Frances Williams PRESTON

  • "My heart and prayers go out to the entire Preston Family,..."
    - Tami Parker
  • "To the family of Frances Preston: Frances was a pioneer as..."
    - Linda Lucchesi
  • "Ar dheis de. She did such a wonderful job at BMI, NY and..."
    - Jim Conlon
  • "Frances was a true Southern woman. Full of grace but strong..."
    - Rebekah Oldham Cox
    - Sandy

PRESTON, Frances WilliamsOne of the most successful and highly placed female music executives in the history of the entertainment industry, passed away Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at age 83, surrounded by family at her Nashville home. Considered the guardian angel of songwriters, Mrs. Preston is credited by many with coining the Nashville songwriter's creed, "It all begins with a song." Mrs. Preston spent virtually her entire six-decade career with performance rights giant BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) and was long the international face for Nashville's music industry, first as head of BMI's Nashville office and later as president of the company (1986-2004), head-quartered in New York. She was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. Mrs. Preston retired from BMI in 2004 and returned to Nashville full-time in 2007. Mrs. Preston's groundbreaking career was one that made history with many firsts -- she was the first female executive on Nashville's fledgling Music Row, joining BMI shortly before her friend, Jo Walker-Meador, was named to lead the Country Music Association (CMA); was reportedly the first female corporate executive in Tennessee; the first woman elected to the board of governors of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; the first woman to serve as board chair of the CMA; and the first woman appointed to the board of directors of New York's prestigious Friar's Club. She was honored and awarded countless times, even after her retirement. At the 1998 Grammys she received a National Trustees Award, the highest recognition given by the Recording Academy (NARAS) to a non-performer. In 1999, she was named Person of the Year at the MIDEM convention in Cannes, France, the highest international award accorded to a music industry executive. She accepted the President's Award from the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) in 2001, and in 2002 was given the President's Award by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). In 2007, she was enshrined in the Music City Walk of Fame in downtown Nashville. In 2010, the women's music industry organization SOURCE gave her the Jo Walker-Meador Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Nashville Songwriters Foundation (NSF) paid tribute to her with their Mentor Award, renaming it the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award. At the 2011 BMI Country Awards, the top prize for song of the year was rechristened the BMI Frances W. Preston Award. Mrs. Preston volunteered her time to many philanthropic endeavors; dearest to her was the T.J. Martell Foundation, the music industry's leading charity. Upon receiving the Martell's Humanitarian Award in 1992, she expanded the foundation's outreach to include the Nashville community and spearheaded the creation of the Frances Williams Preston Research Laboratories as a cornerstone of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Vanderbilt's Medical Research Building II, the focal point for VICC research, was renamed the Frances Williams Preston Building in 2001. In 2009, she was given the Lifetime Music Industry Award at the inaugural T.J. Martell Honors Gala in Nashville. At the 2012 Martell Honors event on March 26, she and Emmylou Harris presented Kris Kristofferson with the rechristened Frances Williams Preston Lifetime Music Industry Award. Mrs. Preston was born on August 27, 1928 in Nashville. She graduated from North Central High and attended the George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University. Her first job was at the National Life & Casualty Insurance Company in downtown Nashville, which segued into the receptionist's position at the company-owned WSM radio station. Her vibrant personality caught the attention of Robert J. Burton, then president of BMI, and in 1958 Judge Burton hired Mrs. Preston (then Frances Williams) to open a Nashville office for the company, making BMI the first performing rights entity with a full-time presence in the South. She was preceded in death by her parents, Irene and Baumann Williams; her brother, Douglas Williams, a noted artist and interior designer. Mrs. Preston married the late E.J. Preston, a Nashville businessman, in 1962. She is survived by three sons, William Kirk Preston, David J. (Emily) Preston and Donald L. Preston all of Nashville; six grandchildren, Taylor Preston, Lindsey Preston, Jake Preston, Matthew Preston, Stuart Preston and Frannie (Brent) Daughrity; great granddaughter, Preston Rose Daughrity. Visitation for family, friends and colleagues will be on Sunday, June 17, 2012 from 5-9 p.m. at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where Mrs. Preston will lie in repose in the Rotunda. A private funeral will take place at First Lutheran Church, with a private graveside service and burial to follow at Nashville's Landmark Spring Hill Cemetery. Active Pallbearers will be Tom Annastas, Devoran Atwood, Fred Cannon, Dennis DiTraglia, Buckland Farnor, Dr. David Hansen, Bobby Kelley, Stan Moress, Roger Sovine and Harry Warner. Honorary Pallbearers are Phil Graham, Mike O'Neill, Alison Smith, Faye Smith and Jody Williams. Memorial contributions may be made to the T.J. Martell Foundation, 15 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203, or the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-7727 (c/o Gifts Processing PMB 407727). Professional arrangements entrusted to SPRING HILL FUNERAL HOME & CEMETERY, 5110 Gallatin Road at Briley Parkway, Nashville, TN, (615) 865-1101

Funeral Home
Spring Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery
5110 Gallatin Pike Nashville, TN 37216
(615) 865-1101
Funeral Home Details
Published in The Tennessean on June 15, 2012
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