Donna Basham, in her role as Election Administrator for Grundy County, is very busy during election years. However, she doesn’t slow down during non-election years either. She recently spoke with the Herald about her family, her work, and her love of Grundy County.
Donna was born at the Palmer Clinic, then operated by Dr. Clements and his nurse, Maxine Brown.
“A lot of Grundy County residents of my generation made their first appearance in the world at this facility,” says Donna.
“My parents were Eugene Gifford and Georgia Lockhart Gifford; they lived in Palmer at the time of my birth. My siblings include brothers Mike Gifford, who lives in Sewanee with his wife Tina; Keith Nunley, who resides in Gruetli-Laager with his wife Charlene; and my younger brother Ricky Nunley, who makes his home in Jacksonville, Florida with wife Terry.
“I have one sister, Kathy Nunley VanHooser, who lived in Tracy City with her husband and two children before passing away at the age of 36 from complications of leukemia. My brother Gary Gifford passed from the same illness at the age of 58 while living with his wife, Laura in Hohenwald. He had two children. Both, Gary and Kathy left us far too soon and we miss them very much. We keep their memory alive with fun stories and good recollections of times we all got to spend together.
“I started the first grade at Palmer Elementary. Later, I attended James K. Shook School for a short time while living with my grandparents, Frank and Alice Lockhart on Orange Hill in Tracy City, and then back to Palmer. Before starting third grade, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with my mother and her new husband, Isaac Nunley, originally from Tracy City.
“Ohio, for me, was an absolute culture shock. Moving there from a tight-knit community where most people knew one another and most times were warm and friendly. At that time, Cleveland was flooded with folks moving in from the south and many foreign countries. There were 55 – 60 students in most classrooms from many ethnic backgrounds and some unable to speak English. Like most young children, I eventually adapted to the different cultures and finished high school there.
“While living in Cleveland during my school years, I spent most of my summer vacations with my grandparents in Palmer and relatives in Tracy City. By the mid-1960s, our entire family had moved back to Grundy County and I have lived in Tracy City since then, and for the past 24 years I have lived on Orange Hill Rd at the same location where my grandparents resided, only the home place is different.
“I have a son Jimmy Blair and he is an electrician living in Cordova with his wife Shari, a nurse. He has a grown daughter, Tristen, that lives in Texas. My daughter, Dusty Geary Adkins, lives in Jasper, with her husband of 15 years, Don Adkins. Dusty works at the Marion County Courthouse in the Chancery Court Clerks Office as a deputy clerk. Her husband Don is a banker and they are the parents of two of the most precious, wonderful little boys I have ever seen – Griffin, 11, and Noah, 9. Both attend public schools in Jasper.
“I have worked all of my adult life and a quite a lot through my teenage years babysitting my younger brothers and sister. I’ve worked in Monteagle at Harveys Restaurant, and later, I worked weekends at Tubby’s BBQ while taking an IBM keypunch class in Chattanooga. I was a seasonal employee with Olan Mills, Inc., working in the school division for several years. I also worked at W.R. Geary & Sons, Amtane Gas Company, and in Sewanee for Dr. David Hopkins.
“For the past 31 years, I have been employed by The Grundy County Election Commission as administrator. An ad was placed in the Grundy County Herald seeking a part-time office employee for two and one-half days a week, serving as Registrar at Large. Having two school-aged children, I thought that seemed to work out just right.
“A couple years later the Tennessee General Assembly made the position full time for all counties providing the employee pass an Election Law exam given by the Secretary of State. At the time of my employment, the commission members that hired me were Nelson Layne, Garry Miller, Betty King, Herbert Garner, and CB Lockhart. After being off of the commission for several years, Garry Miller returned in 2013 and now serves as the commission chairman along with Judith Gunn, Louie Ladd, Robert Willems, and Daranda Hargis.
“Like everyone else that has grandchildren, I love spending time with them and attending their school and church activities. My siblings and I get together as often as possible, celebrating birthdays, graduations, or just any reason to together. We really enjoy each other’s company and there is never a dull moment around my brothers. I love traveling and have been to all 50 states and the great southwestern states are my favorite for touring. I would recommend to anyone that hasn’t been and has the opportunity to go, to do so.
“I love music. When driving, cooking, or cleaning house most times I’ll be listening to a favorite station or to a selected collection of music. I’m a big fan of classic country and of the golden oldies of the 1950s and 60s. I think a lot of the newer country music has a rock sound and I am glad to see that singers like, Vince Gill, George Strait, Loretta Lynn, and a few more, continue to keep some of the same traditional sounds with a few updated notes and musical sounds.
“I think Grundy County is a great place to live. We are surrounded by nature’s most beautiful landscape with hiking trails, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, caves, and soon to be an all-terrain vehicle access park along with many more points of interest. So many officials, groups, and community organizations have been involved in maintaining, improving, and moving forward with projects to even further the beautification of our countryside.
Someday, I hope to see Grundy County have passing lanes on all main highways. Not a new road system, just passing lanes. Smaller counties like Van Buren and Sequatchie have great roadways. There are a lot of car accidents in Grundy County and it goes without saying that passing lanes could possibly make a difference.”
Stop in and say to Donna at the Grundy County Courthouse.