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Weekly 150: Edward Laney Brashear

Councilman, Commissioner, Entrepreneur

By Jason R. Martin
Posted 12/2/20

Looking at McKenzie’s downtown a few days ago, I worked from memory placing at least business in each building along Broadway. One of the businesses that came to mind was Tri-County Furniture …

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Weekly 150: Edward Laney Brashear

Councilman, Commissioner, Entrepreneur

Posted

Looking at McKenzie’s downtown a few days ago, I worked from memory placing at least business in each building along Broadway. One of the businesses that came to mind was Tri-County Furniture and Appliance, which was located next to the city library. I can remember walking through the doors as a little boy and seeing all the washing machines on one side of the building and then the couches and chairs on the other.

The store was owned by Ed and Lucille Brashear. From what I remember, the family always treated me with kindness even though I wanted to go down the line and open and close every washer and dryer lid in the building. I remember my first trip to Carroll Lake Golf Course was with my dad and Anthony Brashear.

This week’s article focuses on the life and career of Ed Brashear.

Edward Laney Brashear was born in August 1930, in McKenzie to John Raymond and Lena Beth Brashear. Like so many of McKenzie’s later prominent businessmen, he grew up in the Great Depression. He started school in the fall of 1936. With the grade school under construction following the fire early that year, Ed began first grade in the high school building.

With limited funds, Ed like many of the school children couldn’t afford to spare the ten-cent cost of school lunch. On one event, Ed brought a country ham and biscuit from home, a bigger boy decided he wanted the meal and took it away from him. Protecting his lunch, Ed smacked the boy in the head with a glass of milk. Mrs. Cora Sedberry paddled Ed.

That was only the first of many other disciplinary actions taken against the willful spirit of Ed Brashear. He was paddled another time for kissing a girl on the ear. Another instance came after getting caught smoking behind the gym.

He was nearly expelled after getting caught playing hooky with some friends. The boys were taking the train from McKenzie to Paris to watch the afternoon serials and Westerns. School authorities caught on and threatened expulsion. They were also earning money at Camp Tyson by carrying coal upstairs for the officers’ wives.

The Brashears lived on a farm without electricity. As a teenager, Ed plowed with his town mules, Joe and Tom. “They were horse mules I had raised from colts and would do anything I told them. I never whipped them. They were struck by lightning and killed. I just sat down and cried.”

With the money he saved from earnings from a six-acre cotton crop, he was able to enter the University of Tennessee Junior College in Martin. After two years, he planned to enter the University of Tennessee at Knoxville but when the Korean War began his plans changed.

He began working at the Riley Furniture Company in downtown McKenzie in September 1951. The job paid $40 a week and provided the use of a truck. It was around this time a waitress at the Steak Shop caught his eye, Lucille Johnson. She was a student at Bethel College. They were married in March 1953.

“We didn’t have a car. People walked a lot then. If we went to the movies downtown, we walked. Even the McKenzie Police Department didn’t own a car. There was a shooting and the officers had to take a cab to the scene of the crime. Of course, we had the truck. Lucille and I went to the Log Cabin (restaurant) a lot.”

Ed began a partnership with Cecil Jackson in House of Furniture. When the partnership dissolved, Ed became a salesman for Investor Diversified. He later opened Tri-County Electric and then Tri-County Furniture and Appliance.

Ed joined the Lions Club, Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce (McKenzie), and later became part of the McKenzie City Council. Lucille and Ed had three children; Angelina, Celia Anne and Anthony.

Since high school, Ed was interested in politics. He served as campaign manager of West Tennessee for former Governor Ray Blanton (1975-1979). Blanton’s era as governor was riddled by scandal. Ed commented on Blanton’s corruption, “I never heard or saw anything back then. I reckon he just got corrupted after he was in office. They asked me to serve as Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Conservation. Actually, I was the supervisor for West Tennessee. For years I worked — traveled all over, learned about strip mining. Seven days after Governor Alexander took office. I got a Special Delivery letter informing me my job had ended.”

Ed served as McKenzie’s vice-mayor a number of years when he initially was elected to the city council. Later, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor. In later years, he was re-elected to the council. While on the council, he served as Recreation Commissioner. “I decided to build a new park. With federal grants, we bought land for the present park. I helped get the grants for a sewer line, got a grant just about every year — finally got the tennis courts and ballpark in. I worked hard. There was always some criticism.”

In later years, the couple enjoyed their time together. A trip to Puerto Rico stood out as one of their favorite memories. They flew from Memphis to San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the plane landed and the passengers departed, the Brashears were near the end of the line when the pilot turned off the air conditioner. Feeling hot and claustrophobic, Lucille declared, “Well, I’m just dying. I’m not riding this thing home. When I get off, I’m checking the bus schedule!”

In January 1991, Ed died. He was buried at Carroll Memorial Gardens.

Lucille worked as an assistant teacher at Northwest Head Start for many years. She was noted as always cheerful and never had a negative thing to say about others. Lucille died at age 85 on December 24, 2015. A native of Eastview, Kentucky in Hardin County, she was buried near her parents in Needham Smith Chapel Cemetery.

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