Dr. Richard Chesteen

Dr. Richard Chesteen

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 2:17 pm

The Messenger, May 2, 2012
On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Richard Dallas Chesteen Sr. finally succumbed to cancer at the age of 72.
Following his death, his body was prepared and delivered for cremation by White-Ranson Funeral Home. A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. May 12 at Union City First Baptist Church, with state Sen. Roy Herron and Dr. Cecil Sewell officiating.
The family will receive friends 4-8 p.m. today at White-Ranson Funeral Home.
The family requests that memorials be made to the Chesteen Federal Internship Program, Office of Development, University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN 38238; or Obion County Hometown Walk of Hope.
He and his family moved to Union City in 1969 and he began employment as an instructor in the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He had received his associate in arts degree from Holmes Junior College and his bachelor of arts degree from Delta State University, both in Mississippi, and his master of arts degree and doctorate from the University of Mississippi. In addition, other formal education he completed included a U.S. National Teaching Fellow awarded by the U.S. government; a post-doctorate fellowship at George Washington University in higher education policy; the University of Tennessee Leadership Institute Training Program, which he helped design; an American Political Science Association Spoors Dialogues on Political Leadership at Dartmouth College; and numerous summer study grants with the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Political Science Association, the Federal Election Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also completed administrative training programs with the International City Management Association, the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service and the UT Center for Government Training.
Dr. Chesteen fulfilled his military obligation as a member of the U.S. Marine Corp. and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as an infantryman and gunner.
During his tenure at UTM, he was actively involved in faculty governance. He was president of the UTM chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He served once as president of the UTM Academic Council and once as the president of the UTM Faculty Council. Dr. Chesteen also served on and chaired numerous faculty organizations. He organized, or helped organize, many informative public events such as the university’s annual Civil Rights Conference. He chaired the Department of History and Political Science for five years.
During the 200-year celebration of the U.S. Constitution, he was appointed to head the campus celebration. He collected material from around the country and set up a campus museum event. Also, for a number of years, he was the Congressional District coordinator for the We the People program, the largest national program funded by Congress to distribute material on teaching elementary and secondary school children the U.S. Constitution. He was the state coordinator for several years for the National Student Parent Mock Election, which gave students and teachers a chance to cast mock votes for their choices for president and vice president in their local schools. Thousands of students participated from across the state.
For three years Dr. Chesteen was faculty adviser to the college newspaper, The Pacer. During that time, the newspaper was selected as one of the top two college weeklies in the country.
Besides his teaching regular college students, Dr. Chesteen did consulting work and teaching for the UT Center for Government Training. He taught a number of supervisory courses to hundreds of city, county and state officials. He authored manuals on city-county consolidation and ethics in government.
Dr. Chesteen was an active researcher and writer. He published articles in various scholarly journals, read papers at numerous political science associations and contributed guest columns to The Messenger, The Jackson Sun, The Commercial Appeal and other media.
He was a past president of the Tennessee Political Science Association.
Dr. Chesteen was not just a teacher of political science but a practitioner and activist as well. Locally, he served several years as chairman of the Democratic Party. He served as a county commissioner from 1982 to 1994. While on the commission, he was the first to push for a county-wide fire department and he headed a committee to develop a plan, but was not successful. He advocated county adoption of the 911 emergency system and served, then, on the committee that developed the plan the county adopted. He headed up the Hotel-Motel Tax Study Committee that got the county to adopt it, with proceeds to go to Union City and the county for industrial recruitment. When the county adopted the first wheel tax, he successfully proposed an amendment that one-third of the annual proceeds go to Union City School System.
Dr. Chesteen was also active in the Tennessee County Services Association, which is composed of some 2,000 county commissioners, county highway commissioners and all county mayors. In 1988-89, he served as president of the association. Gov. Ned McWherter appointed him to a four-year term on the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (1989-1993.)
In 1994, he ran in the Democratic primary for governor. Even though he was considered a minor candidate, in Obion County the state primary winner, Phil Bredesen, beat him by only 62 votes.
Dr. Chesteen was very active in human service activities. Among organizations he was involved in was the Obion County Association for Retarded Citizens. He served for a while as president of it and worked actively with Community Developmental Services in Martin to successfully locate and run two group homes for physically and mentally challenged men in Union City. In the 1970s, Dr. Chesteen was actively involved in getting county funding for what today is the Obion County Commission on Aging. He also served as its chair for a number of years. He served on the Northwest Tennessee Advisory Council on Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Northwest Tennessee Disabilities Network, the Northwest Tennessee Development District Area Agency on Aging and the Northwest Tennessee Children’s Service Council for a number of years.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Chesteen, along with General Sessions Judge Jimmy Smith and a few others, created the Obion County Prevent Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council (PANDA) and raised funds for alcohol and drug education material to be distributed to the county and city schools. In the late 1990s, he worked with a small group of concerned citizens to establish Anchor House, a halfway house for men coming out of dependency treatment. They were able to obtain a used trailer from Green Acres, and with the help of jail labor, members of Habit for Humanity and other volunteers, they created a country home for some eight clients. It stayed in operation for a number of years and was successful in turning lives around.
For a number of years, Dr. Chesteen and newscaster the late Jim Cawley broadcast local, state and national election returns on radio station WENK in Union City. Later, for three years, 2006-09, Dr. Chesteen hosted “Conversations,” a 30-minute public commentary program on WOBT-TV in Union City. In 2001, he and Jimmy Cagle, public information officer at Goodyear Tire Co., with the support of the Obion County Chamber of Commerce, organized a recognition week for World War II veterans which included a special section in The Messenger, a free steak dinner for World War II veterans and spouses and a special PowerPoint movie of Obion County’s special role during World War II.
Among Dr. Chesteen’s many awards and recognition were the UT National Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award in 1991 and the State of Tennessee Love Award for public service in 2005. He was recognized for inclusion in Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Who’s Who in American Politics and Who’s Who Among American Teachers.
Dr. Chesteen and family were members of Union City First Baptist Church and at various times he taught Sunday school. He was a member of the Carlton Sunday School Class at the time of his death.
Dr. Chesteen is survived by two older sisters, Giula Harris and Sandra Sproles. His sister, Robbie Cooper, and brother, Lucian Chesteen, preceded him in death. Along with his sisters and deceased brother, he has a number of nieces and nephews.
Dr. Chesteen was married to Gloria Jean (Worsham) Chesteen, former advertising manager for The Messenger, and they would have celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary this year. They were the parents of two children, Richard Dallas Chesteen Jr. and Jennifer Caryl. They have four grandchildren, Andrew Joseph Chesteen, Angela Lauren Chesteen, Joshua Brandon Aldridge and Chase Michael Aldridge.
Condolences may be sent to the family at the funeral home website: www.white-ranson.com.

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