John Francis "Jack" Gaither, Sr., born October 26, 1918 in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Thomas R. and Maurice F. Gaither has the distinction of serving the Society longer than any other member thus far. Jack served on the first Board of Directors, a position he held several times, in addition to Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and President. He also has the distinction of being the first President elected who was not a founder of the Society, a challenge that Jack summed up well in the words he wrote in 1988 “The major issue [is] the fact that the Society is at a crossroads… Our charge is to carry forward the aims and goals of the founders and to enhance them... We now need to strengthen our ties with each other.” Jack knew then, four years after the Society was formed, that the enthusiasm created by the founders and the “newness of the Society would wear off and that those of us that have inherited this great gift, must “carry forward” and enhance the aims and goals of those founders."
At age 96 and 31 years after first serving on the Board of Directors, Jack was on hand at the 32nd Reunion and Annual Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, accompanied by his son John Francis Gaither, Jr. Asked how his father became interested in his family’s history, John Jr. replied, “My father spent much of his young life in a large house in Louisville, KY. Hung in this home were large oil paintings. When as a young child I visited this home, where his mother then still lived, he told me that these were our ancestors. So growing up, Gaither family history was always around me. It only required a little encouragement for my grandmother, Maurice Francis Gaither, to unroll a roll of shelf paper on which she had diagrammed the family tree and tell stories about various ancestors.” Just another example of the enthusiasm passed down, generation to generation, for Gaither family history.
Jack graduated from University of Notre Dame in 1941, and like so many other young men, served our country in the U.S. Navy 1942-1946, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Senior Grade. His career in accounting took him from the corporate world with Whirlpool Corporation, through public service as comptroller and Deputy Mayor in the City of Evansville, Indiana, to owning his own public accounting firm, Gaither, Rutherford & Company.
It is with pleasure that the Society honors John Francis Gaither for his service to the Society and to this country, and his distinguished career.