Shelbyville City Council to name Betty Chatham as ambassador

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Retiring musician has traveled the world

By Steve Doyle

Betty Jean Chatham, one of Shelbyville’s great musical icons and benefactors, will be named this week to a post she has held for decades: Ambassador of the city of Shelbyville.

Chatham, who is retiring from her 60-year musical career during services and celebrations Oct. 28 at First Baptist Church of Shelbyville, which she long has served as accompanist, is known around the nation and the world for her talents on the piano.

The city of Shelbyville will honor that career Thursday night during the meeting of the city council by formally naming her an ambassador.

“We’re going to make her ambassador of city of Shelbyville for her decades and decades of service,” Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said. “This is our official way of honoring her.

“I’m sure she has had many accolades and honors from many groups – and the city may have done something in the past, before I was mayor – but I want to do it now to honor her for her sixty years of serving the city in many forms and fashions.”

Chatham, indeed, has spread the name of Shelbyville worldwide as she has played hundreds – perhaps thousands – of concerts around the globe. She has performed both secular and nonsecular music in a variety of formats, and she also in the late 1960s started the Life Singers, a group of young singers who toured and performed in many states.

She and her late husband, Dr. Donald Chatham, also committed themselves to various ministries that took them to more remote locales.

Hardesty said he was unsure if any members of Chatham’s family would attend the meeting.

Also at the meeting, the council will:

  • Consider second reading of the ordinance that repeals the former tourism ordinance and establishes a new one that adds “Simpsonville” as part of the formal language. Shelby County Fiscal Court and the Simpsonville City Commission also are considering this change.
  • Consider a proclamation naming this week as Retired Teachers Week.