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Pendletons remembered for generous spirits

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(May 16, 2018) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — When Harrell Pendleton bequeathed more than $1 million to Carson-Newman University upon his death, his only living relatives weren’t surprised by his generosity, but rather by the amount of money he had to give.

“Everybody loved Harrell,” his sister, Faye Pendleton, said. “He was just a down-to-earth man. To me, that’s a lot of money, but you wouldn’t know it. He was just a common man. He didn’t brag; he didn’t boast.”

Harrell and his wife, Anna Lee, lived a humble life, active in civic organizations and ready to lend a hand to those in need. They lived in a duplex in Morristown, one of several that they rented out.

By grace, hard work and love of family, Harrell Pendleton found a successful career as a real estate agent, appraiser and landlord.

“They were just honest, hardworking people,” said Jim Hipshire, a longtime friend and the executor of the Pendleton estate. “If he saw somebody that needed something, he’d give it to him. But personally, they lived a frugal life. He worked hard; he never did get a chance to have a formal education.”

Pendleton left high school to join the military, serving in the 8th Army Occupation of Japan. When he returned from service, he obtained his GED diploma and soon joined his step-father’s real estate business, launching a career that lasted more than 50 years.

“I relied on him a lot for advice,” said Hipshire, a former Hamblen County property assessor. “He was a true friend: business, politics and personal.”

Although he “came up the hard way, during the Depression,” he had the good fortune of having a step-father who Hipshire recalled as a “smart, savvy individual” — Steve Holdway. Under Holdway’s tutelage, Pendleton became a knowledgeable businessman who was active in civic life, serving in a number of capacities within Morristown and Hamblen County, including with the civil service board, the VFW, as chairman of the grand jury and as an election worker. Anna Lee did not have a college education, but she was able to finish high school and then become a medical secretary.

Although they found success despite lacking the opportunity for a formal education, they never doubted its value. When Harrell and his step-father provided low-income housing, he witnessed the need for education to improve lives and economic circumstances, Snowden said.

“He thought a lot of education — he and his wife. She was just as involved in it as he was, maybe more so, truth be known,” Hipshire said. “They wanted to help young people who were struggling, who wouldn’t have a chance to get a college education. Harrell and his wife wanted that money, which they had worked so hard for and invested so wisely and saved, to go to those who didn’t have the money. They wanted it to go to kids who wouldn’t have a chance without full scholarships.

The couple’s connection to Carson-Newman came through their membership at First Baptist Church of Morristown and Harrell’s years of attending the Wallen-Purkey Sunday School Class, according to longtime friend Sam Moore.

Fellow members Ted Russell, R.H. Bible Sr. and Charles Stephens, all donors to the University, told Harrell about Carson-Newman, and former University President Dr. James Netherton and current President J. Randall O’Brien were on separate occasions guest teachers for the class, Moore said.

In addition, the class provided an annual scholarship to Carson-Newman. Pendleton also developed a friendship with former University President Dr. Harley Fite during Fite’s time working for Morristown Federal Bank.

“Those things kind of got Harrell primed to help Carson-Newman,” Moore said. “Harrell didn’t have a college education, and I think that bothered him. He developed an interest in Carson-Newman.”

Moore, a 1969 C-N graduate, said his friendship with Pendleton spanned more than 50 years.
“We were friends all through the years,” he said. “He was an honest and just man, a good person. You couldn’t ask for a better person in the way he treated people. He would help people and never take advantage of anybody financially.”

The Pendletons' gift endows a full, four-year scholarship, to include tuition, books and fees. The “Anna Lee and L. Harrell Pendleton Endowed Scholarship” will be presented to academically qualified students who show evidence of financial need, with preference given to students from Hamblen County.

Moreover, the Pendletons also established the L. Harrell and Anna Lee Pendleton Endowment for Academic Support to help further ensure students succeed during their time at Carson-Newman.

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts university located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The University has over 2,500 students and offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.

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