Former CMA Director Jo Walker-Meador Dead at 93
One of the key figures in the development of the country music industry has died. Jo Walker-Meador, who helped to spearhead the Country Music Association, is dead at the age of 93.
The Nashville Tennessean reports that Walker-Meador died early Wednesday morning (Aug. 16) in Nashville following a stroke. Her daughter, Michelle Walker, confirmed her death through a spokesperson.
Walker-Meador was the CMA’s first full-time employee when it formed in 1958.
“They wanted me to be the assistant, you know, the ‘girl Friday,’” she recalled to the Tennessean in May of 2016. “I was to help with filing and answering the phone, those sort of things.”
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She worked her way up to Executive Director of the CMA by 1961 after she filled in for a departed executive on a temporary basis. Minnie Pearl took a personal hand in helping her land the gig.
“I wasn’t there, but I’m told that Minnie Pearl said, ‘Jo’s doing all the work. Why don’t we just hire her?’” she added.
Walker-Meador held that position for 29 years until her retirement in 1991, and under her leadership country music went from being a small niche genre to a mainstream commercial and artistic force to be reckoned with. She helped to create and oversaw the introduction of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the CMA Awards and Fan Fair, which later became CMA Fest, and those organizations and events have become the cornerstones of the modern country music genre.
She was also beloved by her colleagues and the artistic community. Bill Anderson was a close friend for nearly 60 years, and he tells the Tenneseean, “When you thought of the CMA, you thought of Jo Walker. I never knew anybody in any business as devoted to her job, her cause and her people like she was.”
Jo Walker-Meador was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995 for her tremendous contributions to the genre. Her funeral arrangements are pending.