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Class of 1953

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Class Notes are posted in the order they are received, with the newest posts on top.

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Joe  Johnson , who made his mark as label executive, record producer and the publisher of dozens of hit songs, has died at age 93. An avid golfer, he launched a Nashville pro-celebrity golf tournament. Joe Johnson continued to play until age 85. Read full obituary herePosted 2.15.21

Dr. Robert Gene Striplin born on March 5, 1928 in Litchfield, Illinois passed away on December 17th. Dr. Striplin was an exquisite human being. A gentle soul, kind and generous, honest to a fault and a true scholar. His amazing sense of humor persisted up to his last days. Read his full obituary here. Posted 2.15.21

Donald Edward Wright (BA’50) of Madison, Georgia, died peacefully at home Nov. 19. Don served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. He began his legal career as a civil trial lawyer in Tennessee, but soon moved to Atlanta, where he practiced law for over 50 years with Fisher & Phillips, a labor and employment firm. He was the firm’s managing partner through much of the 1990s and served clients in the areas of collective bargaining and labor disputes. Don is survived by his longtime companion, Anna Dillonback Marett, as well as his two sons, Matthew Edward Wright BA ’94 JD ’02 of Franklin, Tennessee and Andrew Lee Wright of Madison, Georgia. Posted 12.3.19

Ronald A. May died April 16 of complications from cancer. After high school, Ron enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 7th Division, Army of Occupation, Korea. After being discharged as a Corporal, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and law degree from Vanderbilt. . He settled in Little Rock in 1958, when he joined the law firm of Wright, Lindsey, & Jennings. He formally left the firm in September 2013 after practicing law for over 50 years. He was for so many years reluctant to leave his law practice because, as he said, he had always enjoyed the company of lawyers. He was active in both the Arkansas Bar Association and the American Bar Association. For many years he chaired the American Bar's various committees on technology and computing, and was a pioneer in the use of computers in the practice of law in Arkansas. Posted 4.24.18

John C. McCoid II (BA’50) of Charlottesville, Virginia died April 9, 2016. He was 87. He earned his undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, before graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Vanderbilt Law Review and received the Founders Medal. After serving as a naval intelligence officer with the sixth fleet and teaching as a Harvard Law fellow, John joined the University of Virginia School of Law faculty, where he taught from 1957 to 1994. He was named the Armistead M. Dobie Professor in 1970, the O.M. Vicars Professor in 1987 and Professor Emeritus. He is survived by his wife, Beverly, two daughters and five grandchildren. Posted 5.3.16

William Wells Conwell, Sr. died October 22. He was 86. After graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, Bill practiced with Conwell, Johnston and Associates. He was a veteran of the United States Navy. Bill is survived by his wife, Lois; his daughter and two sons; his four grandchildren; and his one great-grandson. Posted 11.3.15

Robert Etheridge Irvin, Jr. (BA’51) died August 18. He was 88. Born in Sumter, South Carolina, he was the son of Robert Etheridge "Jack" Irvin, Sr. and Lennie Elwood Thornley Irvin. He was a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School. Jack will be remembered for his performances on Broadway, Presidential Augural Balls, the Cumberland County Playhouse, and TV specials. He is survived by his wife, Jana; his two children; nine grandchildren; and four great grandchildren. Posted 9.17.15

Robert Wilson Martin (BA'53) died March 12. He was 86. Wilson served in the U.S. Navy from 1946 to 1948 and then attended college on the G.I. bill. He attend Vanderbilt for both his undergraduate and legal educations, and he eventually moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico to practice law where he worked from 1962 until 2000, mainly in the fields of real estate, wills, trusts and probate. He is survived by his wife; daughter; and son. Posted 5.15.15

Josiah C. Baker (BE'51) died February 10. He was 85. Jody earned his undergraduate degree in engineering at Vanderbilt before earning his law degree. After law school, he attended the U.S. Naval Intelligence School and moved to Washington, D.C. where he served for four years in the Office of Naval Intelligence. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1955 and served as deputy clerk and master of the Chancery of Davidson County. He moved back to his hometown of Chattanooga in 1958 and became a partner at Goins Gammons Baker and Robinson. In 1984, he started Josiah Baker and Associates, which grew to become Baker Kinsman Hollis Clelland & Hogue. He was a past president of the Chattanooga Bar Association and was active in the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association and Defense Research Institute. Jody represented the Chattanooga/ Hamilton County Air Pollution Board when it was established in 1970 to address air quality in Chattanooga, serving on the committee that created the board and drafted the original enforcement legislation. He also chaired the board of the Carter Street Corporation, which developed the Chattanooga Convention Center. He was married to Elizabeth “Betty” Ruble Baker for 57 years until her death. He is survived by three children and four grandchildren. Posted 2.25.15

Raymond C. "Jack" Whiteaker (BA'51) died April 9 at Richland Place in Nashville. A Montgomery Bell Academy "Gentleman, Scholar and Athlete," Jack served as president of the honor council and was a three year regular on the football, basketball, and baseball teams. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-46. At Vanderbilt, he was football equipment manager from 1948-52 and was a member of Beta Theta Pi Social fraternity and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. He began the practice of law in Nashville in 1953 and in 1955, accepted employment with the U.S. Treasury Department as a tax court trial attorney, resigning in 1959 to join the legal staff of the Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company in Atlanta. During his legal career, he was a member of the American, Tennessee, Federal and Nashville Bar Associations. Following retirement in 1991, he co-founded a local law firm where he remained for 10 years. Jack is survived by a son; a daughter; and three grandsons. Posted 6.12.04

Fred W. Jacobs Jr. (BA'51), age 84, died September 5. Fred attended Vanderbilt University for both his undergraduate and law degrees. Following law school, he joined the U.S. Navy serving as a Judge Advocate General in Japan. Fred married Patricia Hutton in Japan in 1956 and shortly after arrived in San Diego to work for the law firm that became Glenn, Wright, Jacobs and Schell. Fred was a member of the San Diego County Bar Association. As such, he represented some of the largest Savings and Loans in the country as well as served his community and church in countless pro- bono efforts for individuals in need. His knowledge of law, his un-wavering ethical standards, and his determination to do right by the law, his clients and partners earned him a reputation as a "Lawyer's - Lawyer." Fred was a valued member of the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego for 55 years where he held leadership positions and served as a member of the Board of the Westminster Manor. Fred is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Patricia Hutton Jacobs; two children; and three grandchildren. Posted 9.18.13

William Gordon McKelvey Jr. (BA'50), age 87, died August 5. Gordon graduated from Duncan Preparatory School and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University before receiving his law degree from Vanderbilt. After law school, Gordon served in the Air Force during World War II. He began his career as a legal aide for the Davidson County Planning Commission and then served as deputy clerk and master for the Davidson County Chancery Court. He retired from Life and Casualty Insurance Co. as vice-president of claims before he joined the law firm of Gay, Forbes and McKelvey in Franklin, Tennessee, where he practiced law until his retirement in 1994. Gordon is survived by his wife of 38 years, Anne; three sons; four stepsons; 12 grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Posted 8.21.12

Judge John Y. Powers (BA'51), retired U.S. Magistrate Judge, died March 29 in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He was 82. John earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, double-majoring in political science and economics, before earning his law degree at Vanderbilt Law School. After law school, John practiced law in Chattanooga for 25 years. In 1984 he was appointed to the federal bench as a Magistrate Judge. He retired in 2004. John served in the U.S. Army, where he worked in counter-intelligence and in the JAG Corps, achieving the rank of colonel. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Bobbie Powers; four sons; and seven grandchildren. Posted 4.30.12

Ryburn Hancock Bailey died Friday, March 30, 2007. He was born May 7, 1929, in Edgewood, Alabama and was a lifelong resident of Birmingham. He earned a B.S. from Auburn University where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity before earning his law degree at Vanderbilt. He was a member of the Alabama and Birmingham Bar Associations and the Association of Life Insurance Counsel. Ryburn was Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Secretary of Protective Life Insurance Company where he retired after 38 years of service. He served on the Mountain Brook Board of Zoning Adjustment for over ten years. He is survived by his wife of fifty years, Louise Carter Bailey; four children, and 12 grandchildren. Posted 4.2.07