Home » Past Obituaries » Ernest Wilford Cotten Sr.

Ernest Wilford Cotten Sr.

Funeral services for Mr. Ernest Wilford Cotten, Sr. will be 7:00 P.M. Thursday, September 5, 2019, at Lebanon First United Methodist Church with Rev. David Hesson, Dr. Jonathan Richerson, and Bro. Danny Sellars officiating.  Private interment will be at the Mt. Pisgah Methodist Church Cemetery in White County.  Visitation Thursday 3-7 PM at Lebanon First United Methodist Church.

Mr. Cotten departed this life on September 1, 2019, at the age of 95 of natural causes.

He was born on May 30, 1924, the youngest of twelve children born to Albert and Mary Cotten of Walling, Tennessee.  Ernest grew up in rural White County, Tennessee, in the Walling community.  He attended and graduated from White County High School and upon graduation left immediately for service in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.  Upon being Honorably Discharged, he entered the University of Tennessee and then completed his requirement for a B. S. degree in Education from Tennessee Technological University and began a career in education that saw him go on to achieve his M. Ed and Ed.S. Degrees from the George Peabody College for teachers.  He was principal of Findlay Elementary School in Sparta from 1949-1950.  He applied for and was hired as principal of Gordonsville High School from 1950-1955 and of Watertown High School from 1955-1958.  In 1958 he became the Superintendent (now Director of Schools) of the Wilson County Schools.  He served in this position until 1962 when he resigned to take the position of Executive Secretary of the Tennessee School Board Association.  He was simultaneously attending night law school and received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1962.  He subsequently began the practice of law in September of 1965 and actively practiced until his retirement in 2009.

Ernest was very active in the community.  He was a member of the Lebanon Lions Club.  He along with others helped run the Lebanon Babe Ruth program from 1970-1983.  He received the Melvin Jones Fellow Award for Distinguished Services for Lions International and was named Lion of the Decade for the period of 1970-1980.  He was a member of the local and 15th Judicial District Bar Association.  He served on the Wilson County commission for a number of years and was active on a number of the commission committees.  He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.  He was a 32nd degree mason and member of the Shrine for some seventy years.

He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and served in many capacities, notably as teacher of the J.O.Y. (Jesus Others Yourself) Sunday school class for over thirty years.

Ernest devoted/dedicated his life and unconditional love to his family.  He was a “straight shooter,” if you asked him a question you would get a straight answer and he expected the same from others.  He loved to tell jokes and make people smile.  His generosity was legendary and a role model for all of us.  He loved his family, farm, Black Angus cattle, cigars, tomatoes, buttermilk, the Tennessee Volunteers, and of course, Cracker Barrel.

He was preceded in death by his parents, five brothers, six sisters, and his beloved and devoted wife of sixty one years, Joanne, and a son, Ernest Cotten, Jr.

He is survived by sons, Billy B. Cotten (Sally) of Lebanon, TN, Dr. Daniel W. Cotten (Darcie) of Knoxville, TN, Mike Guinn of Lebanon, TN and daughters, Mary Jo Cote (Greg) of Goodlettsville, TN, Pat Campbell of Lebanon, TN, and daughter in law, Amanda Cotten of Sparta, TN; 11 grandchildren; and 9 great grandchildren.

Pallbearers for this service will be: Michael Randolph, Nolan McCue, Brody McCue, Greg Cote, Brent Puryear, Wyatt Cotten, Matt Cotten, and Curt Imerman.

Honorary Pallbearers:  The Lebanon Lions Club and the Attorneys of the local bar 15th Judicial District Bar Association and Brownie Hall.

The family would like to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the caretakers at the Pavilion Skilled Nursing/Rehabilitation Center and the Pavilion Assisted Living staff.  He loved you guys!  Also many thanks to Dr. Rob Woods, Dr. Hardie Sorrels, Dr. Ted Bushman, Barbara Wolf, and the staff at Tennova/Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (especially Katie Ward, R.N.)

Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church Music Department.

LIGON & BOBO FUNERAL HOME of Lebanon (615) 444-2142   www.ligonbobo.com

Messages for the Family

  1. Joan Agee Bryan says:
    So sorry to hear this..he was a fine person and a wonderful friend of my family : the Teamon Agee family..we spent good times at there home. we are praying for the family. he was one of a kind and everyone loved him. a wonderful person.
  2. Sherrie Orange says:
    So sorry to hear about Mr.Ernest. I never saw him without a smile on his face. He will be missed in the community.
  3. Randy & Annette Stafford & family says:
    We, the Stafford family send our love and deepest condolences to Billy Cotten & Mary Jo Cote. God Bless
  4. Karen Hobson says:
    So sorry to hear about his passing. I worked for him for about 4 months and loved every minute. I never failed to get a Christmas card from him for several years after I worked there.
  5. John and Myra Jane Sloan says:
    There will never be another one like Ernest. He loved everyone and everyone loved him in return. May God wrap his loving arms around you during this most difficult time.
  6. Lowenid Brown Reinhart says:
    My sincerest thoughts for a great loss go to the family. Mrs. Joanne taught me at LHS and i knew them both all my life in Lebanon. I was Lowenid Brown, grad LHS 1964, now Reinhart, living in AZ. He was a jewel and his spirit will forever be remembered! God Bless and comfort all who mourn.
  7. Wanda Stoner says:
    My heart was broken when I heard the news of my precious friend & really a part of my family had passed. He was the first person I ever worked for all during high school. We laughed we cried and we had so much fun playing jokes on Mr. Lee. Mr. Cotten and his family were and are so precious to me. I would take his children to what ever events they were in for him while he and Mrs. Cotten were working and loved every minute of it. The children probably do not remember me but I sure remember them and how much both Mr. Cotten & Mrs. Cotten loved them. From the cigar hanging from his mouth and him coming in to show me what to do was wonderful. We stayed in touch even after life took me different directions. Precious memories and all great memories I have to remember my precious Mr. Cotten.
  8. Tilford Elkins says:
    Mr. Cotten was the patriarch of a beloved family, all of whom loved others and were true to their friends and family. My family respected the Cotten family, and Mr. Cotten’s smile, his cigar, and the twinkle in his eye shall be greatly missed. May God bless all.
  9. Betty Porter says:
    So sorry to hear of Mr. Cotton’s passing. My aunt, Irene Critz, was his secretary at the Tennessee School Board, and al ways spoke fondly of him, my aunt passed away in 2005 at the age of 100. I met Mr Cotten when I worked in the Sumner County Court system. He was such a kind man and will be missed.