According to Pearlie McAdoo the prospect of being a Poll Official rallied her husband, Rufus McAdoo, from his hospital bed. In 2017, Rufus McAdoo, a long time poll official in Wilson County, was in the hospital and really not feeling well. When Mrs. McAdoo showed her husband the letter from the Wilson County Election Commission appointing them as poll officials, she said he sat up and started moving his legs, felt better and was soon on his way home. When the doctor asked Mrs. McAdoo what happened to cause the dramatic change in his condition she said, “There’s an election coming up and he has to work at the polls.”
Rufus McAdoo cannot remember when he first worked the Election Day polls in Wilson County but he can remember working elections at the Wilson County courthouse when it was located on the town square in Lebanon. The courthouse was torn down in 1964.
McAdoo was born with the aide of a mid-wife in the Tuckers Crossroads Community of Wilson County in 1932. As a young man, he recalls plowing fields with a mule and thinking there had to be something better. During his high school years Rufus started working at a restaurant Dewey and Albert Fite owned on the square in Lebanon. Shannon’s Drug Store, Julius Jacobs’ Dry Goods store and “almost every restaurant in Lebanon” provided the one or usually two jobs Rufus worked every day.
In 1949, Rufus moved to Chicago to work with his uncle for Wilson Foundry. “That’s the most money I had ever made- $55.95 a week,” he recalls. In 1950, Rufus was called to the service of his country in the United States Air Force. From 1950 until 1954 he served in Okinawa and left USAF as a Staff Sargent.
While in the service he earned his GED, having left high school as a sophomore. The GED was not recognized in Tennessee at the time but did allow him credit for one year of high school. Returning to Wilson County and to high school as a senior in 1954, Rufus was elected President of the Wilson County Training School class of 1955. He went on to earn his diploma that year.
McAdoo’s work career spanned the next 30 years. He worked for every branch of government in Middle Tennessee- Lebanon City, Wilson County, State and Federal. Rufus was employed by the City of Lebanon and the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro for 18 years. When Ross Gear had their picnic at Horn Springs, McAdoo was there to make it a success. He would arrange lunches at the Lebanon Country Club when the prospective developers or business were meeting with city leaders about locating in Lebanon.
Retiring in 1985, McAdoo enjoys time fishing, playing cards and watching ball games with his six children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Since retirement he has taken on jobs to keep busy. He has gone door to door as a census worker in two census’. He and his father used to go to Texas, St. Louis and Chicago to watch ball games. Now he follows the Braves and Titans with family and friends with at least one trip in person to a titans game each year.
A life long member of Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church, McAdoo seldom misses Sunday School or church. He said that even though he has always been a member of Pickett Rucker UMC he often visits other churches with friends and family. His faith, commitment to his church and his family is a large part of who Rufus McAdoo is.
Serving as an election official is a constant in Rufus McAdoo’s life. He and his wife, Pearlie, work at the Market Street Community Center polling place every election. They are the face of elections in the 20th precinct. Elections have changed greatly from when McAdoo started working the polls. Everyone over 18 had to pay a $2.00 poll tax to be allowed to vote when he first worked elections. Laws have changed and voting has become accessible to everyone eligible and willing to make the effort to register and vote during early voting or on Election Day.
For those who vote early at the Election Commission Office or on Election day at Market Street Community Center, the smiling presence of Rufus McAdoo is a welcome site. He has greeted and assisted countless voters over his many years of service.
When we spoke about why he started and has continued to be a poll official a smile came to his face. Rufus McAdoo said “I love being around happy people. Voters come in smiling excited about who they are going to vote for. It is such a privilege to be a part of the election.” said McAdoo.
David Howell recalls going with his grandmother to vote at the Green Hills Women’s Club Building on the corner of South Greenhill Rd and Lebanon Road when he was a child. That was when Old Hickory Lake was just beginning to rise and the population of West Wilson County was a small fraction of what it has become. Voting has always been important to Howell. As an adult, he became part of the elections in Wilson County serving as a poll official for many years.
David Howell’s family has a long history in Wilson County. Ancestors began moving to the county as early as 1790 and buying land grants. David and Barbara Howell live on the farm that his family first purchased in 1809. Originally, the site was sought after for the rich bottom land along the creek. Today the fields that were planted in corn for over a century are covered with the waters of Old Hickory Lake. Several years ago, the Howell’s farm was designated a Century Farm, a distinction given to farms remaining in a family for over 100 years.
Howell was born at the old St. Thomas hospital in Nashville. The day before he was brought home from the hospital was the day electricity was first turned on at the farm. His father was an electrical engineer and a World War II veteran. His engineering career allowed the family to move from Tennessee to Missouri to South Carolina and finally back to Wilson County. Howell graduated from Mount Juliet High School in 1951 with 50 other seniors. He went on to the University of Tennessee to earn a degree in engineering. After college and a two year stint in the US Army as an engineer at Rock Island Arsenal in Iowa, Howell began a 37 year career with Bell South back home in Tennessee.
David and Barbara wanted their three daughters to be reared in Wilson County on the family farm. They remodeled a saddlebag style log home that was original to the farm. A saddlebag log home is two log buildings with a single roof that share a fireplace in the center. What started out to be a short term stay in a renovated log house soon became their home for 27 years. They added on to the house David’s father built on the farm in the 1950s and are living there now.
Howell retired in 2006 and has been pursuing his many interests and hobbies since. They have traveled a dozen times to England visiting different parts of the country and focusing on a new theme each trip. Their visits have been to see estates, gardens, famous historical sites, churches and the cities throughout the UK. Staying in cottages and meeting the local people has enriched their travels and appreciation for the country greatly.
The Howells have been members of First Presbyterian Church in Lebanon for the past 30 years. His church involvement and engineering experience has led to him mission work in his retirement. His work teaching water treatment techniques and solar power installation in the US, Honduras, Peru and El Salvador has made safe water and solar power available in developing countries.
David also collects antique hand tools, old farm machinery and researches historical land deeds in Wilson County. Retirement has been a busy time in his life and working as a poll official has been a part of it.
Howell was recruited by a friend before he retired. His company encouraged employees to be involved with their communities and politics so this was a perfect fit. Working alongside people he knew was enjoyable and after retirement the interest in elections continued. David started out as a machine operator and has been the Officer at the WA Wright election day poll for the past few election cycles.
Howell describes his experience as “…a meaningful way to be involved. A way to help make voting a pleasurable event- it means something. I enjoy seeing my friends and neighbors at the polls. Some of them I only see when they vote. I have enjoyed being part of the process.”