Dr. Harris Oliver Yates, age 78, passed away peacefully at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee on Thursday, January 24, 2013. He was born April 14, 1934 to the late Harry A. and Isabel Oliver Yates on the outskirts of Paducah, Kentucky. Oliver was a devout Christian whose gifted passion was to learn about biology. After high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Betty Sue Watkins, and moved to Nashville to pursue a lifelong career in education. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Cell Biology with a Minor in Chemistry from David Lipscomb College; a Master’s degree in Biology-Botany with a Minor in Geology-Botany,...
Dr. Harris Oliver Yates, age 78, passed away peacefully at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee on Thursday, January 24, 2013. He was born April 14, 1934 to the late Harry A. and Isabel Oliver Yates on the outskirts of Paducah, Kentucky.
Oliver was a devout Christian whose gifted passion was to learn about biology. After high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Betty Sue Watkins, and moved to Nashville to pursue a lifelong career in education. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Cell Biology with a Minor in Chemistry from David Lipscomb College; a Master’s degree in Biology-Botany with a Minor in Geology-Botany, Bacteriology & Cytology from George Peabody College for Teachers and a PhD in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University in 1976, which was unique because it was hand written by the faculty.
Oliver began teaching Molecular Biology at David Lipscomb in the fall of 1957, eventually being named Chair of the Biology Department from 1972-1993. He retired full-time in 2011. He was instrumental with the growth of the college and often participated in grant writing and building programs. He became a national figure within the medical field for his research in paraganglioma, a tumor of neurological tissue which produced tremendous negative effects on the nervous system upon removal. Dr. Yates has helped in development of the pharmacology and treatment of patients who have had these removed. He was honored with fellow colleague Dr. Paul Langford as the Langford/Yates Distinguished Professor of Biology.
In 1958, a dear friend introduced him to a part-time teaching position at John A. Gupton Mortuary School. In 1960 he was appointed Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee, a position he held until his death. In 1964 he became the Director of General Education when John A. Gupton Mortuary School was chartered and the name changed to John A. Gupton College. Dr. Yates, along with Mr. & Mrs. Gupton and other faculty, set a benchmark within the Funeral Profession by obtaining regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and being nationally accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. He has worked extensively on five accreditations with S.A.C.S. & eight accreditations with A.B.F.S.E. Dr. Yates has been as loyal to Gupton as he has Lipscomb. During his tenure at Gupton College, he was a model educator and a constant driving force for 100 percent alumni support and was instrumental in creating an endowment fund. The highest tier for the endowment fund at Gupton College is the Harris O. Yates Fund, dedicated for his tireless efforts for supporting John A. Gupton College.
Dr. Yates` greatest triumph and gift to society was his efforts to save an endangered lake from destruction. In the late 1950s, Dr. Yates began doing enviromental studies at Radnor Lake, a man-made lake created as a livestock water source that was operated and owned by the L & N Railroad, southeast of the Lipscomb Campus. The lake was sold in 1962 to a private development company who wanted to build homes along the lake and turn it into a resort. Dr. Yates, along with other activists, attorney Clark & Ann Tidwell and state naturalist Mack Prichard, began fighting to save Radnor Lake. In 1972, Dr. Yates, along with a few other dedicated citizens, presented a proposal to Governor Winfield Dunn explaining the biological importance and qualities of preserving an ecosystem such as Radnor Lake. These efforts ultimately resulted in the State of Tennessee purchasing and designating Radnor Lake as Tennessee’s first Natural Area in 1972. Today it consists of more than 1,200 acres and is complete with walking and hiking trails, an observatory and a safe haven for area wildlife. Dr. Yates was awarded the Radnor Lake Environmental Award on April 15, 2012. The award is traditionally given to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving Radnor Lake’s precious resources and building public-private relationships.
His hobbies were gardening, fishing, boating, planting fruit trees and vineyards and spending time with his family. He was a long standing member of Harpeth Hills Church of Christ, serving in many roles within this church family and, more recently, at Brentwood Hills Church of Christ. In addition, he was a founding member of AGAPE and Nashville Inner City Ministry.
In 2010, Dr. Yates was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, but handled his declining health with great dignity and with a positive outlook. In spite of the fact that he required full time oxygen in his final months, he requested the use of a microphone in order to continue to teach his students.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, William Alton Yates and his first wife, Betty Sue Watkins Yates. He and Betty had three daughters; Cindy, Jana and Melodie. Betty passed away in 1998. In 2007, he married Betty Sue Brumback-Brigham. While mentoring Oliver’s granddaughter Camille, they were set up on a ice-cream date that turned into a lasting friendship and eventual marriage.
Oliver is survived by his wife, Betty B. Yates, daughters Cindy (Larry) Hunt, Jana (Steve) Shelton, Melodie (Rick) Ellison and step-daughter Heather (Josh) Tiffany; Grandchildren Chelsea (Michael) Lanier, Camie Hunt, Camille Wornock, Morgan & Jake Ellison and one sister Judy Atkins.
Visitation will be held Sunday, January 27, 2013 from two o’clock until five o’clock in the afternoon and from seven o’clock until nine o’clock in the evening at Lipscomb University's Ezell Center Chapel. He will be interred privately at Woodlawn Memorial Park. In lieu of traditional remembrances, memorials may be made to the Yates Family Endowment of Lipscomb University or Friends of Radnor Lake.
Professional Care provided by: Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home & Memorial Park