She joined CMA as its office manager - and first paid employee - in 1958, and took over the top position four years later. She dedicated almost three decades of her life serving as the Executive Director of the CMA, the longest tenure of any person to hold that position. By the time she retired in 1991 after 29 years as the organization's executive director, country music had pervaded the mainstream.
In 1994, the Country Music Association established the Jo Walker-Meador Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual or organization in supporting and advocating for country music outside of the United States, in her honor.
She died in Nashville early this morning, her daughter Michelle Walker confirmed, according to The Tennessean.
When first hired, Walker-Meador had a very steep learning curve, as she told CountryZone.net in a 2008 interview: "I knew nothing about country music", she said. And then she quietly and gracefully ushered these things into being. She also helped create Fan Fair, which became CMA Fest, and she was known as a strong female voice on the CMA board of directors, which was overrun with men.
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Jo Walker-Meador, one of the pioneers of what we now know as country music, died at age 93, in Nashville, today, August 16, after suffering a stroke. "Why don't we just hire her?'" Walker-Meador remembered. "She left a mark on this town and this business that will never be erased".
"Jo hosted so many fabulous events at the annual NARM Convention, showcasing Country artists such as Roy Clark at our 1974 event, celebrating the genre's successes and building relationships with the retail community to promote Country music", the statement continued.
Her passing came the day after the second round of voting for this year's CMA Awards opened. "I love Jo with all my heart and I will miss her for the rest of my life". "On behalf of the Music Business Association, I want to extend our deepest condolences to Jo's family and friends and, of course, everyone at CMA". Initially a staff of one, she did whatever had to be done to pursue the best interests of the Association and Country Music.
Born Edith Josephine Denning in Orlinda, Tenn., on February 16, 1924, Walker-Meador's experience with country was similar to much of its fan base in previous decades, paying little attention to it during her formative years, but becoming a believer when she entered adulthood.