A titan in service to church, community and humanity, Charles Newman “Shot” Nunley died Monday morning Sept. 7 at his McMinnville home after being diagnosed last month with pancreatic cancer.
A career educator and engineer, he was 83.
Born July 26 1937 to Jesse L. and Fanny Belle Nunley, he and his family were long associated with the Mt. Zion community, for which he served as unofficial but enthusiastic historian. He was an elder at McMinnville’s First Presbyterian Church, where he was a member since 1945. His wife of 60 years, Patti survives, along with daughter, Susan Marttala (husband David), and son Charles N. Nunley, Jr (wife Allison), and five grandchildren: Shelby, Will and Lilly Marttala, and Erin and Morgan Nunley.
After graduating from McMinnville Central High School, where he played in the Bulldogs Marching Band, Nunley earned the BS in mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he played trumpet in the famed Pride of the Southland Band. Pursuing diverse interests in his vocation and professional career, he later earned a master’s degree in education at Middle Tennessee State University and was a graduate of the Education for Ministry Program at the University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee.
Nunley’s career included work for the U.S. Navy Department as a mechanical engineer on the Dyna-Soar Project at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio, and at the supersonic wind tunnel at Arnold Engineering Development Center near Tullahoma. He retired in year 2000 after many years as director of the State Area Vocational Technical School in McMinnville.
Among his numerous activities in the civic and social life of Warren County, he was one of the longest-serving members of the McMinnville Silver & Gold Band, the oldest continuously functioning community band in Tennessee.
His public service involvement continued in his duties as chair of the local chapter of the American Red Cross and as trustee of Magness Library as well as a director of the Upper Cumberland Regional Library board.
In his service with the Warren County Economic and Community Development Committee (predecessor of the Industrial Development Board), Nunley played a major role in landing the mammoth Bridgestone Warren Tire Plant near Morrison.
In honor of his accomplishments, the McMinnville-Warren County Chamber of Commerce conferred its Free Enterprise Award on Nunley in 1988, and in 1999 he was cited for the McMinnville Evening Exchange Club’s Recognition Award. He was also a member of the Tennessee Valley Regional Aerospace Committee.
Nunley may best be remembered for his leadership in The Rotary Club of McMinnville, which was chartered in 1923 as a local affiliate of Rotary International, which was founded a couple of years earlier in Chicago with a mission to initiate and support humanitarian programs in the U.S. and under-served places around the world.
Not long after joining McMinnville Rotary Club in 1970, he held a number of offices, leading ultimately to the presidency. Meanwhile, he was active in Rotary International’s District 6780, which comprises local clubs in much of East Tennessee and the eastern part of Middle Tennessee. At the district level, Nunley held several major positions and was elected as district governor, serving in 1998-99. A Paul Harris Fellow (named in honor of one of Rotary’s founders), Nunley was honored with the Rotary Foundation District Service Award for 2000-2001.
“Shot Nunley was one of those exceptional people who led through the power of their example,” said Shane Brock, immediate past president of Noon Rotary and a vice president of Citizens Tri-County Bank.
“From his years of work on the local and district level, Shot saw the many ways Rotary’s energy and compassion went deep into the roots of communities and nourished human development, health, education and prosperity for millions of people worldwide,” Brock said.
A friend from early childhood and fellow Rotarian for decades, Dr. Neil Schultz, remembered Nunley as an accomplished musician in the Central High marching band and decades later as leader of Shot in the Dark, a local combo of mostly Rotarians who traveled to entertain at several Rotary conventions and programs. Other band members included wife Patti on mandolin and son Charles Jr. on banjo.
Schultz cited 1945 as a milestone year in McMinnville. Not only did the year see the end of World War II but also the arrival of the Nunley family on Roundhouse Street, along with their fourth-grader son Shot. The little group of friends came to be known as the Roundhouse Gang and included future mayor Dr. Norman Rone, future Circuit Court Judge Charles (Chuck) Haston, Dr. Jimmy Jones, Campbell Smoot Jr. and Allen Myers.
Retired family physician Dr. Wallace Bigbee, another veteran of Rotary service, cited Nunley’s successful leadership, along with his wife, Patti, as sponsors for student members of Warren County High School’s Rotary Interact Club. It was then that the local Interact established a tradition of excellence and dominance in state and national talent competitions.
“Shot always had a great heart for service and for giving,” said Rotary District 6780 Governor Ron Appuhn. “He was spontaneous and generous in his giving, whether it be his experience, time or counsel. He was an effective mentor for many Rotary leaders at the district level. In this sense, his service will be a perpetual, living memorial to his work among us.”
The Nunley family suggests any gifts in remembrance be directed to the Rotary International Foundation, First Presbyterian Church or Magness Library.