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CMA Legend Jo Walker-Meador Dead at 93

Jo Walker Meador dead
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Nashville icon and former director of the Country Music Association Jo Walker-Meador has died due to complications from a stroke. A spokesperson confirmed the news early Wednesday morning (Aug. 16).

Per the Country Music Hall of Fame, of which she was an inductee, Walker-Meador was born Edith Josephine Denning on Feb. 16, 1924, in Orlinda, Tenn. Following her time at Nashville’s Peabody College and Lambuth College in Jackson, Tenn., she got her start at the CMA in 1958, working as the organization’s office manager. In 1962, Walker-Meador was promoted to executive director after the departure of founding executive director Harry Stone.

“I wasn’t there,” Walker-Meador recalled to the Tennessean in 2016, “but I’m told that Minnie Pearl said, ‘Jo’s doing all the work. Why don’t we just hire her?’”

Indeed, even before her promotion to executive director of the CMA, Walker-Meador was an influential figure: In 1959, she organized the CMA’s first awards banquet, which would eventually become the CMA Awards. Later, she helped raise the funds to launch the Country Music Hall of Fame, and founded Fan Fair, now known as the annual CMA Music Festival.

Walker-Meador retired from the CMA in 1991. However, she remained involved in the country music community, offering guidance to the CMA and Country Music Hall of Fame’s new leaders. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995, and in 1994, the CMA established the Jo Walker-Meador Award — which honors achievements by an individual or organization that support and advocate for the country music community outside of the U.S. — in her honor.

“When you thought of the CMA, you thought of Jo Walker,” says Bill Anderson. “I never knew anybody in any business as devoted to her job, her cause and her people like she was.”

Walker-Meador was 93 years old when she died. She is survived by her daughter Michelle and her stepchildren, Rob and Karen, as well as her brother Pete. Funeral services have not yet been made public.

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