By Roger Redding
ALCOA, Tenn. (Oct. 20, 2015) -- Erma Greenwood was a native of Honaker, Va., who was born into a family of lawyers. Her grandfather, father, and brother all practiced law in Virginia.
With the law in her genes, she completed her undergraduate and legal education at Duke University, where she was the only female law-school graduate in the class of 1939. Her Duke classmates included a fellow named Richard Nixon, known to her simply as “Dick.
After graduation Erma returned home to practice law with her father before moving to Knoxville, Tenn., in 1943 to join the law firm that is now known as Kramer Rayson LLP. She also joined Church Street Methodist Church.
Erma was active in the community and a supporter of the rescue squad, Girl Scouts, and Traveler’s Aid. She served as president of the East Tennessee Community Improvement Program. As an accomplished attorney, she was the first woman to receive the Knoxville Bar Association's highest honor, the "Governor’s Award." She reportedly was considered as a nominee for the Supreme Court during President Nixon's administration.
When the Holston Annual Conference established a study committee to consider the creation of a Holston Conference Foundation in 1979, Erma Greenwood was selected by Bishop Ellis Finger to help provide leadership. The following year, she was elected as the first president of the board, a position she held until 1989.
Erma’s leadership skills and passion to serve others are further revealed through her creation of a trust in her will that provided income to her dear friend, Mary. After her death, the remainder was to be distributed to Duke, Church Street United Methodist Church, Tennessee Wesleyan College, and the Holston Conference.
In May 2015, more than $500,000 was distributed to charities selected by Erma, including a gift of $96,686 to the Holston Conference that her trustees hope will be used as a lasting acknowledgement of her deep commitment and faith.