Tennessee Waltz Parkway Dedication
(by Sharon Stewart)

Event Date:
June 18, 2005

Event Location:

Ashland City, Tennessee

Event Review:

In 1965, legislation was passed making “Tennessee Waltz,” by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King, Tennessee’s fourth official state song. Forty years later, it is an official highway in Ashland City, where Stewart was born in 1923. On the day before Father’s Day, government officials joined members of the large Stewart family and their friends to formally dedicate the new Tennessee Waltz Parkway connecting state Route 12 South and state Route 12 North to form a

two-mile bypass around downtown Ashland City.

“I can’t think of a better present for Father’s Day than a highway,” said Billy Stewart, the songwriter’s son who came from his home in Virginia for the event.  The new stretch of road has one lane in each direction plus a center turn lane and a posted speed limit of 40 mph. The $2.9 million addition spans merely 0.8 mile, but local officials say its impact on the community will be far greater than its length. “This will help alleviate traffic congestion downtown

that has become a real problem,” said Cheatham County Mayor Bill Orange. “Frequently, large trucks have difficulty getting through the downtown area, which causes traffic jams. Now, they can just bypass the area.” Orange said developers are already planning major investments along the parkway, including a marina and condominiums. “This project is going to open up some of those facilities,” he said. “This road should have been built in 1990,” said

Murry Hawkins, Ashland City administrator. “But good government is like molasses—it’s very sweet, but it pours slowly.” Hawkins said the project is an example of a partnership between the city, which paid for right-of-way acquisition and engineering, and the state Department of Transportation, which did the construction.

Mayor Orange agreed. “Partnership is the name of the game,” he said. State Rep. Phillip Johnson amused the crowd when he referred to a recent federal undercover investigation code named “Operation Tennessee Waltz,” in which four fellow lawmakers and three associates were arrested for allegedly accepting bribes. “It’s good to be here taking part in a Tennessee Waltz project that doesn’t have FBI agents attached to it,” Johnson quipped, adding that he was “disappointed” the FBI chose the great song title for its sting operation. But Billy Stewart said it’s not a problem. “I think it was a positive thing because it keeps the name alive,” he said.

Stewart and his wife, Sharon, are working to keep the name alive through an Internet Web site established as a tribute to their famous relative. Visitors to www.billyraestewart.com are encouraged to sign a petition to have Stewart enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s an honor many of his fans believe he earned during a distinguished songwriting and performing career.

In 2004, a year after he passed away in Louisville, KY, at the age of 80, Redd Stewart was posthumously inducted into the Country Legends Hall of Fame.  [The Tennessee Magazine - 2005]

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