William Edward “Ed” Rice Jr. has died and leaves behind many accomplishments and a large impact on Mt. Juliet.
Rice, 82, son of William Edward Rice Sr. and Mamie Smith Rice, was local known as “The Ham Man” after he took over Rice’s Ham Store in 1980 from his father, who operated the store since 1935.
Rice was a coach at the Mt. Juliet League and was a member of the Lions Club. He is a member of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Mt. Juliet-West Wilson Chamber of Commerce.
“I met Mr. Rice 30 years ago and from day one we became fast friends. His spirit and love of community were second to none and most apparent and I will miss him dearly,” Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said. “His enthusiasm and nature were contagious and our community has lost a true icon. Rice’s Ham Store is a fixture in Mt. Juliet/Wilson County and the family will thankfully carry that tradition and the family business on for decades to come.”
Rice’s great-grandfather W.T. Hunter purchased the store in 1910, and it’s the oldest retail business still operating in Mt. Juliet. By 1981, the family cured more than 700 hams each year, which were served to country music stars and other celebrities.
Rice attended Mt. Juliet schools, where he was vice president of his senior class, and attended Tennessee Tech University.
Rice married the former Ginger Crockett in 1960, and the two worked to rise the business from a small business to large, direct-shipping and retail operation. Rice retired from the business in 2004, and by that time, the business cured more than 4,500 country hams a year.
Rice has been featured on several shows, including “Tennessee Crossroads”, “The Martha Stewart Show”, “The Larry Brinton Show”, “Talk of the Town” and “Living Green Tennessee”.
Rice is survived by his wife, Ginger, daughters Vicki Rice Pelfrey (Charles) and Ginny Rice Dabbs (Scott) and his brother, James “Jim” (Robbie) Rice.