Former Bethel University Athletic Director
A political icon for decades
Mayor Dale R. Kelley, 82, of Huntingdon passed away Saturday, August 20 at his home. Funeral services will be conducted 11:00 AM Wednesday, August 24 at the Huntingdon First Baptist Church. Burial will follow in Oak Hill Cemetery. The family will receive friends at Huntingdon First Baptist Church on Tuesday from 2:00 PM until 8:00 PM and on Wednesday from 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM. Mayor Kelley graduated from Huntingdon High School Class of 1957, received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Bethel College, and Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bethel University. He also served four years in the United States Air Force as a Communications Specialist. Mayor Kelley began his career in government service as Carroll County Assessor of Property for four years and then later served as a Carroll County Commissioner for five years. He served three terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Mayor Kelley served under three Tennessee governors: Commissioner of Employment Security and Commissioner of Transportation under Governor Lamar Alexander, a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission under Governor Don Sundquist, and Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to Governor Bill Haslam. It was Kelley’s brainchild to a develop a lake in Carroll County for economic development and recreation. In 1984, he took it to legislature and the Beaver Creek Watershed Authority (subsequently amended as Carroll County Watershed Authority) was born.
He worked tirelessly from 1984 until present day on the creation and development of what is now known as Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreational Lake. He also served on the Carroll County Watershed Authority Board as Secretary/Treasurer. He was the Mayor of Huntingdon at the time of his passing, a role he held for 30 years. He was past president of the West TN Mayor’s Association. He served on the TN Municipal League Board of Directors, TN Municipal League Risk Management Pool Board, and TN Municipal Bond Fund Board. He was recognized as the 2008 Tommie Goodwin Mayor of the Year Award for the State of Tennessee presented by the Tennessee Municipal League. The Kelley Sports Complex was completed and named for him in 1998. He led the vision and development of The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center, Home of the Hal Holbrook Theatre. Mayor Kelley was also an accomplished athlete as a basketball and baseball player at Bethel College. He was an on-court Basketball Official for SEC, OVC, SunBelt, SWC, and Metro conferences, where he worked nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
He was selected to officiate three NCAA Final Four competitions. He was also Coordinator of Officials for the Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, Sun Belt Conference, Southland Conference, and Ohio Valley Conference. Mayor Kelley served as Director of Athletics for Bethel University from 2012 – 2022. He was a member of the Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame, the TSSAA Hall of Fame, the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame, and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He served on the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Additionally, Mayor Kelley was the owner of K & K Real Estate and Rental Properties. Mayor Kelley was the 1985 Bethel College Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award winner. He was the first recipient of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s Carroll Countian of the Year honor. He was a Carroll County Silver Medallion Award winner and a recipient of Huntingdon’s Pinnacle of Excellence Award for outstanding leadership and accomplishments in government, athletics, and community. Mayor Kelley was a member of Huntingdon First Baptist Church, since the age of 13. He was a former Deacon at Huntingdon First Baptist Church serving as Chairman for four years. Mayor Kelley was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse Kelley and Ruth Helen White Kelley and two brothers James Kelley and Dwayne Kelley.
Mayor Kelley is survived by his wife of 57 years Carlene Tullos Kelley; two daughters Amanda (Rick) Wallace of Huntingdon and Meredith (Tommy) Surber of McKenzie; one son Cliff (Holly) Kelley of Huntingdon; eight grandchildren Payten Plunk, Jack Surber, Cole Edwards, Eli Surber, Ty Kelley, Tate Surber, Quinn Kelley, and Max Kelley.