Nashvillians in Black History
The Ford Ronald Otey family

l to r:  Curtis Lee, Brianna Latham Lee, and Ron Otey

l to r: Curtis Lee, Brianna Latham Lee, and Ron Otey

A Family That Prays Together Stays Together!  That is an old adage that has been a tradition in some families for years. Many families have prayed at Zion New Jerusalem Church and their histories have been preserved through pictures and manuscripts. The message for this celebration was “The Son of Man is Lord Also,” Luke 6:5 (KJV): And he said unto them, “That the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath.”

The Otey family has a rich history. This article features Ford Ronald Otey, who is affectionately known as “Ron.” Ron had one sister, Julia Otey Lee, who recently passed away after a long illness. Ron is also the proud father of two daughters, Tracey and Lisa.

Ron was a captain in the United States Air Force, As a result of his service, Captain Ford Ronald Otey became the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Ron and his sister, Julia, were board members of the Middle Tennessee Genealogist Society. They traced their lineage back at least to the early 1800’s. Their parents, Ford Essex and Elnora Otey, were the initial host family for the Baha’i Faith in Nashville, TN. They held the meetings in their home.

Ron’s father, Ford Essex, was the youngest of seven children, who graduated from Pearl High School in 1938. He later graduated from the Gupton Jones College of Mortuary Science, where he became a a licensed mortician. He was also a licensed barber. In 1942 Ford Essex married his childhood sweetheart, who was also his next door neighbor. He later worked in the auto industry in Detroit, Michigan.

Ron’s mother, Elnora, graduated from Pearl High School in 1937. She was a member of Les Douze Ami, a Civic Social Club, for 50 plus years.

The Ford Otey family owned a salvage store located on Heiman Street in North Nashville, where his nephew, John Otey, Jr. now has the 60 unit Court Villa Apartments. The Salvage store was said to have been the largest black owned salvage store in Nashville and possibly the largest in the state at that time. People could shop for lumber products, hardware, books, and valuable antiques in the store.

Due to an automobile accident, Ron’s body has been in constant pain. The Reverend Inman Otey, pastor, Zion New Jerusalem Church is Ron’s cousin. Rev. Otey recently prayed a special prayer for his healing. A family that prays together finds solace from those who love them.