(2005) Tennessee Waltz Parkway (Ashland City, TN)

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, June 18, 2005, 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. 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.   
Photos below - Billy & Sharon Stewart (All Rights Reserved)


Singer's Son Enjoys Cheatham County

While driving through the mountains of Tennessee recently on our way to Ashland City for the dedication of the new Tennessee Waltz Parkway, my wife, Sharon, and I had no idea what was in store for us! Little did we know the warm, friendly hospitality and generosity that awaited us.

We arrived in Ashland City on the afternoon of June 17, and stayed at the Cheatham Lock and Dam Campground overlooking the river. We were delighted with the warm welcome we received a the park, and even more thrilled with the beautiful scenery there.

This was one of the more spectacular places we have ever stayed. After settling in we drove through town to get acquainted with the area, and the first surprise we found was a beautiful portrait of my father, Redd Stewart, displayed in the Square.

I was told that the artist was Bill Burgess, whom did a magnificent job of portraying my dad. We drove all around your town and even drove down the very road my dad lived and grew up on as a child, Vine Street.

The next morning, Saturday, we met a few family members for breakfast, and then drove to the Riverview Restaurant and Marina for a beautiful luncheon planned by Ann Mitchell, a first cousin, whom worked very hard in having a hand in making the Tennessee Waltz Parkway become a reality.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprise to meet with thirty or so family members that are somehow connected to my dad, most of whom I've never met before. We spent several hours in the restaurant all getting acquainted with each other, and then went to the local recreation center for a jam session.

What incredible musical talent filled that room! There was guitar, fiddle, dobro, and mandolin playing, along with various ranged of voices that seemed to all blend together like we had all known each other for years and spent many hours sharing our talents together. 

We then all met at the Tennessee Waltz Parkway for the ribbon cutting and dedication. We were introduced to the Ashland City Mayor, Gary Norwood, Cheatham County Mayor Bill Orange, State Rep. Phllip Johnson, Congressman Jim Cooper, Asland City Parks & Recreation Director, Tony Young and several members of the City Council.

My entire family felt like royalty, as each and everyone of them rolled out the red carpet to us, extended a warm welcome, and showed us the utmost kindness and generosity. We would like to thank all of them for their kindness and for the tribute of naming the Tennessee Waltz Parkway in honor of my father. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my life that I will cherish forever.

After the dedication ceremony we then went over to the city's hospitality tent that was set up in Riverbluff Park for a magnificent array of refreshments. We met many wonderful people from the community, and had a terrific time socializing.

The grand finale of our trip was held that evening when I went on stage to sing 'Tennessee Waltz' in honor of my dad. As I said at the parkway dedication, I don't think I could have given my dad a better Father's Day gift than having a new parkway named in his honor.

Thank you all for such a wonderful and memorable time. We will surely be back to visit again.

Billy Stewart
Courtesy: The Ashland City Times (July 6, 2005)