Music

Jo Walker-Meador, Beloved Leader in Country Music, Dies at 93

Photo Credit: John Russell / CMA

Jo Walker-Meador passed away this morning in Nashville from complications due to a stroke. She was 93.

Even if you haven’t heard of her, Meador was a giant in the country music world. She was the first full-time employee hired by the Country Music Association. She dedicated nearly three decades of her life serving as the Executive Director of the CMA, the longest tenure of any person to hold that position.

In the 1950’s when Meador was hired, Elvis and rock and roll ruled the airwaves. Country was passé. Meador committed herself to changing that.

Among her accomplishments are the creation and implementation of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Awards. In fact, Meador is part of the reason that American country music increased in popularity in foreign countries like Ireland, Australia and Canada.

Today Jo Walker-Meador is being memorialized by the people in the country music industry who knew her best. The CMA sent out a press release containing beautiful remembrances of a life well-lived.

“[…]I never met a harder worker than Jo,” said Ed Benson, Former CMA Executive Director, in a statement. “She was an inspiration to all who had the privilege to work with her.   I have been lucky to remain close to her since she retired and I felt she loved me like the son she never had.”

Meador did not come from a background in country music prior to working with the CMA, but she quickly found a love for it.

“Her dream was to coach basketball, but she wound up coaching country music all over the world,” said Brenda Lee, Country Music Hall of Fame member and former CMA Board member. “She adored the people in Country Music – the fans, the artists, the singers, all the innerworkings. She adored it. And that’s what we all loved about her. She loved us. It wasn’t just a job to her. She cared. She was a wonderful, kind, sweet person that absolutely gave all.”

Meador is survived by her brother Pete Denning, daughter Michelle Walker, and step-children Rob and Karen Meador.

Read More: 15 of the Last Living Legends in Country Music

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Jo Walker-Meador, Beloved Leader in Country Music, Dies at 93