was opened in 1953 with the late Dr. L.R. Sloan, another Graveltown Community native, as the Medical Director. Following the untimely death of Dr. Sloan in 1958 at the age of 47, Dr. Petty became the medical director.

In 1966 the Smith County Quarterly Court voted to sell the Smith County Hospital to Dr. Petty and Dr. Green and they constructed a new clinic attached to the hospital and closed the Petty-Green Clinic.

Then in 1969 when the Frist family began the Hospital Corporation of America, the newly named Smith County Memorial Hospital was sold to H.C.A. and Dr. Petty and Dr. Green remained on staff.

Dr. Petty often reflected on the fact he had delivered over 7000 babies during his medical career.

Dr. Petty always exhibited an unwavering desire to attain the highest quality of medical care for the Smith County residents he served. He participated in numerous classes and workshops to learn new techniques to improve his patient care.

He was a former vice-president and longtime member of the Tennessee Medical Association, was a member of and served many years as President of the Board of Trustees of the former Smith County Memorial Hospital (now Riverview Regional Medical Center), was a member of the America Medical Association beginning in 1950.

In 1967 he became a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice and for two years served as President of the Plateau Mental Health Hospital in Cookeville.

Dr. Petty has always been an active and important part of the Smith County Community.

He was a longtime member of the Carthage Lions Club and has served on the Carthage Town Council.

In 1955 Mr. Walter Glenn Birdwell Sr. invited Dr. Petty to become a member of the Board of Directors of Citizen Bank, on which he remained until his death. He attended his last Board meeting on January 12th, just twelve days before his untimely death.

Dr. Petty finally retired from medicine on December 31, 2001 at the age of 81.

His retirement left an immeasurable loss for both his patients and fellow physicians as well as the community as a whole.   

Throughout his over fifty two years of contributions as a medical professional he demonstrated a remarkable ability to combine compassion with skill in the practice of medicine, winning the unbridled respect and admiration of his peers and patients alike.

Following retirement and after the death of Mrs. Sue, he lived for Sunday night Bridge games which he enjoyed with Ralph and Pert Nixon Underwood and Chris and Connie Baxter. It was so encouraging and beneficial to him to have these friends in his presence for these events in his home.

The Petty family were longtime members of the former Carthage Christian Church until the closing and Dr. Petty moved his membership to the Carthage United Methodist Church where he had remained a faithful member.

Dr. Petty was instrumental in the land acquisition, construction and was a charter founding member of the former Green Hills Golf and Country Club in the Riddleton Community.

He also participated in and encouraged the construction and design of the Lebanon Airport.

He is survived by his two sons, Dr. Sam Petty and wife Dr. Pam White Petty of Carthage, Dr. David Gordon Petty Jr. and wife Laurie of Knoxville; brother, Joe Petty and wife Barbara of Franklin, TN; four grandchildren, Reverend Don Petty and Reverend Rachel Patman-Petty of Little Elm, Texas, Sarah Sims and husband Joshua of Jackson, TN, Matt Petty of Nashville, Dr. Lindsey Petty Dixon and husband T.J. of the Tanglewood Community; five great-grandchildren, Anna Patman-Petty, Micah Patman-Petty, Hallie Sims, Ella and Wyatt Dixon;  treasured friend, Marion Ann Cothern.

The Petty family requests memorials to the David Gordon Petty Center for Learning Scholarship Fund.