Thankful: Local Jack employee works behind the scenes to make things happen for Lynchburg

She’s not just a smiling face in local donation photos. Jack Daniel’s Marsha Manley Hale works endless hours behind the scenes to make good things happen in our community. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Daniel’s Distillery)

It’s Thursday and Marsha Manley Hale sits at the Lynchburg Legion Building with a dozen other volunteers brainstorming and planning the upcoming Lynchburg 200th Birthday Celebration – beside her sits a planner dotted with highlighter, pages marked with sticky notes. It’s a thick book filled with to-do lists and meeting notes. As the group brainstorms, she turns to various pages to recall details or document progress made to this point. A few days later, she’ll head to Moore County High School to present the Athletic Department with a $36,000 donation on behalf of her employer, Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

If it is a community event or good deed happening in Lynchburg, if folks in Moore County are working together toward a common goal, you can bet Marsha Manley Hale had a hand in it and for that, we are all collectively thankful.

Pulse of the distillery

Her official title at the distillery is Executive Administrative Assistant to General Manager Larry Combs but her actual contributions are so much more than that. She sits in on all management meetings and exists as the gatekeeper of most distillery-sponsored local donations. She also handles the bulk of the distillery’s monthly reporting, which requires hours of analytical work.

She serves as a Master Taster for the production team, and in 2019, Jack Daniel’s honored her with her very own Taster’s Series bottle named Hickory Smoked Finish Tennessee Whiskey, made with charred hickory staves selected by Marsha and bottled at 100 proof. It honored the 30th anniversary of the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue, an event Marsha’s played an instrumental role in for decades.

“Marsha is at the hub of everything,” says Combs. “She is not only my right hand but also a great advocate for everyone who works at the distillery as well as the community and citizens of Moore County. She will do whatever it takes to get something done. If you asked her to make something happen for either the distillery or the community, you can feel 100 percent positive it will get done.”

Marsha started her career at Jack Daniel’s in the 1980s but she existed as a presence in the Holler long before that. She is one of two children and the only daughter of Charles D. Manley, who served as Jack Daniel’s Senior Vice President and Director of Operations beginning in June 1979. Previously he worked as an accountant at the Nashville firm of Caldwell and Jones, where he worked exclusively with the Jack Daniel’s account. In fact, he’s the person responsible for starting the Jack Daniel’s Accounting Department here in Lynchburg. He served as Director of Operations until his untimely death on May 18, 1984 at the young age of 57. As a child, Marsha roamed the hallways of administration offices she now occupies. Her personal history and the history of both the distillery and the town of Lynchburg are intertwined in ways few comprehend.

“She’s been there for a very long time, long before her career started. She understands the history. She understands the people and I really trust her insights and advice,” Combs adds. “Lynchburg is very important to Jack Daniel’s and when we’re looking at what we support, where we invest, Marsha is a very big voice in those discussions. She’s been here her whole life and she’s very connected beyond the distillery. She not only has her finger on the pulse of the folks here in the Hollow but also the folks in town.”

She’s not only the pulse of the distillery but also of the community.

Marsha’s sphere of influence extends well beyond the distillery. According to Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis, she instrumental in bridging the needs of the community with the resources of the distillery and is a person who makes things happen in Lynchburg. Those who know her and work with her on a daily basis describe her as highly organized, resilient, tenacious, and fearless.

“She is very organized, knows how to make a plan and follows through with it until the end. She lives by her calendar and has never-ending ideas and contacts to complete any project,” says Mayor Lewis. “She excels in all she does; raising the project to another level.”

In addition to her work inside the distillery, Marsha also helps facilitate and participates in many community events like the annual Alzheimer’s Walk, Lynchburg’s Angel Tree Program, the recent Lynchburg 9/11 Memorial 5K, and Lynchburg Bicentennial Celebration.

Mayor Lewis says Marsha’s not only extremely driven and very organized but she’s also a pleasure to work with no matter the scope of the project.

“Her attitude is very business-like yet fun to work with when it’s time to make it all happen,” says Mayor Lewis. “One of her famous sayings is: It’s all about the details. She doesn’t forget the details.”

Mayor Lewis says that Marsha’s one of Moore County’s unsung heroes and her input in all the positive things happening in Lynchburg extends well beyond just being a smiling face in donation photos. She keeps a watchful eye on the needs of our community and speaks up on behalf of those putting effort into making Moore County better who might need a little boost.

“When she sees something that is happening, she makes sure management knows they might want to help and they depend on her to keep them informed,” says Mayor Lewis.

But Marsha’s impact isn’t just about the fun stuff. Mayor Lewis says. Marsha sits in on every meeting she has with Jack Daniel’s officials and her input feels invaluable to finding the best possible solution to any issue.

“She’s a great listener and an even harder worker,” says Mayor Lewis. “She is also a great cook and and party planner.”

Marsha and her daughter, Corrie, dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz to hand out candy at Halloween in the Hollow on October 30 in historic downtown Lynchburg. (Photo Provided)

Developed a family legacy of giving

Marsha’s family’s impact isn’t only in the past. Her son, Colt Russell, also works at the distillery and her daughter, Corrie Bondurant, volunteers at many community events alongside her mother.

Corrie says that her mother shows up for family with exactly the same energy and enthusiasm at home as she does for her community. When she’s not working or volunteering, she’s traveling hundreds of miles to a pageant, athletic game, or cheer competition for one of her grandchildren.

“She is always there for those kids. Christmas is her very favorite and she makes it so special for everybody. She just goes over the top for all the things,” Corrie laughs. “To her grandchildren, she is Ma and they will all tell you that Ma is the best.”

It’s a sentiment Marsha’s son Colt echos.

“She calls herself the Queen of Christmas and it’s true,” he says. “She goes into it looking for opportunities to give rather than receive and that’s the way she goes through life as well.”

Colts also says that his mom’s generosity and big heart extends to not only the distillery and the community but also family members and members of his friend group.

Anyone who knows Marsha well knows that she considers her grandniece, Ellen Manley Miller, as a bonus daughter.

“Ellen came to live here right after high school graduation and she’s been a constant in the family ever since,” says Colt. “Mom took her under her wing from that point on. If you see family pictures now, Ellen and her family are in them.”

When one of Colt’s high school friends mentioned that his family really didn’t make a big deal out of Thanksgiving or Christmas, Marsha immediately invited him to celebrate at their house.

“He started coming every year and mom bought him Christmas presents just like the other kids,” Colt says. “If she knows you are coming to her house at Christmas, there will be a present waiting on you.”

Corrie says that her mother’s dedication to both the distillery and the community never stops even after hours and on weekends. Anytime someone in the admin office celebrates a birthday, Marsha bakes a cake. When the distillery feeds the maintenance department, Marsha and her husband cater it. Her famous banana pudding is a huge hit in the Bottling Department.

Colts says his grandfather’s legacy and his mother’s role at the distillery inspires him to step up and do more.

“My grandfather passed at an early age and I think she trying to live a life that would make him proud,” Colt says. “Looking at everything she does makes me want to do a better job at what I do.”

And what she does never stops according to both her children.

“There are lots of nights that I’ll call her after work and ask her what she’s doing and she’s baking pies or making banana pudding for an event. It never stops for her. She spends hours planning things and tracking down all the details,” Corrie says. “They only time I see her actually sit and relax are Sunday nights when she’s watching Yellowstone.”

In the end, for every project you see Marsha Manley Hale doing, there are probably five others you don’t see, and she does it all with a can-do, won’t stop attitude and for that we are all grateful. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only daily newspaper in Lynchburg. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}