Family, friends and the community alike are mourning the loss of Jere McCulloch, a well-known attorney in Lebanon who died suddenly Saturday.
McCulloch, 66, a founding partner with Rochelle, McCulloch and Aulds, died midday Saturday while competing in the Heart of Tennessee 100, a bicycle race sponsored by the Murfreesboro Bicycle Club. A post on the club’s message board early Sunday morning confirmed a cyclist died of an apparent heart attack during the race, but McCulloch wasn’t immediately identified.
Lebanon cycling enthusiasts confirmed Sunday morning McCulloch was the cyclist who died.
McCulloch worked in business law, civil litigation, zoning, planning and land use, eminent domain and condemnation cases.
Fellow partner Jody Aulds, who has been with McCulloch since the firm’s inception, said McCulloch was one of her “best buddies.”
Aulds said the two met in college at Tennessee Tech where McCulloch was a year behind her in school.
“He dated my sorority sisters, and I dated his fraternity brothers,” Aulds said. “It happened that he moved back to Lebanon to practice, and one year later I moved back here, too, and moved into the same apartment complex as him.”
Aulds said the move immediately reunited the two old pals.
“At the time I was substitute teaching, and Jere asked me to fill in for his secretary for just two weeks,” Aulds said. “He told me he would teach me all the law I needed to know and that was in February 1973. We’d been together ever since.”
Aulds said later on she had learned McCulloch had talked the dean of the former Nashville YMCA Night Law School to admit her for acceptance into the program.
“He talked the dean into letting me in six weeks after deadline, and I hadn’t even taken the LSAT,” Aulds said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today, personally and professionally, without him.”
Aulds said the two became partners in 1982, and he has been a great friend and valued partner ever since.
“He’s been so instrumental in all phases of my life,” Aulds said.
Aulds also said McCulloch was extremely giving to others. She said he was quiet but never boastful.
Aulds said for the last two and a half years the two constantly reminisced about old times and their “long road traveled.”
“We were always sure to hug each other after talking. We were just thankful for our careers and each other,” Aulds said.
Aulds said through the years in the firm she thought that McCulloch was the visionary.
“He’s the one that saw the opportunity in building the new building we have now; he’s the one that got this all started,” Aulds said. “He made this partnership work.”
“I can’t say enough about what he meant to me and his family,” Aulds said. “He loved his daughter and his grandchildren and everyone in this firm.”
Aulds said no matter what McCulloch tried to help everyone and he was always a workaholic.
“He would work to excess for this firm and he treated everyone at the firm like family,” Aulds said. “He was a dear, dear man.”
Fellow partner Bob Rochelle also said McCulloch dedicated his career to helping people and helping Wilson County.
“He was a good man of great intellect, and ability and with his guidance many investors chose to locate to Wilson County and created hundreds of jobs,” Rochelle said.
McCulloch was also a member of the inaugural Leadership Wilson class in 1994 and the originator of the name, "Mama Lucy," for longtime Leadership Wilson director Lucy Lee, according to current director Dorie Mitchell.
He was a past president and member of the 15th Judicial Bar Association, member of the Tennessee Bar Association, Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association, Tennessee Association of Construction Counsel, fellow with the Tennessee Bar Foundation and was named among the best lawyers in America in the areas of eminent domain and condemnation.