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Weekly 150

Norvel Headden

Church and Community Minded

Posted 9/4/19

I did not know Dr. Headden personally, but I knew of him. From the fish tank at his office to his love for the Church, Dr. Headden was a giant among men in McKenzie. He was a dedicated husband, …

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Weekly 150

Norvel Headden

Church and Community Minded


I did not know Dr. Headden personally, but I knew of him. From the fish tank at his office to his love for the Church, Dr. Headden was a giant among men in McKenzie. He was a dedicated husband, father, dentist and veteran who lived his life with Christian ideals.

Norvel Jasper Headden was born April 23, 1925, near Newbern, Tenn. He one of four children born to Kelly B. and Camilla Cummings Headden.

When he was two years old his parents moved to Atwood, where his father was a rural mail carrier until his transfer to McKenzie in 1934. Norvel attended elementary school and the first three years of high school in McKenzie, where he lettered in football and basketball. He completed his high school education at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn., lettering in baseball, football and track.

Being fond of the outdoors, he spent much of his summer months with the Boy Scouts and other camps. It was at the West Tennessee Synodic Youth Camp at Chickasaw he met Julia Bailey of Memphis. They shared the highest honor bestowed upon the campers by being elected “Camp Spirit of 1940.” He also spent some of his summers as a lifeguard at the local swimming pool.

He entered the U.S. Navy on September 17, 1943; receiving his basic training at Hospital Corps School in Bainbridge, Maryland. From Bainbridge he was sent to the Naval Hospital in Millington, Tenn., where he served as a hospital corpsman and also took courses for dental technicians. Headden spent the remainder of his service in the South Pacific.

In April, 1946 he was discharged from the Navy and enrolled in the summer term at Bethel College, where he started his pre-dental course of study. He completed his course work at Memphis State in 1948.

While at Bethel he renewed his friendship with Julia Bailey. They were married at the Fifth Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Memphis on September 6, 1947.

Headden entered the University of Tennessee School of Dentistry, where he received his Doctor of Dental Science degree in September 1951. While at school he was a member of the Delta Sigma Delta Dental Fraternity, he remained a lifetime member.

Dr. Headden took the State Dental Board Exam in December 1951. On December 28, Julia gave birth to their first son, Kendal Bailey. In January 1952, the family moved to McKenzie as Dr. Headden opened his practice. In September 1953, they welcomed daughter Cynthia Diane into the world. A second son, Kelly Dana, joined the family.

Dr. Headden was active in both church and civic work in McKenzie. He was an elder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, served as moderator of the Hopewell Presbytery. He was a member of the Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the McKenzie School Booster Club, and was district chairman of the Carroll, Benton and Henry District of the Boy Scouts. He was a member of the Seventh District Dental Society, the Tennessee State Dental Society and the American Dental Association. 

He was elected commissioner to the 126th General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, where he served as chairman of the committee on Publication and Christian Education; he was elected to board membership on the Board of Trustees of Bethel College and to the Commission on Chaplains.

He was a great sports enthusiast, his favorite pastime was fishing and hunting. He enjoyed watching football, basketball, baseball and was a regular at all the high school games supporting the Rebels.

Dr. Headden retired from his dental practice on May 1, 2003 after serving the McKenzie area for 51 years. He practiced many years on the corner of Cedar and Waldran with a large fish aquarium as a mainstay in the patient waiting room. He later relocated his clinic to Highland Mall. After breaking his hip, he moved to Knoxville to be near his son, Kelly. Headden died May 13, 2004 at St. Mary’s Transitional Care Unit in Knoxville and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in McKenzie. 

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.


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