Tribute to Rev. Inman Otey, Sr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

The world has lost a bright light with the recent passing of Rev. Inman Otey, Sr. on November 20. His life personified making the most of your time and energy during your visit here on earth. Those who really knew him know exactly what I mean. He worked diligently in his role as an ordained minister, businessman, Metro government official, university administrator, community leader and activist making the community and the world a better place for all.

Inman was born in Nashville, September 18, 1937 to Edith Foster Otey and Flem Brown Otey, Jr. He graduated from Pearl High School, receiving a degree in business administration and accounting from Tennessee State University in 1959. His pursuit in secondary education included special training in ‘management’ at Vanderbilt University, the Realtor’s National Marketing Institute, the U.S. Saving and Loan League, and the Ministerial Lecture Series at Vanderbilt Divinity School. While at American Baptist Theological Seminary, he completed credit and audited courses in Bible and theology. Later after retiring, he received a second degree in Biblical studies, and a Master’s of Theology and Doctorate from Emmanuel Theological Seminary.

His job positions included service as associate director for international trade development for the state of Tennessee Department of African Affairs, 19 years as director/executive of the Tennessee State University Career Development Center and as mayoral and urban development officer for the Metropolitan Nashville/ Davidson County Government during the redevelopment of downtown Nashville. As a member of the executive development team, he worked to increase participation of African American contractors and craftsmen from 10% to 22% on redevelopment projects.

Inman presided as the organizing manager of Nashville’s first federally insured home-loan banking company, Community Federal Saving and Loan Association. He was a licensed real estate/insurance and contractor serving as Nashville’s first African American realtor. He was the owner/CEO of Otey’s Development Company, Inc. He owned and operated Cumberland Park Shopping Center and Otey’s Quality Grocery (a 77-year-old family business), developed the Phyllis Wheaty Home for the Aged, Silverdean Apartments, and Haynes Manor Subdivision. He established the Minority Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit technical, business assistance and economic development agency and brought about the redevelopment of the Jefferson Street Corridor with a 3.5 million dollar city investment.

Inman was a godly man, ardently serving his master. He was the presiding minister and founder of Zion New Jerusalem Church and Ministry established over 20 years ago. It was his childhood home that he transformed into a church. He received his Christian instruction and spiral guidance at Pleasant Green Baptist Church where he was ordained and was a lifetime member. He served in the capacity as interim pastor, deacon, Sunday School Superintendent and teacher.

No doubt, one can conclude that Inman relentlessly gave of his time, energy, and resources to make a difference. But words cannot describe his infectious smile and the love he manifested to his family and friends. He respected the institution of marriage, being married to the love of his life, Velma Dennis (whom he met at Pearl High School), for 58 years. To this blessed union, three children were born: Valeri, Raven, and Inman, Jr. Their grandchildren are Danielle (Eric) Nellis Insignares, Jerael Cordell, Jr., Israel Elijah David, Elanna Gabrielle, Maya Nicole and great grandchild Jonathan Samuel Insignares.

Inman will be greatly missed by his brother Rev. Flem B. Otey, Jr.; sister, Mattilou McCoy; loving in-laws; cousins; nieces; nephews; and numerous friends.

Iman was a learned man and proud of his African heritage and ethnicity. He traveled extensively covering eight African countries. He was adamant in uplifting his African heritage and incorporated African values and traditions in many of his rituals and programs. He was a key figure and soldier during the Civil Rights Movement, working tirelessly with Black and White leaders on a local, state, and national level to help attain constitutional rights for those trivialized and denied equality.

Inman Otey’s legacy was his life. He led by example. He lived life to the fullest, using all his talents and gifts to better serve humanity and God. He may no longer have a physical presence here on earth, but his light and spirit are manifested with the loved ones he leaves—not to mourn him but to emulate him.

I know personally his work ethics, morals, and sense of entrepreneurship will continue to live through his grandchildren, especially Jerael and David who grew up with my boys. It was quite obvious that they deeply loved and epitomized him and will continue to manifest his dreams.

Rev. Inman Otey, Sr., you will be deeply missed. Because of you, this world is a better place. Thanks for showing us how to truly live and to love.