Birth: 02-16-1924 | Birthplace: Orlinda, Tennessee
As executive director of the Country Music Association (CMA) from 1962 to 1991, Jo Walker-Meador played a direct and influential role in the remarkable growth the country music industry experienced during those years. One year before she took the helm at the CMA, full-time country radio stations numbered fewer than 100 nationwide. By 1995 there were nearly 2,400 such stations.
Born Edith Josephine Denning, she was educated at Peabody College in Nashville and Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee. When industry leaders organized the CMA in 1958, they hired Walker-Meador as office manager. She was to do bookkeeping, typing, and general office duties, while former WSM manager Harry Stone served as executive director. In 1959 she organized a banquet that was to become an annual event and awards program. After Stone’s departure, Walker-Meador stayed on and soon assumed his role. Under her direction, the staff eventually grew to more than twenty employees.
The CMA prospered under Walker-Meador’s gracious and skillful leadership. Among the organization’s well-known programs adopted during her tenure were the launching of a national fund-raising drive to build the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum (the CMA had created the Hall of Fame in 1961) and the CMA’s annual awards show, begun in 1967 and televised nationally for the first time in 1968. Fan Fair, an annual festival of fans and performers, was inaugurated in 1972.
Thanks to the efforts of Walker-Meador and others, the CMA has grown from about 200 members to a membership of more than 7,000 individuals and organizations. Today it is the most important trade organization on the Nashville music scene and among the most active in the world. Walker-Meador has remained involved in events on Music Row since her retirement in 1991. She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. - Mary A. Bufwack
- Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.