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Country music matriarch Jo Walker-Meador dies at 93

Country music matriarch Jo Walker-Meador dies at 93
Jo Walker-Meador arrives at the 50th annual CMA Awards in Nashville in 2016. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)

Jo Walker-Meador, a matriarch of country music who led the Country Music Assn. for nearly three decades, has died. She was 93.

Walker-Meador died Tuesday in Nashville, according to a statement from the CMA.

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She was an office manager for the CMA when it was created in 1958, then took over as executive director in 1962 and held that position until 1991.

During her tenure, the CMA launched a fundraiser to build the Hall of Fame, started its annual televised awards show in the 1960s and began Fan Fair, the precursor to the CMA Festival.

One of 10 children, Walker-Meador grew up on a farm near Orlinda, Tenn., and aspired to be a high school English teacher and a girl's basketball coach. But after college, she took secretarial work before accepting an offer to be the office manager at the fledgling CMA — becoming the association's first paid employee.

Jo Walker-Meador with then-President Carter during a 1977 White House reception for the CMA.
Jo Walker-Meador with then-President Carter during a 1977 White House reception for the CMA. (Courtesy Jim Free)

"I knew nothing about country music," she said in an interview with CountryZone.net. "I knew that Minnie Pearl and Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff were members of the Grand Ole Opry — but I had never been to the Grand Ole Opry."

But within six years she was overseeing the entire operation.

She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

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

A Times staff writer contributed to this report.

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