|Appraising Wilson County|
|Tuesday, November 29, 2011|
Businessman, farmer and property appraiser Johnny Trice may not have walked every square mile of Wilson County, but he’s probably come close.
In 79 years of living in Lebanon, he’s seen a world of changes, some that he promoted, and some in his own life that he never thought would happen.
“I used to be bashful when I was in school. I couldn’t hardly have a conversation,” said Trice, who has held many an important exchange of words in the years since he was a student at Oakland School that once occupied high ground near Friendship Christian School.
“I once said I’d never have a cell phone, and when bottled water came out, I said I would never buy it,” Trice said from his office in a rock house on West Main Street. He grins, then taps his shirt pocket and pulls out a cellular phone before he points to a pint of bottled water on his desk.
As for changes that impacted the local landscape, Trice was instrumental in the start up of Wilson Bank & Trust, among numerous other businesses, as well as persuading Wilson County commissioners to purchase the land that would become the home of the James E. Ward Agricultural Center.
He’d like to witness a few more changes in Wilson County before he departs this world.
“We have got to get some white-collar jobs here. I don’t see that happening in the next few years. We’re sort of stymied, wanting to be a warehouse distribution county. We need them, but that’s not all that we need,” said Trice, who has been a member of numerous local service and civic clubs over the decades as well as serving on the Wilson County Economic Board, the Wilson County Farm Bureau Board and the Wilson County Co-op Board, to name a few.
“I look at Williamson County. Why can’t we have corporate headquarters? If I were younger that’s what I would be pushing. Let’s focus on company headquarters and white-collar jobs,” said Trice, who lists such local assets as Interstate 40, the nearness to Nashville International Airport and the county’s central location in the Mid-South.
“Rutherford and Williamson counties have grown. We need to change our focus. We’ve got a great opportunity at the Nashville Speedway. Why can’t something be there? We just need to promote it,” said Trice, who handled Buford Ellington’s campaign in this county in 1966 when Ellington won the governorship race against John J. Hooker.
“I met a lot of good people,” he said, reflecting. “People is the name of the game. And when you do things right, people will remember you.”
Trice was born to Robert Henry Trice and Era Sampson Trice in 1932 in a farmhouse on Trice Road off of Maple Hill Road. The third of four children, he lived with his parents until he married. He still owns the home place that has been in the family for more than 120 years.
“When I was young, we had no running water and no electricity, but I had a good mother and daddy. We were very poor but always had plenty to eat, a warm house and clothes. We had milk cows, sheep and hogs and raised corn, wheat and oats.”
Trice recollected that his father served from the late 1940s into the 1950s as a county road commissioner. When Old Hickory Lake Dam was being built, the rising waters of the Cumberland River began to cover farmland, and it became obvious that some roads in the area were going to be flooded when heavy rains came. His father worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and the county to obtain funding so that roads could be built up higher than the flood waters.
The most important lesson he learned from his father?
“Hard work, honesty and tell the truth. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you,” he answered. “And my mother was a great influence on me.”
After graduating from Lebanon High in 1950, Trice worked for two years on the farm with his dad.
“We had a drought, and I didn’t make any money, so I decided I needed to get a job,” Trice recalled. He went to work at Bland Motor Company, a Massey-Ferguson farm machinery dealership on South Maple. “I worked there for 19 years. I started as a bookkeeper. I wound up running it. I sold machinery, parts and kept the books.
“I loved it, but I decided all I was going to make was a living, and I wasn’t satisfied. I took a gamble. In 1973, I quit and decided to open up my own bookkeeping service. I started out of my house.”
Trice and his wife, Alice, bought their farm in 1966, had the house standing on the property moved and constructed their own home that same year. The couple celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on Nov. 11. They have two children and five grandchildren. The letters and name of their Alanjohn Farm represent AL for Alice, AN for Andy and Angela, and John for John.
Alice was the youngest of six children born to Charlie Mack Moss, a Mt. Juliet farmer whose place was on Saunders Ferry Road which is now touched by the waters of Old Hickory Lake. The Mt. Juliet High graduate met her husband-to-be at a square dance at the Green Hills Clubhouse on the Nashville Highway.
“We dated for about a year or so, and I broke up with him. We started dating again, and he broke up with me, and we started dating a third time, and I remember him saying ‘You’re going to marry me.’ I didn’t really think I was, but I did,” reminisced Alice, a teller at Commerce Union Bank in Nashville at the time, a job she commuted to for 13 years.
When Johnny left Bland Motor Company, he and Alice had two youngsters, so he pushed himself to succeed.
“I had a hard time but was determined to make it work. I worked long hours by myself. One Saturday in the mid-1970s, I was driving down Main Street, and they were auctioning this house off. I have no idea why I stopped, but I stopped and bought this house,” he said about his office.
For several years he rented the upstairs and a main room, using a single room as his workplace. As business grew, he hired one employee at a time and wound up using all of the downstairs for his bookkeeping services. He sold the bookkeeping practice in 1996. Today he has five employees, and all of their work pertains to property appraisals
His Trice Appraisal Services will conduct about 2,000 appraisals in 10 Middle Tennessee counties by the year’s end, and Trice will do about 600 himself.
What he enjoys most about the job he said is “meeting new people. Ninety-five percent of the people I meet are good people. If I do my job right, they refer others to me. Treat people like you want to be treated and your business will grow.”
Trice has helped start or grow a variety of businesses in Wilson County and the surrounding area. Those include Lebanon Savings & Loan, Smith County Savings & Loan in Carthage, Southern Home Furniture, Smith Furniture and Auto Parts & Services (now CarQuest).
He also worked in real estate in the development of Coles Ferry Village, Clay Estates, the Woodland Ridge subdivision and Windtree Trace subdivision in Mt. Juliet.
Trice served on the board of directors of Peoples Bank, formerly Peoples Bank of Norene, which opened its main office in Lebanon in 1967 and eventually became SunTrust. Then, in 1986, he and 11 other Lebanon businessmen obtained a charter from the state to open Wilson County Bank & Trust.
“I filled out the application myself,” Trice said. “We hired a lawyer, and the attorney called me right before Christmas and said, ‘We lack one thing.’ He told me what he needed, and I got that and carried it to him, and he hand-carried it to the commissioner of banking that day. So on Dec. 24, 1986, we got it in before any other new bank."
Their first office opened in a small house near the entrance to Castle Heights Military Academy, site of the current main office. Today, Wilson Bank & Trust operates 24 offices in six counties.
Obviously, a man who knows the lay of the land, Trice was instrumental in the county purchasing the property that became the Ward Agricultural Center, site of the Wilson County Fair, among other annual events.
He recalled that the process started during a conversation he had with Charles Moss and County Extension Agent Melvin Arnett during a 4-H cattle show at the old fairground site on Coles Ferry Pike. The trio knew that property was in the process of being sold, thus the county was about to be without a fairground.
“We knew the family that owned the land on the bypass, the Baddours. I called and asked if they would sell to the county. They said yes,” Trice said. “We went to the county commissioners. There were about 50 commissioners then. There was about 102 acres, priced at $2,000 an acre.
“Melvin and Charles and myself talked to all 50 commissioners. We did persuade them to buy it. Mildred Hearne voted for it, and a week or two after told me, ‘I haven’t slept a wink since. I shouldn’t have voted for it.’ But later she said to me, ‘That was the best vote I ever made.’”
Serving as the first president of Wilson County Promotions, which produces the fair, he confessed, “We struggled for years. We had no buildings. We cut the grass. But a lot of people got involved, and it’s grown into something big. I’d say that is my greatest accomplishment for this county.”
Whether bookkeeping, appraising property or making business deals, Trice always worked the land and kept close to his roots.
“I still operate a farm. We’ve got 400 acres and about 90 brood cattle. I work 10 to 12 hours a week on the farm but have a full-time hand. We grow all of the hay. I cut it and rake it and roll it and feed it. We do it all.
“I love it. It’s in my genes. I can get stressed out here at the office and go work on the farm,” said the recent inductee into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Johnny admitted he has had a great partner on the farm and in life with Alice.
“I used to rake hay for him. He would cut it, and I would rake it and then he would bale it,” remembered Alice, who has a green thumb.
“I love to garden. I have a flower garden on one side of my house and vegetable garden on the other. I put up a lot of vegetables: I put up tomatoes, pears, peas, beans, corn. I do lots of canning and freezing,” she said. “And I like my flower garden.”
Now that their children are grown, the Trices have become world travelers.
“We’ve been to all 50 states,” Alice said. “About three years ago, the only state we had never been to was North Dakota, so he and I got in the car and drove to North Dakota.”
They’ve also toured Italy, France, Greece, Panama, England, Scotland, Ireland and Canada.
Most of the time, though, both enjoy the pleasures of home sweet home.
“All of my life, my Lord has blessed me with more than I deserve. More than you ever dream of,” Trice said. “I’ve been blessed by God with my wife for 56 years, my family, friends, church, and it came from above. I didn’t do any of it.”
by Ken Beck