William S. Trent (1941-2022)
William S. Trent, folk-historian, humanist, naturalist, and beloved father and husband passed away Wednesday, the 12th of January, 2022, at the age of 80. Surrounded by the sounds of the music he loved, he was comforted by his wife Juanita and daughter, Candice Durman. His kind heart, curious mind, and quirky nature touched and inspired his loved ones from Tennessee to Texas to Alaska. His wisdom, his humor, and his casual joy for life will be sorely missed.
William was born on June 6, 1941, in Rogersville, Tennessee to the late Ina Cole Trent and Grant Ellis Trent. William’s love of East Tennessee, both the people and the land, began at an early age. He and his brother, Lowell Trent, worked at his dad’s store, Trent’s Little Market, and they were the best of friends. He loved to hear his brother play guitar and this sparked his life-long love of music. As a young man, he joined the Air Force and became a radio operator. He served in Taiwan and, when he returned Stateside, marveled at the development and performance of experimental aircraft, which he observed from the radio tower where he was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He always said the Air Force did more for him than he did for it. His experiences in the Air Force certainly inspired his love of learning, his faith in science, and his wonder at new technology and space exploration.
After the Air Force, William settled in Morristown and attended Walters State Community College where he received an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science. He worked for School Calendar Company and Morrison’s Communications for many years as their Director of Sales. Though he always described himself as shy and awkward, he was not afraid to talk to strangers and learn about their lives. He continued his life as a sales representative for Charter Media until he retired. Sales gave William the opportunity to travel, see new places, learn new histories, and he never grew tired of doing just that.
When he wasn’t working, William was an avid collector of local ballads, having recorded hundreds of songs sung by elders across the region. He donated his collection of recordings to East Tennessee State University. He also donated other historic and cultural research to various historical organizations and museums in the area. Throughout his life William enjoyed writing and he authored a number of poems, a movie script, and two books. Across the Mountain Over on Clinch: A Folk History: Volumes I and II are detailed accounts of the genealogy of his people and the folk history of his childhood home place Choptack, Tennessee, Rogersville, Tennessee, and the surrounding area. He also loved Panther Creek State Park where he cataloged and photographed examples of nearly every wildflower in the park. The book he made of those photographs is available for viewing at the Welcome Center at the Park. All of his grandchildren, Mattie Meacham and Charlie Meacham of Houston, and Will Durman of Jefferson City, have hiked with “Pop” through the trails of Panther Park. They were taught the history of the native American tribes of East Tennessee and the history of their ancestors. These lessons and memories are cherished by his daughters, Lisa Meacham (Charlie) of Houston, Candice Durman (Chris) of Jefferson City, Sarah Ann Drinnon, and his step-son, Wayne Wolffe (Jamie).
In William’s later life, he took his role of Grandfather very seriously and he shared himself generously with his own grandchildren and the children of others, especially Kiri Brimhall, Greyson, Garrett, and Sawyer Gibson. These wonderful children brought William much joy.
The family will hold a graveside service, along with military honors, at Choptack Baptist Church Cemetery on Friday, January 21st, at 2:00 pm, where he will be laid to rest with his family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the following organizations in his name:
in memoriam of Wiliam S. Trent to:
Race 3.21 for Down Syndrome Awareness
Panther Creek State Park