Spotlight on Rufus McAdoo
This is the first in a series of articles profiling poll officials in Wilson County. Each election over 300 Wilson County voters are trained to greet with a smile their neighbors and fellow Wilson Countians when they come to Early Vote at any of the five locations or on Election Day at their assigned polling place. It is our privilege to work with these dedicated patriotic Wilson Countians and we look forward to sharing their stories over the coming months.
Mr. Rufus McAdoo
According to Pearlie McAdoo the prospect of being a Poll Official rallied her husband, Rufus McAdoo, from his hospital bed. In 2017, McAdoo, a long time poll official in Wilson County, was in the hospital and really not feeling well. When Mrs. McAdoo showed her husband the letter from the Wilson County Election Commission appointing them as poll officials, she said he sat up and started moving his legs, felt better and was soon on his way home. When the doctor asked Mrs. McAdoo what happened to cause the dramatic change in his condition she said, “There’s an election coming up and he has to work at the polls.”
Rufus McAdoo cannot remember when he first worked the Election Day polls in Wilson County but he can remember working elections at the Wilson County courthouse when it was located on the town square in Lebanon. The courthouse was torn down in 1964.
McAdoo was born with the aid of a mid-wife in the Tuckers Crossroads Community of Wilson County in 1932. As a young man, he recalls plowing fields with a mule and thinking there had to be something better. During his high school years Rufus started working at a restaurant Dewey and Albert Fite owned on the square in Lebanon. Shannon’s Drug Store, Julius Jacobs’ Dry Goods store and “almost every restaurant in Lebanon” provided the one or usually two jobs Rufus worked every day.
In 1949, Rufus moved to Chicago to work with his uncle for Wilson Foundry. “That’s the most money I had ever made- $55.95 a week,” he recalls. In 1950, Rufus was called to the service of his country in the United States Air Force. From 1950 until 1954 he served in Okinawa and left USAF as a Staff Sargent.
While in the service he earned his GED, having left high school as a sophomore. The GED was not recognized in Tennessee at the time but did allow him credit for one year of high school. Returning to Wilson County and to high school as a senior in 1954, Rufus was elected President of the Wilson County Training School class of 1955. He went on to earn his diploma that year.
McAdoo’s work career spanned the next 30 years. He worked for every branch of government in Middle Tennessee- Lebanon City, Wilson County, State and Federal. Rufus was employed by the City of Lebanon and the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro for 18 years. When Ross Gear had their picnic at Horn Springs, McAdoo was there to make it a success. He would arrange lunches at the Lebanon Country Club when the prospective developers or business were meeting with city leaders about locating in Lebanon.
Retiring in 1985, McAdoo enjoys time fishing, playing cards and watching ball games with his six children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Since retirement he has taken on jobs to keep busy. He has gone door to door as a census worker in two census’. He and his father used to go to Texas, St. Louis and Chicago to watch ball games. Now he follows the Braves and Titans with family and friends with at least one trip in person to a titans game each year.
A life long member of Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church, McAdoo seldom misses Sunday School or church. He said that even though he has always been a member of Pickett Rucker UMC he often visits other churches with friends and family. His faith, commitment to his church and his family is a large part of who Rufus McAdoo is.
Serving as an election official is a constant in Rufus McAdoo’s life. He and his wife, Pearlie, work at the Market Street Community Center polling place every election. They are the face of elections in the 20th precinct. Elections have changed greatly from when McAdoo started working the polls. Everyone over 18 had to pay a $2.00 poll tax to be allowed to vote when he first worked elections. Laws have changed and voting has become accessible to everyone eligible and willing to make the effort to register and vote during early voting or on Election Day.
For those who vote early at the Election Commission Office or on Election day at Market Street Community Center, the smiling presence of Rufus McAdoo is a welcome site. He has greeted and assisted countless voters over his many years of service. When we spoke about why he started and has continued to be a poll official a smile came to his face. Rufus McAdoo said “I love being around happy people. Voters come in smiling excited about who they are going to vote for. It is such a privilege to be a part of the election.” said McAdoo.
Rufus is one the over 300 Wilson County voters that serve their county as poll officials during Early Voting and on Election Days. To find out more about becoming a poll official visit www.wilsonvotes.com or call the Wilson County Election Commission at 615-444-0216.
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