Friend, mentor, and conservationist
On October 5, 2018, the Federation lost a longtime friend, board of directors Chairman Emeritus, and one of our strongest advocates—Dr. John Overton Gayden. Known as Dr. Jack by the Federation family, his transformational leadership forever changed the face of the Federation.
A Nashville native, Dr. Jack was a lifelong outdoorsman. As a youngster, he spent his summers at Camp Hy-Lake on the Cumberland Plateau learning about conserving our natural resources and cultivating a love for the great outdoors.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that Dr. Jack grew into an avid hunter and conservationist, spending many mornings at Five Lakes Hunting Club, just 45 minutes across the Arkansas border from his home near Memphis.
He also became a founding member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a life member of Shikar-Safari Club International and Ducks Unlimited, and, of course, an influential Federation supporter.
“Jack truly loved Tennessee Wildlife Federation. As a donor he gave sacrificially, and unabashedly encouraged anyone he met to do so as well. As a board member, he poured his time and talents—even during extended hospital stays—into reshaping and strengthening the Federation,” said Kendall McCarter, chief development officer. “He will be missed for his contributions but, above all, for his friendship.”
Dr. Jack joined the Federation’s board of directors in September 2009, serving as chairman for two terms, beginning in 2013 and 2017. He was later named chairman emeritus.
His leadership extended to every corner of the Federation and the state it serves—from conservation policy that shapes our great outdoors for generations to the programs that get the next generation into the field. To enshrine his service, the Federation’s primary conference room has reflected his name since 2015.
“Dr. Jack always took an active role in the lives of those in whom he saw potential and a willingness to learn. If you were fortunate enough to be able to work closely with him, he quickly adopted you—you became one of his sons or daughters, and he meant it,” said Michael Butler, chief executive officer. “Being his friend, and having him as a mentor, meant he would praise you and deeply challenge you. He engaged you in a way that only a true friend can.”
Dr. Jack, you will be missed.