Edward Bailey, businessman, politician, statesman, farmer, educator. Bailey was born May 19, 1919 at Reagan TN to Dorsey Bailey and Betty Cricket (Stewart) Bailey. He is one of five children. His brothers are Calvin Coolidge Bailey of Lexington and Lynn Bailey of Cadiz KY. He has two sisters, Vera Mitchell deceased and Alice Douglas of the Union Cross Community.
He attended elementary school at Reagan and graduated from Scotts Hill High School and then attended Freed-Hardeman College at Henderson TN. He said the first dime he ever made was milking a cow and selling a gallon of milk a day to Slim Williams who was superintendent of Everglades Construction which built Hwy. 100 in 1929. The Highway passed the Bailey home.
The first job he ever held was measuring cotton when this program first began. The first farm he ever measured was W.E. "Dutch" Pratt's on the Old Jackson Road. He says he remembered this very well because he was scared stiff but Mr. Pratt tried to be very helpful to him. Then Edward took a job teaching school from 1938 till 1941 at Scotts Hill.
In 1939 he married Mable Overman of Scotts Hill and they had one child Bettye Carol Douglas who was born in 1943. He has one grandson. In the later part of 1941 he went to Cuba and worked for the Standard Fruit Co. He said he was in Cuba when the Japenese bombed Pearl Harbor but left the next day for the Panama Canal where he worked for the same Standard Fruit Co. and then for the Panama Canal until December 1942 when he came back to Henderson County.
Edward went to work at Milan Arsenal for a year in 1943. He was the youngest building foreman at the Arsenal and he and Gene Garner were interviewed for a newspaper article. Then he ran the old country stoer at Reagan in 1944 and 9145. From there he ran a general merchandise store in Scotts Hill in 1946. He said that John L. Frizzell sold him a grocery store in South Lexington in 1947 and he kept this store until May 10, 1950. Bailey got his first taste of politics when he ran for alderman in 1949 in Lexington and he was elected to this position.
He was an alderman until 1953 when he ran for Mayor and was elected for one term from 1953 till 1955. His opponent at the time was the late James Lee Wright. He started Bailey's Sawmill on September 5, 1950 with five hands and two used trucks that he had purchased from Odle Chevrolet for $700.00 and arented sawmill. He installed the first all electric sawmill in the Tennessee Valley in 1953.
Today, when Bailey's Sawmill is working at its peak it employs 125 people. They not only saw lumber now but they also make staves and now are into building homes. Bailey's Sawmill moved to its present location in 1966. Bailey's Sawmill was the first industry in Henderson county since Salant and Salant came in approximately 1934. Bailey's had the second largest payroll in Henderson County (after Salant) until Brown Shoe Company came to Lexington in the late 1950's.
When Bailey made his first race formayor it really entrenched him in politics for the next 28 years in Henderson County. When he made that race he made the people two promises and those were to either legalize beer or get it out of town and to bring industry to Lexington. Harding Machine Screw Co. came to Lexington in 1955. Bailey served only one term as mayor and then ran for alderman again and he stayed an alderman from 1955 till 1967. In 1966 he ran for State Legislature while he was still an alderman. He was elected beating Hobart Townsend of Decatur Co.
He stayed in the State Legislature from 1966 till 1976. During this time he served as State Chairman of the Republican Party. He also served on the State Republican Executive Committee from 1952 till 1970. Bailey then ran for Mayor in 1977 and served two terms.
Bailey said that he had met Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. He said his favorite was President Hoover but he felt the most impressive was President Nixon. The first governon he met in his career was Gov. Gordon Browning. However he feels the most charming was Gov. Winfield Dunn and that he feels Gov. Lamar Alexander is the smoothest and most trustworthy.
Bailey feels that his greatest accomplishments in the political field have been his efforts toward industrial growth. He is very proud to be able to say he had something to do with Harding Machine coming to Lexington in 1955 and then with the Gilson Brothers Corp. coming in 1981. Gilson Bros. is the latest industrial growth Lexington has had and has been a real asset to the economy. However Bailey feels that Harding in 1955 came at a time when we weer in dire need of industry and the economy needed this at that time also. It also helped to open the door for further industrial as it got others to looking at Lexington.
Bailey states, "I have picked cotton in a towsack on every red hill in Reagan and I have danced in the White House in Washington. I had just as good a time picking cotton in Reagan as I did dancing at the White House." When I asked Bailey why he felt he had never been defeated in a political race, he said, "I never got above my raising and I always stayed with the working man because that is where most of the votes are and that is where my friends are. Even though I lived on Broard Street, I enjoy associating with the average working man."
Bailey is a Baptist. He also belong to the Country Club, Moose and is a member of the Masonic Lodge. He operates his sawmill as well as farming over 2000 acres of land with 830 at the main farm on Hwy 100 near Reagan. He grows beans, corn, wheat and cattle. Mable once said "edward is so honest, it hurts". This is basically true because he has always had time to listen to everybody's problems. He said that he has never had an unlisted phone number and he's always available.
Bailey says that he is enjoying life now more than ever since he is out of politics. He is leaving the door ajar however but says he doesn't not know if he will ever run for office again.