Obituary of Samuel J. V. Abernathy
Samuel J.V. Abernathy was born October 29, 1929 in Bedford County of Shelbyville, Tennessee. The second born of three children to Vee and Mary Abernathy, he was the only brother of two cherished sisters, Nora and Pauline.
Samuel attended the all-black Bedford County Training School (BCTS) from kindergarten through twelfth grade. As a member of the BCTS class of 1950, Samuel served as co-captain of the historic football team that went unbeaten for 82 games. The record consists of an impressive 78-0-4 unbeaten run from 1943-50, during which no opponent even scored against BCTS for nearly five years. Samuel was also the first basketball player in the school’s history to make All Tournament and All Mid-State in 1947.
After high school, Samuel was drafted into the Army, where he served during the Korean War. He married his sweetheart since second grade, Gladys Inell Gipson, in 1951, while he was in the service. Samuel received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from A & I. He would later go on to earn 45 hours above his master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Samuel put his education to work at Tennessee State University for nearly forty years (1952-1991) as equipment manager, instructor, assistant professor and assistant coach for track and field under renowned Tigerbelles coach, Ed Temple. During his tenure, Samuel worked with numerous TSU student-athletes and Olympic gold medal track athletes including Wilma Rudolph, Ralph Boston and Chandra Cheeseborough. He was a coach, teacher, mentor and father-figure to decades of TSU Tigerbelles. As an assistant professor in the Health and Physical Education Department he taught first aid, anatomy and physiology, archery, handball and racquetball, bowling and golf to a generation of Tennessee State University students.
Samuel was a “people person.” His life and work were dedicated to encouraging and helping people. He was a shining example of a man and an inspiration to people young and old in his College Hill community and beyond. Through the years, he has worked diligently in the community as a Little League coach, Boy Scout leader, volunteer with the Nashville Area Regional Headquarters of the American Red Cross, and an Optimist Club member, among other activities. In 2008, at the age of 78, he was awarded the Citizen Commendation Award by the Metro Nashville Police for stopping a convenience store robbery with nothing but his hands.
Samuel was a faithful member of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church for more than 60 years, where he served in a number of capacities through the years, including Sunday School Superintendent, Recreational Director of the Best Years Club, and member of the United Methodist Men.
Samuel was married to his childhood sweetheart, Gladys Inell Gipson Abernathy, for 61 years before her passing in 2012. Living on to celebrate his life and legacy are his three children: son Brian Javee Abernathy (Renita) of Stone Mountain, GA; and daughters, Eloise Abernathy Alexis (Autry) and Darlene Abernathy-Neely (Jesse II) of Nashville, TN; six grandchildren: Chekeetha Osborne of Atlanta, GA; Marquis and Seth Abernathy of Stone Mountain, GA; Terea Abernathy of Coppell, TX; Jesse III and Kristen Joy Neely of Nashville, TN; sister-in-law, Marilyn Gipson Massengale of Shelbyville, TN; nephews Earl Richardson (Sheryl) of Goodlettsville, TN, Lendell Massengale, Jr. (Kelsey) of Knoxville, TN, Carvel Massengale (Anita) of Bolingbrook, IL; nieces Marilyn Massengale Harris of Austell, GA and Susan Massengale McClain of Old Hickory, TN; dear friends, Eloise “Ann” Cunningham, Jeffrey Cunningham, Sylvia and John Spencer, Matthew and Georgiana Jobe, Alfred and Paula LeBlanc; and many other beloved relatives, friends, neighbors, church members, colleagues and former students.
Visitation is Friday, January 20 from 4 - 6 p.m. at Lewis & Wright Funeral Home (2500 Clarksville Hwy, Nashville, TN). The funeral is Saturday, January 21 at Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church (2334 Herman Street, Nashville TN) with visitation at 11 a.m., followed by the funeral service at Noon. Interment is Sunday, January 22 at 1:30 p.m. at Mt. Ararat Annex Cemetery, 321 Dover Street, Shelbyville, TN.
In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions in memory of Samuel Abernathy to: Tennessee State University Women's Track & Field (www.tnstate.edu/supporttsu or TSU Foundation, 3500 John A. Merritt Blvd, Campus Box 9542, Nashville, TN 37209) and the Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church Reclamation Center (www.gordonmemorialumc.org or Gordon Memorial UMC, 2334 Herman Street, Nashville, TN 37208).
The funeral service will be livestreamed on Saturday, January 21 at Noon on the Gordon Memorial UMC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GordonMemorialUMC.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Samuel Abernathy, please visit Tribute Store
Public Walk Through for Family and Friends
Celebration of Life
In Loving Memory
1929 - 2023
Lewis & Wright Funeral Directors strives to help you and your family to achieve peace of mind which is an important part of the healing process. We are pleased to offer grief counseling as a part of our aftercare service.
Lewis & Wright Funeral Directors
2500 Clarksville Hwy. Nashville, Tennessee
Phone: (615) 255-2371
Fax: (615) 255-4926
Have A Question?
We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions you may have and provide direction. Please call us directly at (615) 255-2371 if you require immediate assistance.