Francis Guess, Nashville human rights activist, businessman dies

Francis S. Guess

Francis S. Guess

Nashville business leader and human rights activist Francis S. Guess has passed away.

In 2011, Guess, who recently left his role as executive vice president of management and investment firm The Danner Co., joined Seigenthaler Public Rela-tions as an advisor.

Seigenthaler PR released the following statement:
“Francis Guess, community trailblazer and civil rights champion, has died at his home. Mr. Guess was an influential leader who devoted his distinguished 45-year career to enhancing a myriad of areas in Middle Tennessee. He served on the National Civil Rights Commission and as the commissioner for the Tennessee departments of Labor and General Services under then Gov. Lamar Alexander. He also provided volunteer support to more than 100 organizations. A Nashville-native, Guess began making his mark at a young age. He served in Military Intelligence with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tennessee State University and a master’s of business administration from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Later, he completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University. Drawing on lessons from each, he became an ardent and effective supporter of equal opportunity through public and private positions.

In the public sector, Guess served 30 years as a member of the Tennessee Commission on Human Rights. Nationally, he was appointed as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Guess’ body of work in the private sector extended to his advocacy for open opportunities. He served as executive vice president of The Danner Company, a management and investment firm, and most recently as the executive director of the Danner Foundation, a family foundation that has contributed more than $10 million, largely to Tennessee programs addressing education and health. He also owned and operated Helicopter Corporation of America (HELICORP).

His volunteer commitments included board and commission positions with the National Coalition of Human Rights, American Institute for Managing Diversity, Nashville Committee on Foreign Relations, Tennessee Minority Purchasing Council, Tennessee Advisory Committee of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and (among others) the Governor’s Monitoring Committee.

Recently, Guess served on the boards of the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission; Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee; Nashville Minority Business Development Fund; Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Board of Officers and Directors; Metro Convention Center Authority; and the Nashville City Club. He was also a member American Legion Post 82, Inglewood, and a lifetime member of the NAACP. Mr. Guess was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for his public and civic service, including the prestigious Tree of Life award from the National Jewish Fund. In 2013, he was honored with the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. He is survived by his daughter, Maria Guess, his mother, Kathryn Driver, three brothers and three sisters, a host of niece and nephews, and his beloved Nashville community.

Mayor Karl Dean made the following statement after learning of the death of business and civic leader Francis Guess:
“Francis Guess played an important role in bringing communities together across Nashville,” said Dean.

“He was a dedicated public servant whose accomplishments included helping to get Tennessee to become one of the first states to observe the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. Later he served on Metro’s Convention Center Auth-ority and many other boards and commissions. He was a friend whose advice I sought and treasured. And he had a great sense of humor and never took himself too seriously. With Anne, I extend our deepest condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”