Joe M. Rodgers

Last updated
Joe M. Rodgers
United States Ambassador to France
In office
September 20, 1985 January 8, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Evan Griffith Galbraith
Succeeded by Walter Curley
Personal details
Born(1933-11-12)November 12, 1933
Bay Minette, Alabama, U.S.
DiedFebruary 2, 2009(2009-02-02) (aged 75)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Spouse(s)Helen Martin "Honey" Rodgers
Alma mater University of Alabama

Joe M. Rodgers (November 12, 1933 February 2, 2009) was an American construction company executive and political operative who served as the United States Ambassador to France.


Early life

Rodgers was born on November 12, 1933, in Bay Minette, Alabama. He was raised in Montgomery, Alabama where he graduated from Sidney Lanier High School. He attended the University of Alabama, where he was awarded a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1956. [1] He served in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps from 1956 to 1958, where he became a lieutenant. [2] [3]

Business career

Rodgers had worked as sales manager for Dixie Concrete Pipe and went out on his own, starting a construction firm in 1966. Having been given a ticket and a house share for the 1968 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Rodgers ended up sharing a home with Thomas Frist, a doctor from Nashville, Tennessee, who had just started a private hospital company called Hospital Corporation of America. The two built a connection while walking the golf course and Frist offered Rodgers a contract to build a hospital in Erin, Tennessee, for HCA. By 1970, Rodgers had built 19 hospitals for Hospital Corporation of America and had built 200 for the company by 1979, generating $120 million in revenue that year. [1]

His firm took on a project in April 1972 to complete the building of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company's Opryland USA complex which had been scheduled to open on May 19, but had been delayed due to a strike by workers at another construction firm. Rodgers and his subcontractors crossed the picket lines and were able to earn a bonus for completing the project two days early, which was accomplished by working on shifts around the clock. The $50,000 bonus was turned over to local Boy and Girl Scout groups. [1]

Rodgers sold a majority stake in his construction company after a 1977 heart attack and shifted into real estate development. Projects he developed included Vanderbilt Plaza and the Third National Bank building (which has since been renamed the Fifth Third Center), both in downtown Nashville. He started American Constructors in 1979, which built Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Wildhorse Saloon. [1]

In 1987, Rodgers was described by The New York Times as "a leading candidate to head the Department of Commerce" to succeed Malcolm Baldrige Jr., a post that ultimately went to William Verity Jr. [4]

Rodgers was named to serve as chairman and acting CEO of Berlitz International, following the mysterious death of former part-owner Robert Maxwell in 1991. He also served as a director of several major corporations and was active in a number of local civic, charitable and religious organizations. [1]


During the 1976 Republican presidential primaries, Rodgers was an early supporter of Ronald Reagan's unsuccessful effort against President Gerald Ford and was finance chairman for Reagan's Tennessee primary campaign. He served as the Republican National Committee's finance chairman from 1978 to 1980, raising $75 million during his tenure. After Reagan was elected President in 1980, he named Rodgers to serve on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In 1984, building on his continued efforts raising funds for Republican candidates, he was the finance chief for Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. [1]

Rogers was fundraising co-chair for Fred Thompson's 2008 presidential campaign bid. [1]

Ambassador to France

In recognition of his efforts, Reagan named him in 1985 to a four-year term as the United States Ambassador to France. Rodgers had never been a diplomat and spoke no French, and spent six hours a day for a four-month period studying the language. [5] Rodgers undertook a fundraising campaign to collect $500,000 to be used towards fixing up the ambassador's residence, raising $100,000 towards this goal by September 1985 after writing to 250 U.S. companies for donations. [6] He and his wife resided in the official residence in Paris, where they would serve GooGoo Clusters, a hometown Nashville delicacy, to their diplomatic guests. [1]

Rodgers accompanied President of France François Mitterrand on a Seine riverboat ride to the Île aux Cygnes where they unveiled a renovated replica of the Statue of Liberty, as part of ceremonies marking the centennial of the French gift to the United States. [7] Rodgers represented the United States at ceremonies on June 6, 1986, to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Normandy Landings. [8]

Mitterrand recognized Rodgers with the rank of Grand Officier of the Legion of Honor. [1]

Personal life and death

Rogers resided in Nashville, Tennessee. [9]

Rodgers died of cancer on February 2, 2009 in Nashville, at age 75. [9] He was survived by his wife, Helen Martin "Honey" Rodgers, to whom he had been married for 52 years, as well as a daughter, a son and eight grandchildren. [1]

Related Research Articles

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. With a population of 689,447 as of the 2020 United States census, it is the 21st most-populous city in the United States and the third most populous in the Southeastern United States.

Tennessee Valley Authority American utility company

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally-owned electric utility corporation in the United States. TVA's service area covers all of Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small areas of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. While owned by the federal government, TVA receives no taxpayer funding and operates similar to a for-profit company. It is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is the sixth largest power supplier and largest public utility in the country.

Bill Frist Former United States Senator from Tennessee

William Harrison Frist is an American physician, businessman, and politician who served as United States Senator from Tennessee from 1995 to 2007. A heart and lung transplant surgeon by occupation, he was Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Jim Sasser

James Ralph Sasser is an American politician, diplomat, and attorney. A Democrat, Sasser served three terms as a United States Senator from Tennessee from 1977 to 1995, and was Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. From 1996 to 1999, during the Clinton Administration, he was the United States Ambassador to China.

Jim Cooper American politician

James Hayes Shofner Cooper is an American lawyer and politician who has served since 2003 as the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 5th congressional district. He is a member of the Democratic Party and the Blue Dog Coalition, and represented Tennessee's 4th congressional district from 1983 to 1995. His district includes a large part of Nashville. He is the dean of Tennessee's congressional delegation.

HCA Healthcare American healthcare facilities company

HCA Healthcare is an American for-profit operator of health care facilities that was founded in 1968. It is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and, as of May 2020, owns and operates 186 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding emergency rooms, urgent care centers and physician clinics in 21 states and the United Kingdom.

Armando Valladares Perez is a Cuban-American poet, diplomat and human rights activist.

Mount Olivet Cemetery (Nashville) Historic cemetery in Davidson County, Tennessee

Mount Olivet Cemetery is a 206-acre (83 ha) cemetery located in Nashville, Tennessee. It is located approximately two miles East of downtown Nashville, and adjacent to the Catholic Calvary Cemetery. It is open to the public during daylight hours.

WNFN is a Top 40 (CHR) formatted radio station in the Nashville, Tennessee market, broadcasting a Top 40 format. Its transmitter site is in Whites Creek, Tennessee and its studios are in Berry Hill, Tennessee.

Guilford Dudley Jr. was an American businessman and diplomat. He served as the United States Ambassador to Denmark under the Nixon Administration.

Jack C. Massey

Jack Carroll Massey was an American venture capitalist and entrepreneur who owned Kentucky Fried Chicken, co-founded the Hospital Corporation of America, and owned one of the largest franchisees of Wendy's. He was the first American businessman to take three different companies public.

John Bruce "Chip" Saltsman, Jr. is an American politician who has served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 1999 to 2001, senior political advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and manager of Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign. He also worked for the Chuck Fleischmann campaign in Tennessee's 3rd district from 2009 to 2010.

Erastus Milo Cravath

Erastus Milo Cravath (1833–1900) was a pastor and American Missionary Association (AMA) official who after the American Civil War, helped found Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and numerous other historically black colleges in Georgia and Tennessee for the education of freedmen. He also served as president of Fisk University for more than 20 years.

Thomas F. Frist Jr. American billionaire businessman, wealthiest person in Tennessee

Thomas Fearn Frist Jr. is an American billionaire physician and businessman. He is a co-founder of HCA Healthcare, and the wealthiest person in Tennessee.

Samuel Ramsey Rodgers was an American attorney, judge and politician, who served as Speaker of the Tennessee Senate during the months following the Civil War. He oversaw the passage of several important pieces of legislation in the senate, including the state's ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Rodgers remained loyal to the Union during the war, and chaired the convention that reorganized the state government in January 1865.

Thomas F. Frist III is an American heir, businessman, investor and philanthropist from Tennessee. He is the Founder and Managing Principal of Frist Capital, an investment firm.

William R. Frist is an American heir, businessman, investor and philanthropist from Tennessee.

Patricia Champion Frist was an American businesswoman and philanthropist from Tennessee.

Bill Hagerty United States Senator from Tennessee

William Francis Hagerty IV is an American politician, businessman, and diplomat serving as the junior United States Senator from Tennessee since 2021. A member of the Republican Party, he served as the 30th U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 2017 to 2019.

Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP is a large U.S. law firm in Nashville, Tennessee with other offices in the Southern United States.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Wood, E. Thomas. "Joe M. Rodgers dies at 75" Archived 2009-02-09 at the Wayback Machine , , February 2, 2009. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  2. "Nomination of Joe M. Rodgers To Be United States Ambassador to France, The American Presidency Project website, July 09, 1985. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  3. "Senate Joint Resolution 75". Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  4. Rasky, Susan F. "A FRONT-RUNNER FOR COMMERCE POST", The New York Times , August 1, 1987. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  5. via Associated Press . "Joe M. Rodgers",, February 4, 2009. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  6. Clarity, James F.; and Weaver, Warren Jr. "Briefing: Mr. Ambassador", The New York Times , September 145, 1985. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  7. Lewis, Paul. "FRANCE CELEBRATES MLLE. LIBERTE", The New York Times , June 29, 1986. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  8. via Associated press , "D-Day Marked in Normandy", The New York Times , June 7, 1986. Accessed February 4, 2009.
  9. 1 2 "JOE M. RODGERS. U.S. Ambassador to France in '80s" . The Los Angeles Times. February 13, 2009. p. B6. Retrieved December 17, 2017 via
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Evan Griffith Galbraith
U.S. Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Walter Curley