Meet the 2024 Ladies of Distinction - Iconic Women of Williamson

May 02, 2024 at 12:11 pm by RMGadmin

Written by Pam Horne & Cindy Thomsen
Photography by Anne Goetze

iconic: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an icon; widely recognized and well-established; widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence
The May issue is our annual Ladies’ Edition, and this year, we are honoring some of the most iconic women of Williamson. These ladies have carved a path through difficult roads and have had integral roles within our community. Collectively, they have contributed to what Williamson County is today. From historical preservation to facilitating proper growth for our cities to banding together and standing up for needed change; these are the women that many aspire to be. We have learned from them. We have sat back in awe at their determination and unwavering dedication and watched goals become realities, all while they stayed true to who they are. And who they are, is iconic. These women, whom we are honoring and celebrating at our inaugural Ladies of Distinction: Iconic Women of Williamson event that takes place on May 21st, truly take center stage on being a role model for young women. We want to thank these ladies of distinction… Their ideals and accomplishments are nothing short of inspiring.

Thelma Battle

Thelma Battle is a careful and meticulous curator of people. When future generations begin to do their own exploring into the lives of men and women of Franklin, they will certainly be guided by Thelma’s extensive research. Impactful is one way to describe her accomplishments in the field of local Black history. She is an author of numerous books, a historian of grassroots culture and a producer of an unprecedented volume of family information. But most importantly, she has become a diligent collaborator, working with librarians, archivists, other historians, preservationists, and government and community leaders to ensure the work she has undertaken will be a permanent public resource.
What began as a singular exhibit for Williamson County Public Library in February 1996 to celebrate Black History Month, has become a highly anticipated and well attended annual exhibit sponsored by the library’s Special Collections Department and the African American Heritage Society. Every year, hundreds of hours are spent researching and organizing the exhibit, which focuses on a single Pioneer Family that can trace settlement in the county back to 1850. With this Black history project, Thelma has garnered the support of countless volunteers who commit to uncovering one family’s lineage through genealogy and personal photos, a mammoth undertaking.
The National Genealogical Society selected The Thelma Battle Photographic Collection exhibit of the Williamson County Public Library for achieving excellence and featured it at the NGS 2023 Conference with an impressive video presentation.To know Thelma is to know the contributions made by nearly every African American family that has called Williamson County home, beginning with the earliest nineteenth century pioneers. By giving countless hours to research, oral interviews, procurement of photos and stories, as well as involvement in various historical organizations, Thelma has been an agent of change, whether she knows it or not.
No community can claim its history through a single voice, and because of Thelma Battle’s courage and determination, new reflection can be given to the events and people who shaped our county. Her efforts have built a bridge to the past, so people can better understand one another.
Thelma has demonstrated that the stories of all pioneer families are relevant and instructive. And she knows that without access to the recordings of previous generations, whether through letters, oral interviews, personal papers, or even obituaries, the children born today will have no practical link to the past. The Thelma Battle Photographic Collection is two years shy of its thirtieth anniversary and today Thelma continues the work she began long ago at the old library on West Main Street and former county archives, then housed in the basement of the Five Points Post Office.
A true lantern on the journey of understanding, Thelma Battle has given our community a permanent light for tomorrow.

Marsha Blackburn

In 2018, Marsha Blackburn became the first woman to be elected to the United States Senate from the state of Tennessee. It was an historic moment in our state, and for women everywhere.
“First in” might be the best way to highlight how Marsha has distinguished herself as a leader. First in her Williamson County political party named to the chair position as a female business owner. First in representing the creative arts and business resources of the state by serving as Executive Director of Tennessee’s Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission in 1997. First in offering a woman’s perspective while serving the 23rd district in the state Senate, and first in winning a congressional seat for the 7th district, historically held by men.
Today, Senator Blackburn, the senior Senator,  is a member of the Finance Committee; the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; Veterans Affairs Committee; and Judiciary Committee. She serves as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security and the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.
Fiscal responsibility, economic opportunity, and strategic trade policies that advance competition in the United States is her focus. Sen. Blackburn champions policies that support active duty servicemembers and guardsmen, their families, and their military missions. At the same time, she continues to fight for law and order on behalf of  women and girls lost to cross-border human trafficking.
Sen. Blackburn seeks quality health care for all Tennesseans, and has committed to the creation of her “Rural Health Agenda,” an innovative series of bills that would expand access, support providers, and assist locals in making care provision a crucial aspect of economic development. Even before her move to the Senate, she advocated on behalf of creators and rights-owners, establishing the bipartisan Songwriters Caucus and gained passage of the Music Modernization Act, which revolutionized music licensing processes. Sen. Blackburn fought for the AM/FM Act and the HITS Act, as well as a tax classification fix for self-employed workers that was implemented in the CARES Act. In the 116th Congress, she led the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tech Task Force, a roundtable-style working group dedicated to the examination of technology’s influence on American culture.
But most of all, Marsha Blackburn is a mother and grandmother who passionately cares about Tennessee’s future as she serves in this 118th Congress.

Nancy Conway

A few years before the pandemic, local writer Carole Robinson sat down with Nancy Conway to learn about her accomplishments as Nancy was receiving a regional service award from the Middle Tennessee Council on Aging. What transpired in that interview is well worth repeating because Nancy Conway, native daughter of Williamson County and perpetual light of optimism, has championed many civic and business advancements in her forty-year career. 
Nancy is The Tall Woman, as the book title of author Wilma Dykeman suggests. It’s just that God cast her into a five foot, two inch frame. But never mind, because in Nancy’s life no mountain is too great to climb if you have the right people by your side and are willing to stay focused. She has felt the love of hardworking parents, experienced the tragedies that make you humble, proclaimed possibilities where doubt held court, and stepped away from the dias to let others take the credit. 
As Robinson discovered in her tribute piece in 2018, Nancy Conway has properly planted enough seeds throughout this entire 600 square mile county to keep a farmer’s market in business for years to come. To the west, she spoke up for the completion of the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge, a federal project that had languished for decades. To the east, she gave tirelessly to supporting the establishment of a new campus for Columbia State Community College. To the north, she collaborated with her Brentwood chamber of commerce peers to keep diplomacy between two competing communities. And to the south, she served on a hand-selected team to prepare for a new General Motors manufacturing plant sited in a little known village called Spring Hill. 
Business and community leaders know Nancy Conway as a strong, courageous, and tenacious woman who shepherded Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce through an unprecedented period of growth leading up to and crossing into the twenty-first century. Nancy joined every effort she could to enhance the quality of life and opportunity for economic success for the people of Williamson County, working with elected officials, corporate executives, local, state and national government agencies, as well as small and large not-for-profits. 
A 1980s photo from her earliest days working at the Chamber’s tiny office in City Hall attests to her height limitations, as she stands beside the towering figure of W.C. Yates, her mentor and principal at Franklin High School and beloved county school superintendent. Bright-eyed and smiling, her admiration for one of the county’s own legends is apparent. You see, Nancy knows what it means to stand on the shoulders of giants because at a transitional time in her life she was offered that lift from folks like W.C. Yates, and she humbly accepted her position as the first female to lead the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce. 
So, today when newcomers and younger residents wonder whose shoulders they stand upon, acquaint them with Nancy Conway.

Caroline Cross 

If Franklin and Williamson County seem to have a particularly large number of community resources beyond the traditional government services, as well as a variety of open spaces that draw attention to local history, there is a reason. If art and cultural interests continue to burst onto the scene of this community, there is a reason. And, if the issues which confound local government leaders, like affordable housing and homelessness, seem to have a permanence in our civic discourse, there is a reason.
Leadership, Caroline Cross believes, is a responsibility of all members of a growing community. She has committed the past thirty years to strengthening and expanding the leaders of tomorrow. Her early years working alongside her late husband, J.W. Cross, building a construction and development firm revealed one thing to her:  “We have a lot of potential,” she insists of this community.
With that confident attitude, Caroline convinced influential men and women to join her in the 1990s to establish Leadership Franklin, a non-profit annual program to prepare future leaders. Since the inaugural class, dozens and dozens of individuals have gained intense insight into every facet of the community.
Many have come to appreciate Caroline’s indomitable spirit. After a critical health event cut short her husband’s career, she chose to engage more in Williamson County’s future. She will tell you in no uncertain terms that leadership does not sit on the sidelines. To that end, Caroline Cross has dedicated an important season of her life to empowering people.
She defied those who underestimated how a woman would lead in a male-dominated environment. With the help of her daughter Amy and son Jim, she continued to ensure that Cross Properties and Century Construction had a positive impact on Franklin’s future. The continued development of Aspen Grove in Cool Springs was an important element, as was her own business, Preservation Interiors.
But her passion is Leadership Franklin, and it will be her legacy. Every year a new class of students is immersed in every facet of the community. From education to government to history and business, students gain insights that often lead them to an unmet need. They are then charged with undertaking what should be a lasting community project. To achieve this requires a significant commitment from individuals, men and women from a variety of fields. “Leadership”, as Caroline refers to the organization she founded, is not about career building, but about community building. “It just goes back to people. We have to realize what we have in this community.” It’s a simple but profound statement, one Caroline truly embraces.
So, the next time you notice a unique feature in a Franklin park, benefit from a program that addresses an unmet social need, or lean against a statue of a community icon on Main Street, remember Caroline Cross’s admonition to prepare leaders so they will always see the potential in people.

Barbara Fleming 

Barbara Fleming’s first job interview before graduating from Tennessee State University created some confusion. Williamson County banker, Joe Brent, offered her an entry-level position working in the bookkeeping department. Excellent news, she thought, until he asked her to start immediately.
After thanking him for the interview, Barbara explained that his request wasn’t possible because she had two weeks of school to complete before graduation. To her surprise, Brent held the job.
Bankers are as essential to a community as grocers and teachers, preachers and pharmacists. If you’ve lived in and around Franklin long enough you know Barbara Fleming as one of those essential bankers because she has offered an exceptional experience to her customers for more than fifty years.
As a child growing up in Franklin, Barbara Bright knew that her parents were always going to live by the Golden Rule. She witnessed their care for anyone who came into their home, even if it was just to provide a service. An invitation to share a home cooked meal and a seat at the Bright family table was always extended. That gracious and giving spirit is what Barbara Bright Fleming has shown her financial clients throughout her career. It delights her to provide a service that can make a difference. Naturally poised, professional and caring, there isn’t anything more pressing to her than the matter her clients present.
Outside the Bright home, Barbara was also influenced by strong and capable teachers, first at Franklin Training School and later at Johnson School. She recalls with pride attending Natchez High School and being in the last graduating class of 1967. Staying close to her hometown, Barbara received a visit in the early 1970s from respected teacher, coach, and civic leader, Henry Hardison. He wanted her to know that Williamson County Bank was hiring, so she took his advice and contacted Joe Brent. Her first years in local banking taught Barbara to work hard and to draw her confidence from the inner joy her mother and father had instilled in her.
“It’s been 53 years in the banking industry and my favorite part is you never know who's coming your way in a day's time,” she says. With her degree in sociology and a minor in history, Barbara wasn’t exactly planning to have a career in banking. Her clients will tell you that  meeting Barbara Fleming is like talking to someone you’ve known for a long time. There is ease of conversation and sincere attention given.
Barbara has maintained a connection with her customers through a myriad of bank mergers and technology advancements. Barbara is a senior vice president and relationship manager of private banking at FirstBank’s Five Points office. Decades of guiding customers through financial decisions has placed her in the rare position of being one of Williamson County’s most respected advisors because her interest is what is on your mind.

Jane Franks 

Retired Judge Jane C. Franks has a remarkable understanding of the intersection of the law and the lives of people.
Jane served as the first female jurist of Williamson County’s Court of General Sessions from 1977 - 1997. The first-floor courtroom in the historic courthouse where defendants and plaintiffs met Judge Franks was a place where one could be assured that both rights and responsibilities would be clearly communicated. 
Respectful, deliberate and fair to the oath she was sworn to uphold, Jane presided over the people’s court in a manner that set the standard for future judges.
In the 1970s, the Nashville School of Law was preparing a young wife and mother of four to be a counselor to many. Women in those days did not easily advance their professional career while sharing the responsibilities of homelife with a husband and children. Jane’s level of determination led her to not only become a skilled attorney, but in years to come, a sharp and willing advocate for vulnerable young people.
After law school, Jane and her now late husband, J.N., chose Williamson County to raise their growing family and establish their respective professions in law and land development. The Franks family grew, as Jane and J.N. had twelve children. During the years when a wise and committed judge was needed to develop our community’s first juvenile court, Jane led the effort.   
It is no surprise that Judge Franks paid special attention to ensuring that children were given the utmost attention and care in her court, whether a youngster was charged with breaking the law or named as a minor child in a difficult custody case. Truly, Jane was as concerned about those children as she was her own sons and daughters. But concern was not all she applied to the situations she witnessed. Creating solutions through professional collaboration with social services, juvenile services and law enforcement gave Jane the chance to seek a community remedy when possible. 
Today, juvenile court, working closely with juvenile services, provides Williamson County families with hope and guidance. Jane Franks will always be remembered for the advancements she spearheaded while serving as a judge for two decades, but also for providing judicial magistrate services to juvenile court when she could have enjoyed retirement. 
While on the bench, she stayed in her chambers not just to consider the cases before her, but to better understand the legal system she was called to make better. The Alternative Learning Center, My Friend’s House, and Williamson County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are just a few examples of her life’s work beyond the judiciary. It seems fitting that last year she was named grand marshal of the Franklin Christmas Parade sponsored by the Downtown Franklin Rotary Club with a theme of “It’s a Wonderful Life!”

Rudy Jordan 

Rudy Jordan never met an old house she didn’t like. With an encyclopedic knowledge of restoration and unerring taste, she has helped dozens of families and businesses restore their homes and buildings to be historically accurate—fitting seamlessly into their surroundings. But that’s just a very small part of what Rudy has accomplished. In fact, there’s not a square inch of downtown Franklin that hasn’t been affected by Rudy’s determination and resolve.
Rudy and her late husband, Peter, arrived in Franklin in 1973. That’s when she rescued her first Franklin property, the McPhail-Cliffe house at the corner of Second Ave. and Main. The house was slated to be demolished, and even had a bulldozer parked at its side door. Rudy had the house moved down Second Ave. and she lives there to this day.
As soon as she got to town, Rudy became involved in local preservation efforts. She and Peter wrote the Heritage Foundation’s newsletter and she became a board member. In 1978, she was named executive director, a position she held until 1984 when she became the first director of the Downtown Franklin Association.
Many years before Rudy moved to Franklin, the powers that be decided to “improve” Main Street to make it more shopper-friendly. Picturesque brick shops were covered with vinyl siding and an aluminum awning ran the length of the street. One of her first acts as the DFA director was to have the inauthentic additions removed. This was all part of Streetscape.
Streetscape was an enormous undertaking to rebuild the streets, stop flooding downtown and add new sidewalks and trees. DFA worked on this project with the Heritage Foundation, and years later the success speaks for itself. Thanks to Streetscape, downtown Franklin has won numerous awards and is a case-study for communities undertaking their own preservation projects. For her lifelong efforts, Rudy received the Great American Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the town of Franklin. It was the first year of a national competition.
Although retired for several years, Rudy keeps her hand in many projects. When she’s not walking Marsh, her parti poodle, she’s helping others—something that just comes naturally to Rudy.

Daisy King 

To really care about what a family is having for dinner is a human touch only someone like Daisy King could sustain through two generations of customers. Step inside Miss Daisy’s Kitchen on Hillsboro Road and life takes on new meaning. Instantly, she asks “What’s for dinner?” as if she knows just how full your day has been juggling kids, work, or life’s endless list of chores.
Chicken Divan. Hearty Beef Casserole. Company Meatloaf. Turkey Tetrazzini. Any of these could be a game changer, she will insist. But before you can make a decision, Daisy wants to know “How is everybody?” You sense immediately that her interest in your kitchen table is more about you than the food you haven’t prepared. That’s because like many Southern characters, Daisy makes a lasting impression, one of perpetual joy. And, that joy is offered unselfishly to those she meets. Daisy knows that any number of crises can leave folks overwhelmed and looking for sustenance and she wants to help.
Yes, Daisy in all her southern elegance has donned the covers of books, spoken to culinary groups in resort towns, sat for numerous media interviews, and catered for corporate executives and more than one governor of our state. All of these opportunities came because Daisy King is a gifted entrepreneur whose introduction to the food industry began while she was being raised by her grandparents on their Georgia farm.
Before becoming a Tennessee household name for traditional Southern cuisine, Daisy King was a student of home economics. Today, Belmont University should present her with an alumni award from the Jack Massey School of Business for taking her education degree and ingeniously creating a beloved brand for Tennessee. Beginning with her first Franklin venture with Calvin and Marilyn Lehew in 1974, Daisy King has captured the hearts of her guests through their taste buds. In later years, she opened her fine dining restaurants in Green Hills and downtown Nashville’s Church Street Centre. Along the way, Daisy learned quickly how to leave a real lasting impression. So, the little yellow cookbook, Miss Daisy’s Tea Room was born and is now in its 50th year of publication.
In 1996, Tennessee’s Bicentennial was the catalyst for Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee, featuring the stories of iconic names in the food business from all ninety-five counties, a tribute to the Volunteer State’s 200th birthday.
To be an author is to be a speaker, and this Daisy has mastered. At the height of her career, she held the sales record for the most cookbooks sold in a QVC Network launch where she in her magnanimous way held the attention of a buying audience. Daisy’s love of food and cooking is surpassed only by her love of people. She truly enjoys supporting the people who have joined her in making meals a heartfelt enterprise. If Williamson County is known for its incredible hospitality, one might look to Daisy King who really does want to know “What’s for dinner?”

Marilyn LeHew 

Partnership. Matters of importance are tied up in its meaning. Escape it we cannot.  
From early childhood, our first nursery rhymes create the mental picture: Remember, it’s both Jack and Jill going up the hill. 
Pennsylvanian Marilyn LeHew most likely had no idea that her marriage to Calvin LeHew in 1964 would have a generational impact on the vitality of a “set-in-its-ways” Tennessee town. Calvin was already considering moving back to Williamson County when he and Marilyn met. Fortunately, Marilyn was already a strong, independent soul by that time. Marilyn is the daughter of a hard working father who ran a bus service, and a mother who had to work to help support the family. “I always knew we’d end up in Franklin, says Marilyn. “Everything about this place is so wonderful.”  
Marilyn’s been described as a little shy and maybe a little outspoken all at the same time. But don’t think for a minute her Yankee wisdom won’t come right out her mouth. 
“Everyone knows where I stand since I’m from the North. I might be a Yankee, and I do tell it like it is. I’m not southern.” Marilyn hails from Pennsylvania, north of the Mason-Dixon line, where the Eastern Hellbender is the state amphibian, the ruffed grouse is the state bird and the Great Dane is the state dog. Differences sometimes make the best partnerships, but the work cannot be understated. 
Beginning with Carter’s Court in the early 1970s, followed by an intense restoration of Main Street’s landmark Bennett Campbell Building and the redevelopment of a nearly dilapidated manufacturing plant, now known as The Factory at Franklin, Marilyn LeHew has not been the silent partner to her husband’s enterprising ventures. On the contrary, this partnership of friendship, marriage, business and community support has yielded aesthetically, emotionally, commercially and educationally to our city.  
With a degree in education, she wasted little time getting her master’s degree. That proved to be a Godsend when she was able to teach first and second grade in Franklin before she joined Calvin in businesses like Choices, Bennett’s Corner and Stoveworks Restaurant. The couple got through these extremely complicated and risky financial commitments because Marilyn had a seat at the table, which also meant she rolled up her sleeves as needed. 
At Carter’s Court, for instance, Daisy’s Tea Room was a huge success, with Daisy and Calvin providing much of the heavy lifting, but when one of the cook’s suddenly quit, Marilyn stepped in to take over in the kitchen.  
Today, Marilyn LeHew’s spirit of partnership is evidenced all over Franklin and Williamson County. Beyond The Factory, take a look at community resources like BrightStone, a center for adults with special needs; Williamson County’s Animal Center; The Heritage Foundation headquarters; the African American Heritage Society, The Franklin Grove Innovation Center, and a new concept in Nashville called Crossroads that helps adults coming out of high school with job training and housing. 
It is truly hard to imagine where Franklin, Tennessee would be today without the bold partner named Marilyn LeHew. 

Marty Ligon 

On April 10, 1895, West Main Street’s LilliHouse opened its doors and welcomed guests to its first dinner party. Now, more than a century later, the celebrations are still going strong, thanks to the gracious hospitality of Marty Ligon.
The curved front porch and railing of the Queen Anne Victorian home are festooned to mark major holidays from Easter to Christmas. And, when local traditions like the Franklin Rodeo come to town, Marty transforms her front porch and lawn into an imaginative cowboy-themed showplace just in time for the annual parade to pass by the Ligon home.
Marty became the most celebrated decorator of West Main Street when her children were young. In fact, it all began with Halloween many years ago.
“My son Fulton just loved Halloween, and would always come home with a pillowcase full of candy. I started off with just one little pumpkin and now I sometimes have up to 16 characters on the porch.” Today, those characters include a collection of skeletons—fully clothed, of course.
“I just love sharing joy and I get to see the joy on the faces of all the children who see the decorations.”
But Marty isn’t just the lady who decorates—she’s a true community servant who gives of her time freely to her favorite causes. At one time, she was very involved in Nashville nonprofits—from being on the first board of the Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to working with the Bill Wilkerson Center, Christmas Village, the Nashville Symphony and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
In the last few years though, she’s kept her good works closer to home, supporting the Battle of Franklin Trust, the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County, and for years portraying Mother Christmas on Main Street during Dickens of a Christmas—although that became Grandmother Christmas in time. “I think it’s so important to get involved with your community. Give of your time. You don’t have to give money—just give of yourself.”
She also has some advice for dealing with all the changes and growth in Franklin. “People just want to be accepted and included. We need to show people that we love them and care about them. Invite people into your home.”
And what are her hopes for the future of Franklin?
“I just hope that it’s as full of family life and as warm and giving as it is today. I hope Franklin is always just a real family-oriented community.”

Mary Pearce

With her signature bright red lipstick and unbounded enthusiasm for Franklin and Williamson County, Mary Pearce is a gigantic force for preservation packed into a tiny 5’1” frame. She’s never met a stranger, and has a knack for matching the needs of the community with the talents of the people around her.
Interested in preserving outdoor space? You’re instantly on a committee to save Roper’s Knob.Want to help develop tourism and attract visitors? You’re at a meeting planning the next Main Street Festival. Your company is new in town, and you want to get involved and raise your profile? Before you know it, you’re a sponsor of the Heritage Ball.
For thirty years, Mary was the executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. A handful of dedicated locals had begun laying the foundation for preservation and they tapped Mary to solidify their efforts. The job and the office (and the pay) were small in the beginning, but under Mary’s leadership, the Heritage Foundation became a nationally recognized leader in preservation.
But it wasn’t just an old building here and an abandoned farmhouse there that piqued Mary’s interest. From the beginning, she had a vision of not just a town, but of a community. One where people shared interests and took pride in their surroundings. One where Main Street thrived and “shop local” was more than just a slogan.
Mary always knew that to preserve the past, you must keep an eye on the future. She built long-lasting, productive relationships with elected officials, corporate executives, civic leaders and the heads of other local nonprofit organizations. She promoted public-private partnerships and, even if she didn’t have a direct hand in a project, you can be sure that her influence was felt.  
Some preservation projects, like the restoration of the Franklin Theatre, are highly visible and widely supported. Others, like the installation of underground utilities downtown, are disruptive in the short term and met with resistance. But all have the same long-lasting effect of promoting and preserving the unique town we call home.
Mary Pearce may have been born in Somerset, Kentucky, but Franklin is her forever home—and we are so lucky to have her.

Lillian Stewart

Lillian Stewart came by her political ambitions naturally. Her mother, beloved third grade teacher, Gordie Campbell, served as a Franklin alderman from 1976 until 1982. Lillian, also a teacher, picked up her mother’s mantle in 1985, serving as an alderman for one two-year term. In 1987, she won the mayoral contest, becoming Franklin’s first and only woman elected to hold the office.
In 1985, General Motors announced that Spring Hill would be the site of the new Saturn plant. That move ushered in a time of tremendous growth for Williamson County. Franklin’s elected officials had to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities the growth offered, while preserving the city’s historic character and natural beauty.
Ultimately, the city hired a growth management consultant, a move that Lillian supported. One result of that investment was the implantation of impact fees paid by property developers. The one-time fees helped offset the financial burden new development placed on public infrastructure such as roads, parks, recreational facilities, water and sewage. Franklin was among the first in the state to implement fees to offset new development.
Although it’s been decades since Lillian held public office, her commitment to Franklin is stronger than ever. She is happy to reflect on her time as mayor.
“All of the growth meant increased revenue, which meant we were able to build more facilities for the public. We worked very hard on getting the Rec Center built and we were able to improve the park system as well.” Other highpoints from her term were the extension of the Mack Hatcher Parkway and creating enhanced gateways to the city.
Of course, there is a downside to all the growth. “I’m afraid that we’ve lost some of our community identity, and the landscape has really changed. And the impact on the school system has been huge—we’ve had to build so many.”
As someone who has lived in downtown Franklin her entire life, Lillian has certainly seen a lot of change. Some—like increased traffic—is lamentable. But by and large, she’s happy with the Franklin of today. “There’s just an atmosphere here—a closeness you can only get from living in a smaller city.”

If you would like to help honor these women, please visit the link below to buy a ticket to the Ladies of Distinction: Iconic Women of Williamson event.