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Doris Tanner

Mrs. Doris Brinker Tanner, 99, of Union City passed away Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, at The Arbors of Union City.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Union City.
The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. until the hour of services Saturday at the church. Steve Kendall will officiate. Graveside services will follow in East View Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Billy Wright, Brian Bradford, Jason Quinton, Curt True, Nathaniel Kendall and Andrew Bowlin.
Memorials may be made to The Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, P.O. Box 2206, Brentwood, TN, 37024.
She was born Dec. 6, 1919, in Dallas. Her parents were Rayfield Brinker and Emelene and Charlie Russell. She was a graduate of Haywood County High School in Brownsville, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1941.
While enrolled at UTK, she received her private pilot license under the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Mrs. Tanner served her country as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot during World War II.
She married William Walker Tanner on March 19, 1942. He passed away Feb. 29, 2016.
She earned a Master’s Degree in education at Murray State University. She also completed advanced graduate work at Vanderbilt University, receiving an honorary doctorate.
Mrs. Tanner taught at Haywood County Elementary School, Obion County Central High School and was an associate professor emeritus of history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She served on the Tennessee Board of Education in 1972.
Elected as president of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) organization in 1986, she also served on its Committee for Militarization, presenting documentation to secure veteran status to both Senate and House Committees on Military Affairs in 1977. In 2010, she attended an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., to receive a Congressional Gold Medal for her service during World War II, along with more than 200 other WASP veterans.
A member of the Presbyterian Church in America, she served as a short-term missionary to Taiwan, where she was received and honored by General Chen Hsing-ling for her flying service training Nationalist Chinese cadets at Douglas Air Force Base, Ariz.
Mrs. Tanner authored several books including “Zoot Suits and Parachutes,” “An Infantryman Writes Home,” an award-winning biography, “Cornelia Fort” and a published article in American History Illustrated: “We Also Served.” She also wrote and published two children’s books: “Squirrelie” and “The Flying WASP.”
She was listed in Outstanding Educators, Who’s Who of American Women, and featured in Tennessee Women, Past and Present. Most recently, in 2016 she was the recipient of a Sterling Award: The Twenty Most Influential Women of West Tennessee.
Mrs. Tanner was a member of The Review Club, and an avid tennis player. She was well known as a loyal Lady Vols fan, as the late coach Pat Head Summitt was a former student of Mrs. Tanner’s while she was enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Martin in the early 1970s. She enjoyed her game-day gatherings to watch them compete and cheer on her favorite team and coach.
She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Debbie and Lynn Bowlin of Union City; a daughter-in-law, Sally Jolly Tanner of Union City; three grandchildren and the spouse of one, Andrew and Josie Bowlin, Natalie Tanner Armstrong and Courtney Tanner, all of Union City; and five great-grandchildren, Toni and Tolar Armstrong, Lexi Tanner, Millie Bowlin and Laura Bradford, all of Union City. She is also survived by two sisters and the spouse of one, Sallie Russell of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Emelene and Bill Ward of Castle Rock, Colo.; a niece and her spouse, Rachel and Tim O’Toole of Alexandria, Va.; and special friends, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Cubit of Orlando, Fla.
She was preceded in death by her son, Thomas Walker Tanner; and her sister, Glenrose Gowan.
Condolences may be sent to the family at the funeral home website:

Published 2.12.19


  1. Rozanne Maness on February 14, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    So very sorry for your loss!

  2. Jeanie Gillean Glover on March 1, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Mrs. Tanner was my home room, also history teacher at Obion County Central. She was a great lady.