Lebanon Lunch Rotary Club members were informed and entertained Tuesday by guest speaker Wilson County Register of Deeds John "Bev" Spickard.
State Rep. Mark Pody said Spickard is not only a register of deeds, but also a nationally recognized marksman in keeping with his 27 years in the infantry, including two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Pody, in his introduction, said Spickard had recommended two pieces of legislation that would save his constituents money while raising money for the county.
Spickard entertained the crowd, explaining how his office works and answering questions about his job and his experience as a shooter. He has been the register of deeds since 1998. Spickard asked Rotarians to "think about our men and women in harm's way" serving in the military, then launched into a description of what his office does.
"The office of the register of deeds is one of the oldest offices in the state of Tennessee," Spickard said. "The first one in the state was opened in 1796 when Tennessee became a state and, in Wilson County in 1799 when the county was formed."
He then brought out an old-fashioned quill.
"When the office opened, a quill was used to copy instruments (deeds) word for word into the big book," he said. "In 1870, a pencil was used. In 1903, the office got its first typewriter. A lot was going on in 1903, such as the first automobiles. I wasn't here."
He continued explaining up to 1998 when deeds were transferred the Internet.
"Now it costs $25 to view them; that's fair," Spickard said, adding that using the web to access deeds is easy. "If I can work it, a 3-year-old can. We were the first in Tennessee to allow you to e-file from California or Timbuktu. It's no hassle – a done deal. We have had 6,000 already this year. I'm a high-tech redneck is all I can say."
Spickard also said his office contributes a lot to the county coffers.
"We collect a lot of excess fees, the cream," he said. "We've sent $500,000 to the trustee's office, and that's $100,000 ahead of last year."
He was asked if a deed transferred 40 years ago, but not registered, is still legal.
Spickard said he is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice.
"If it is correct, we record it," he said. "But whether or not it's legal, that's not my back porch."
He said being a Wilson County native helps with his job because a lot of old deeds are recorded in less-than-scientific ways.
"I was born and raised around here," he said. "Lines from a long time ago are recorded by 'leaps and bounds,' like from this rock to the end of the creek. Then it was a handshake. Now you need a lawyer."
Finally he was asked about the best competition shot he had ever made. Spickard had the audience laughing as he described a 1988 contest in Oak Ridge.
"It was at 200 yards, 20 shots with an M-14," he said describing his last five shots in detail. "You use the front site and trigger control. I was as smooth as Tennessee whiskey."
On shot 16, he said he felt a "knee-high wind" because his knees were knocking, and by shot 19 "that wind got up higher."
"I said 'Good Lord, please,'" he said. "I was a nervous wreck. That was the hardest shot I ever shot."
His humor was right on the mark, and when he finished speaking several Rotarians shook his hand and wished him good luck in his office and with his championship shooting.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.