Hollianne’s dad died yesterday. I don’t want to write much about his death, however. I want to talk about his life and his incredible story.
Tommy Holmes was one of the finest men that I’ve ever known. I recognized that he was something special the first time I met him…back in the Fall of 1992. Hollianne had brought me home to Lexington, Tennessee to “meet the parents.” My feelings of anxiety quickly turned to delight upon that first brief encounter with her father, Mr. Tommy. He became my friend.
Born in 1939 in Henderson County, Tennessee, Mr. Tommy was a farmer, business owner and an incredible family man. He served the city of Lexington in numerous ways as a public servant, but perhaps his hallmark traits were those of kindness, approachability, and humility.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
Mr. Tommy did not meet a stranger. His unassuming, friendly nature made him someone that people naturally gravitated toward. The lobby of the family business, Holmes Motor Company, was routinely a gathering place for retirees, fellow businessmen and friends of all ages. It was there that I first heard his nickname, “the boss.” There was irony in that name- as Mr. Tommy never asserted his position in the community, but was better known as a servant. Tommy Holmes personified servant leadership.
Servant Leadership is a buzz phrase in literature focusing on contemporary leadership themes. It is often overused. What does it really mean?
1) Servant leaders pursue their purpose with passion. These folks know what needs to be done in their communities. They accept the burden of leadership and charge toward making a difference. Their involvement is for the greater good, not for personal fame or achievement. Mr. Tommy had many interests, but he was passionate about his family and his community. He worked daily to improve the lives of his family, friends and fellow citizens of Henderson County. He loved people- and worked to serve their needs every day.
2) Servant leaders get out of their comfort zones. Servant leaders get out of their own personal comfort zones and take the more difficult path of leadership. Mr. Tommy could have rested on his laurels as a successful business owner and a family man. His job required long hours at Holmes Ford, and his farming duties often made those work days extend into the night. But Mr. Tommy wanted more. He got out of his comfort zone and worked hard at improving life in Lexington through community organizations such as the school board, Rotary, the Methodist Church, and the City Board of Alderman. He realized that there were difficult decisions to be made in his local community- and Mr. Tommy stepped up to the challenge and helped make tough decisions. He put the needs of others before himself.
3) Servant leaders give back the gift. We have all been assisted by others. Perhaps it was a parent, a relative, a classmate or a teacher….someone, somewhere has helped us out along life’s way. Mr. Tommy gave back. He realized that he had been blessed with great family and good mentors along the way, and he consistently tried to return the favor. He was an encourager and a listener. He was a friend that you could count on when times were hard. He was the first person there to congratulate you for achieving success. He was consistent….absolutely, unequivocally consistent. And we all loved him for it.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10
There won’t be a national news story on the life and death of Tommy Holmes. But- for the thousands of people that were his customers, community friends and business colleagues- there will be lasting memories of his acts of kindness and humility. And for his family, Mr. Tommy leaves a legacy of love and and an incredible example of servant leadership. The life lessons of Tommy Holmes have touched generations to come…and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to witness it.
God bless you, Mr. Tommy. I will never forget you.