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Buck Buchanan,  former mayor, Kerr Dam operator, dies

South Boston News
Robert Edward “Buck” Buchanan / April 03, 2013
Robert Edward “Buck” Buchanan was not a showman, or loud and brash. But to his friends and family, he embodied the spirit of Clarksville and the people who live here. Buchanan died Sunday, at the age of 77.

He was a self-made man who worked his way up from electrician to chief of the power station at the John H. Kerr Dam. After retiring from the Corps, he worked at Moore Chevrolet.

Frankie Talley, who served on Clarksville Town Council for twelve years while Buchanan was Mayor, said he brought out the best in people. His decisions were reasoned, and always included input from members of Council. “Everyone liked him.”

There are no amusing stories or rib-tickling anecdotes about Buchanan Talley said, “that’s not who he was.” Instead, those who knew Buchanan speak of his kindness and willingness to give to his family, friends, and the town he loved.

One cute story, Talley recalled, involved Betty Robert’s mother. Talley said, “one morning, bright and early, I got a call from her telling me that Buck said to get to her house on the double. She had a sewage back up. When I arrived, there was Buck working side by side with the town’s maintenance staff to fix the problem.”

Much of the time while Buchanan was Mayor, he wore two hats Talley said. “Back then it seemed as if our Town Manager quit every two years. They would use the job as a steppingstone to something bigger and better.” Every time Buchanan would fill the void. One of his first tasks was to hire a new police chief, Ricky Wilkinson. A short time later, he successfully negotiated with the Board of Supervisors, to get former Clarksville High School property. He then worked with Council to save parts of the school, including the Fine Arts Center, the buildings cupola, and the former YMCA. The rest of the school was demolished to make way for the Clarksville Public Library and Clarksville Crossings shopping center.

Buchanan was followed in the office of Mayor by Mike Sizemore. “I never served with him, even though I’ve known Buck my entire life. He was matter-of-fact, but also likeable. I always had a lot of respect and admiration for him.”

John Feild, who retired as an assistant manager with the US Army Corps of Engineers carpooled with Buchanan for nearly 20 years, traveling from Clarksville to their respective jobs with the John H. Kerr Dam. “Of course we solved most of the world’s problems during those rides,” Feild said. “It is a sad day for Clarksville.”

What Feild remembers most about Buchanan - aside from the fact that the television antennae Buchanan installed at Feild’s home many years before, is still working - is how “everyone who has known him appreciated his judgment. Even after he retired from the Corps people he worked with would consult him. He was such a good sounding board with a broad-based perspective.”

Whether he was serving the town as its Mayor, working on behalf of the Jaycees, or ministering to those at Clarksville Baptist church, where he was a Deacon and Sunday school teacher, Buchanan was always a gentleman and a Christian, according to Talley and Feild. They both said they were fortunate to have known the man.

Buchanan is survived by his wife of 38 years, Vera Dorio Buchanan, his daughter and son-in-law Marie and Dan Wiles of Clarksville, granddaughter Elaine “Ellie” Gail Wiles, and sister Nancy Ayers of Roanoke. His funeral will be at Clarksville Baptist Church on Wednesday, April 3, at 11 a.m. with Rev. Dr. Greg Randall officiating.

The family asked well-wishers to consider making contributions to local charities, in Buchanan’s memory.

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