Gallatin artist honors Tennessee’s first professional skateboarder

A Gallatin artist has unveiled his unique tribute to Tennessee’s first professional skateboarder and former Sumner County native Ray Underhill.

With the city’s approval, Bryan Deese began hand-painting a mural honoring the late skater on the side of the concession stand at Thompson Park last month. The project, which overlooks the city’s skate park, was recently completed and dedicated during a ceremony Friday.

“Hopefully, generations of Gallatin skaters will come up seeing this and it will influence how they think about their skating,” said Deese, who spent about 40 hours on the mural. “It doesn’t have to start and end at this small park, but they can take it as far as they want really. This guy laid the foundation for Sumner County and Middle Tennessee skaters.”

A graduate of Hendersonville High School, Underhill traveled to California in the mid-1980’s to become a professional skateboarder. There he joined the infamous Bones Brigade squad with other famous riders such as Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Mike McGill and Steve Caballero. The group went on perform their innovative tricks at events across the United States and Europe.

In 2008, Underhill died from a chordoma brain tumor following a long battle with the rare form of spinal cancer. He was 45.

“We miss him a lot,” Raymond Underhill Sr. said about his late son Friday. “(The tribute) is very well done. It looks just like him.”

The mural depicts Underhill performing a handplant and includes other design elements based on a Powell Peralta ad that featured the skater. The outside frame of the tribute also includes a chain with a cross modeled after a necklace and pendant that he wore.

In a statement, Hawk described the project as a “unique way” to honor Underhill.

“It is a testament to how far we’ve come as skaters, but more importantly it shows how Ray’s spirit continues to inspire,” Hawk said. “He was kind, humble, extremely talented and always funny. The impression he left on all of us is that we wanted to spend more time with him. His “Pop-tarts” and stale front-side inverts were groundbreaking, and to this day nobody can do them like he did.”

The mural will also include a logo for the Ray Underhill Foundation. The nonprofit organization was established by the late skater’s widow Kerry Overman to raise money for families that are affected by Chordoma and other forms of cancer to help pay for expenses not covered by health insurance or government funding.

“We were very excited to hear that a mural was going to be created in Ray’s memory at a skate park so close to where he grew up,” Overman said in a statement. “Ray loved his family, he loved life and he loved skateboarding. Ray always appreciated the love and support received from the people of Tennessee.”

For more information about the Ray Underhill Foundation visit www.rayunderhillfoundation.org.

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