A woman who was born and raised in Watertown, Inez Crutchfield, is being honored on Oct. 17 by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee with the 2019 Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award.
"The women being honored were on the front lines, and served behind the scenes, of some of the most important social and civic missions of the 20th century," said Pat Embry, the director of community relations for CFMT. "When there wasn't a seat at a table filled with men, they created one of their own."
Crutchfield is being honored for her role in politics and the civil rights movement in Middle Tennessee.
"The breadth and depth of heroism in this community may not start with the seven women we will
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honor at the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Luncheon on October 17th, but it won't end, either," said Ellen Lehman, president of the foundation.
In an interview with the Lebanon Democrat, Beth Crutchfield, the only daughter of Inez Crutchfield, shared her mother's story.
Crutchfield was born in Watertown in 1925 to Mary Kate Smith. When she was around 5 years old she was adopted by Bessie and Dee Gibbs, who were residents of Watertown.
"Mama Kate believed that the Gibbs could offer mother something she couldn't," Beth Crutchfield said. "She had started off in poverty and it was not an easy life for her at that time. The Gibbs changed her life forever."
Crutchfield graduated from high school in 1943 and married Carl Crutchfield before enrolling at Tennessee State University.
"She used to say she spent her whole life at TSU," Beth Crutchfield said. "My grandmother was taking courses there when my mom was little and then she went there and then when she graduated they hired her."
In the 1960s, the First Baptist Church, where Crutchfield had been a lifelong member, began training TSU students in non-violent protesting techniques.
"She had two different connections, one being the First Baptist Church, and the other being TSU," Beth Crutchfield said. "She began working with the protestors. She would drive their parents to come pick them up from jail when they got arrested for protesting and that led to her being invited to join the Davidson County Democratic Women's Club."
Crutchfield was the first African-American woman invited to join the Davidson County Democratic Women's Club, along with one of her friends, Carrie Gentry, who is also being honored with the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award.
Crutchfield later became the secretary of the group and held several officer positions within the club before becoming a superdelegate for the Democratic Party.
"It was awkward for them at first, being the first black ladies in the club," Beth Crutchfield said. "But they put on their hats and suits and white gloves and went to that meeting."
Beth Crutchfield and her brother were often allowed to attend political events with Crutchfield, but Beth Crutchfield says she never felt forced to get involved.
"It was never a requirement for us to get involved with politics," Beth Crutchfield said. "That's what she liked to do but she didn't make us do it unless we wanted to."
Crutchfield never let her involvement in politics and civil rights get in the way of being a wife and mother.
"During this time she was just the best mother. She never missed a recital or a Scout meeting," Beth Crutchfield said. "Looking back on it now that I'm grown, I have no idea how she did it."
Beth Crutchfield emphasized that much of her mother's success came from her roots in Wilson County.
"She appreciated her life in Wilson County and her biological mother and grandmother for being willing to make the sacrifice to let her go with her adoptive parents," Beth Crutchfield said. "Her roots in Wilson County run deep and she could never forget how her life in Watertown shaped and prepared her to become the person she came to be."