John B. Garrott, Sr., the Gallatin businessman, local historian and philanthropist whose efforts impacted communities across Sumner County, died Monday, June 19. He was 88.
"He was a great asset to the county and no one can come close to giving of themselves, as well as of their resources, as (he did)" said Ken Thomson, president of the Sumner County Historical Society. "At an early age he recognized the importance of preserving the past for he realized that curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning."
Co-founder of the Sumner County Museum, along with Robert Ramsey, in 1975, Garrott received local and statewide recognition for his community service and historical preservation work. Honors include the Tennessee Historical Commission's Preservation Leadership Award in 2016, the county's Order of the Horse Award in 2013 and the Gallatin High School Outstanding Alumnus Achievement Award in 1984.
A 1947 graduate of Gallatin High School, Garrott went on to start Garrott Brothers Continuous Mix with his father, E.H. Garrott, Sr., where he worked from 1950 until 1989.
In addition to being a member of the Rotary Club, Garrott was also involved in the Bledsoe's Lick Historical Association, Rose Mont Foundation, Gallatin Historic District Commission, Douglass-Clark House Advisory Committee and Sumner County Historical Society.
'The museum was part of him'
Originally located inside the Trousdale House, the Sumner County Museum eventually built a three-story building behind the home where the museum remains today. As more items were collected, the museum quickly expanded into the basement and second floor of the 9,500-square-foot space.
Juanita Frazor, who worked at the museum for 15 years and was its former director, said Garrott "never did anything that he didn't keep the museum in mind."
"The museum was part of him," Frazor said. "I never heard him talk to anybody where history didn't come into the conversation.
"He could talk forever about history and he did a beautiful job recollecting things. If someone was interested in history, he could make you more interested in it."
Among the items in the museum's more than 20,000-piece collection include Native American artifacts, part of the Randy's Record Shop sign and antique cars like the 1909 Hupmobile that Garrott purchased as a teenager for $35, as well as other items from Sumner County's history.
In 2015, the museum purchased the Williamson-Adams Carriage House on East Main Street in Gallatin for $325,000, with plans to eventually relocate to the space. Garrott, who was instrumental in raising funds for the project, and his wife June also donated their home next door to the property later that same year.
"A lot of the local history that is preserved today is because of John Garrott," Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt said Monday. "Yes, he was from Gallatin, but he had a tremendous impact on our county and our region."
Garrott 'gave of himself in every way'
In addition to his business and historical preservation work, Garrott was also a life-long member of First Presbyterian Church of Gallatin where he served as a deacon, elder and trustee.
Charles Moffatt, the church's pastor emeritus who served as minister from 1961 until 1990, described Garrott as a "stalwart" who had "an indomitable spirit."
"He was very faithful in everything that he did in addition to being devoted to his family," he said. "John Garrott was a giant in this community who gave of himself in every way."
Moffatt recalled being outside of an antique store in Rogersville, Tenn. in the late 1990's when Garrott, who was also known for making handmade furniture, noticed a piece that caught his eye.
"He took out a piece of paper and made a sketch in no more than five minutes," Moffatt said. "When he got home he made a reproduction of that old piece of furniture. He did that often and I would say there were hundreds of pieces of furniture that he made and gave to various charitable causes in town who were raising money."
Over the years, Garrott's work likely helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local groups, said Mayor Paige Brown.
"I felt like all he ever wanted to do was just make a difference and we are so fortunate that he chose to make that difference in our community," she said Monday. "We would be remarkably different if it weren't for the time, energy, effort and money that he put into Gallatin. He is certainly going to be missed."
The funeral service for John B. Garrott, Sr., will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Gallatin on Friday, June 23 at 1 p.m. Visitation will be held at the church on Thursday from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. and on Friday from 11 a.m. until the start of the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to the Sumner County Museum at P.O. Box 1163, Gallatin, TN, 37066.