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Wanda Moody, former educator, county commissioner, dies at age 91

Moody gained a reputation as a fierce advocate for public education.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Wanda Moody, a former Knox County commissioner and longtime educator, has died at age 91.

Moody died Sunday morning, according to former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. Ashe's wife, Joan, is Moody's niece.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said he looked to Moody for guidance throughout his life.

"I’m saddened by Wanda’s passing and praying for her loved ones," Burchett said in a statement. "Wanda was a great friend for as long as I can remember, and her mentorship continues to positively influence my public service career. Our community has lost a dedicated public servant, incredible businesswoman and brilliant educator. She will be dearly missed.”

Said Knox County Commissioner Randy Smith: "Knox County and humanity has lost a great one. Wanda Moody has passed. Rest in peace Wanda  knowing you did great things and were an inspiration to many. You meant so much and helped me to be who I am." 

Credit: U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett
Wandy Moody, Mayor Madeline Roger, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett at the 2019 overpass dedication.

A native Knox Countian, Moody grew up on a farm in the Karns area. She got a bachelor's degree in education at the University of Tennessee and taught in Knoxville city schools, years before it merged with the Knox County school system.

She focused in the 1950s on special education, an area in its infancy back then.

Eventually, her interest in education merged with public service.

She worked as an aide to Knoxville Mayor Kyle Testerman in the 1980s, Victor Ashe said.

Moody also served as an assistant education commissioner for special programs for 2 1/2 years while Lamar Alexander was governor. Her chief job was to help school systems develop special education programs.

From 1986-2006, she was a Knox County commissioner.

She was admired as a no-nonsense leader both in education and in government.

In the latter years of her public life, she was known for joining attorney Herbert S. Moncier in challenging Sheriff Tim Hutchison in court on how he ran the office.

Last year, when Moody was 90, the city of Knoxville gave the North Winston Road overpass over Interstate 40/75 in the West Hills neighborhood the honorary name of Wanda Moody Overpass.

Noting the many people including current and former officeholders who turned out for the day, then Mayor Knoxville Madeline Rogero noted, "Wanda, you have a lot of friends."

Services are pending and likely will be private, Victor Ashe said.

Credit: KC Museum of Education
Wanda Moody, talking with the Knox County Museum of Education.