"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County

Bedford County TN Biographies


Among the pioneer business enterprises of Nashville is that controlled by the Gray & Dudley Company, engaged in the manufacture of stoves and saddlery and wholesale dealers in hardware. This is now the largest undertaking of the kind south of Louisville, Kentucky, and the business as it stands today is largely the outcome of the well directed efforts and carefully formulated plans of Robert Mathews Dudley, its president, whose connection therewith covers a period of forty-four years. He was born in Bedford county, Tennessee, May 20, 1858, a son of Christopher and Louise (Bandy) Dudley. He attended the public schools and the Montgomery Bell Academy of Nashville, while later he became a student at the University of Nashville. Mr. Dudley's identification with the hardware business dates from 1878, when he entered the employ of the firm of Dodd, Dudley & Lipscomb, leading merchants of this city. So rapidly did he progress in their esteem that he was admitted into the firm two years later and the firm name changed to Dudley Brothers & Lipscomb. Following the retirement of Mr. Lipscomb the style was changed to that of Dudley Brothers, under which name the business was continued until 1895, when their interests were consolidated with the firm of Gray, Fall & Company, Incorporated, at which time the present title of Gray & Dudley Company was adopted. Mr. Dudley is president of the firm, which is engaged in the manufacture of stoves and harness, and maintains a large force of traveling salesmen, shipping its products to all parts of the United States. The company is also wholesale distributors of hardware, shoes, automobile accessories, house furnishing, dry goods and notions and since 1913 has conducted a large mail order business, issuing each month an elaborate catalogue, which is sent to dealers throughout the country.

Mr. Dudley possesses the keen sagacity, executive force and poise necessary for the successful control of extensive interests and is thoroughly alive to the possibilities of every new avenue opened in the natural ramifications of the trade. No detail of the business is too unimportant to escape his notice, while at the same time he conducts the larger factors in his affairs with notable assurance and power. Mr. Dudley is known to the hardware trade all over the country. He was president for two terms1909-1910 of the National Hardware Association of the United States and is still a member of the advisory board. Although his extensive business interests make heavy demands upon his time, Mr. Dudley has always found opportunity to participate actively in civic affairs and has done effective service for the public good, becoming well known throughout his city as the champion of moral progress and uplift and of municipal reform and improvement. For sixteen years he has been chairman of the board of park commissioners, who are responsible for the development of Nashville's fine park system, including Centennial Park, in which the city takes especial pride. More than two hundred thousand dollars has been spent on buildings alone for this park, which is unsurpassed in beauty by any other public recreation ground in the south. Mr. Dudley also is deeply interested in religious work and has labored untiringly for the cause of Christianity as a member of the Baptist church. He is a director of its Sunday school board and for many years has taught the Business Men's Bible class, while he is also serving as chairman of the board of deacons of the church. He is likewise a member of the Baptist state executive board and a director of the Baptist & Reflector, the official organ of the church.

On the 23d of March, 1881, Mr. Dudley was united in marriage to Miss Ophelia Stephens, a daughter of Dr. J. Bunyan Stephens, a well known educator, who was for twenty years a member of the faculty of the University of Tennessee. They became the parents of five children, three of whom are deceased. Two daughters, Louise and Rebecca, were killed near Carroll, Iowa, in 1913, while en route to Colorado, a train striking the automobile in which they were riding; and a son, B. S. Dudley, passed away in 1919. The surviving children are Amelia and Robert M. Dudley, Jr. The latter is an enterprising young business man and is conducting a hardware store, which is located on Broad street, Nashville, in the building in which his father began his mercantile career. Mr. Dudley, Sr., resides at Pioneer Springs, near Nashville, where he has a model farm, on which he is raising blooded stock. He is a Knights Templar Mason and is a member of the East Nashville Golf and Country Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Hermitage Club and the Commercial Club. Out of the struggle with small opportunities he has come into a field of broad influence and usefulness and his record is that of a self-made man whose success has been won through industry and ability. He has made his influence count as a forceful factor in promoting the interests of Nashville along many lines and his name is inseparably associated with the development and upbuilding of the city. His life has been an honorable and upright one, worthy of all praise, and he is a man whom to know is to esteem and admire

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