Nashville Honky Tonk Entrepreneur, Alton Ross Jr. Dies at 83

Alton Ross Jr. – Al, to all who knew and admired him – helped shape the city he loved through the clubs and eateries he co-owned. He devoted himself to charitable causes. He never met a stranger, saving the biggest part of his big heart for his family, and especially his wife, Wanda.

Al passed away suddenly on December 1, 2019, having packed a lot of life into 83 years.

Al was born on Feb. 15, 1936, in Tompkinsville, Ky., son of Alton and Mary Ross. He was a multi-sport star at Tompkinsville High School, attended Lincoln Memorial University on a baseball scholarship, then graduated from Western Kentucky University with a business degree. He also attended Wharton School, the prestigious business school of the University of Pennsylvania. Amazing how he would put all that business schooling to use!

He started his career managing a Fruit of the Loom plant in Lafayette, Tn. He left manufacturing to become a stockbroker, eventually rising to the position of partner and head of retail sales for the Tennessee region of Nashville-based J.C. Bradford & Co., the investment banking and brokerage giant.

Combining his mastery of “the art of the deal” and “his love of Nashville” — you have a man who found his calling. Al often partnered with business mogul Steve Smith, having a stake in a number of clubs and restaurants, among them the iconic Tootsie’s Orchard Loungein Panama City Beach, Florida. He was so proud of Nashville’s downtown growth, and Broadway’s stature with music lovers worldwide. Al had a vision to buy property on Broadway. Other establishments with which he was involved include Honky Tonk CentralRippy’s Bar & GrillKid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Rock ‘n’ Roll SteakhouseThe Diner, and Old Hickory Country Club. For a time, he owned the Nashville Kats Arena Football League team. How many readers just finished that last sentence with a smile, and a memory made at one of Al’s iconic establishments?

Al is survived by his wife, Wanda, with whom he shared 61 loving years; one son, Hardy and his wife, Elisabeth, of Nashville; beloved granddaughters Lindsey and Jessica; his brother, Dr. Jay Ross, and his wife, Ann, of Tampa, Fla.; and three nephews – Cary, Brian and David Ross, all of Tampa, Fla.

A Rosary will be held at 4:30 p.m. Friday, December 6, at Saint Henry Catholic Church6401 Harding Pike in Nashville. Visitation and a reception follow from 5 to 8 p.m. at the church. A service to celebrate Al’s life will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 7, at Saint Henry. A celebration of life will follow immediately at The Diner200 Third Ave. S. in Nashville.

Floral arrangements are welcome. Gifts in his memory can be made to Alive Hospice1718 Patterson St., Nashville, Tn. 37203 or Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt2200 Children’s Way, Nashville, Tn. 37232.

Al was a member of the U.S. Army, serving his country from 1953-55 in Germany.

Al played tennis and golf and loved music, including the harmonies sounding forth from his places of business. He believed in giving back. The cause closest to his heart was Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where he volunteered each Monday morningsince 2012, 815 hours in all. He donated a room at the hospital in honor of his two granddaughters, Lindsey and Jessica.

For all the lives Al Ross enriched in this world, and in Nashville in particular, we raise a glass.

Marshall-Donnelly-Combs Funeral Home is taking care of the family.

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