Senator Brenda Gilmore lives and breathes her service to others. It is inherent in her heart and soul. Raised by her beloved grandmother in Gallatin, a small town outside of Nashville, Tennessee, she learned to appreciate the care and needs of older adults at a young age.

In her pre-teen years, Brenda and her friends collected glass Coca-Cola and 7UP bottles and netted 5 cents each for their recycling efforts. She could have pocketed the money, but she opted to use the funds to purchase toiletries for seniors in her neighborhood. Instead of fostering a heart of an entrepreneur, her heart for serving others was born.

In her twilight career, spanning more than two decades, Gilmore served as a Nashville Metro Council Member and on the Tennessee General Assembly State House. She then decided to run for the State Senate so she could continue to help others. Along the way, Gilmore continues to embrace lifelong learning. She says, “it keeps you young and spirited” and jumps at every chance to take a webinar or a class if she believes she can learn something.

Q: How did it feel to be one of the first women on our Metro Council?

Sen. Gilmore: “It’s a nice feeling to be one of the first but I think it’s even more gratifying and rewarding to know that you’ve been placed in a certain space to help people.”

“It’s a labor of love that you’re at the table. You gather as much information as you can, you take it back out to the community to help improve lives. It can be something as simple as helping someone stay in their home when they are being evicted. Those are the kinds of things that never make it to the front page of The Tennessean but those of the kinds of things that warm my heart.”

Q: We have seen tremendous growth across our state and Nashville continues to be an oasis for so many people these days, why do you think that is so?

Gilmore: “Nashville offers the best of everything from a small town feeling but also to be large enough to have a vibrant arts scene, sports teams, and incredible diversity. We have every kind of music.” She goes on to explain how Music City got its name and it is not from country music! She recounts that the Fisk University Jubilee Singers went to the United Kingdom and sang for the Queen who then referred to Nashville as Music City and the name stuck.

Speaking of music, Gilmore is especially ecstatic about the opening (virtual for now) of the new National Museum of African American Music, a project close to her heart as she co-hosted the first focus group for this museum more than 20 years ago with Howard Gentry (former Metro Councilman and former Metro Nashville Vice Mayor). She also shares with pride that her daughter, Erica Gilmore, a former Metro Council representative and now Metro Trustee (who appears to be following in her footsteps), worked hard to ensure its location be on Broadway as it is an important cultural landmark.

Q: Our community has seen its share of civil unrest and some of your friends and community leaders have been involved in lunch counter sit-ins and freedom marches to bring unity. Will you share a story or two about them and the impact it has had on your life?

Gilmore: As a young girl, Gilmore explains she didn’t have the opportunity to participate in civil rights marches at the time but “Congressman John Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. … made a profound impact on my life. I had a great sense of responsibility to give back and to try to make this a more just world.” She expresses her pride for all the young people who marched this past summer. “The young people came out to the streets for 62 days straight sending a strong message that things right now are not quite fair.” She was impressed by the diversity of the young people involved in expressing their First Amendment rights.

Q: We first met when we were both involved in the community nonprofit group Cable. What made you join that group?

Gilmore:  She praises the welcoming and resourceful sisterhood of this organization that is focused on women’s professional advancement and notes she is happy to see such diversity in Cable today. Sisterhood and equality are important issues in Gilmore’s life – with her own sorority of sisters in Delta Sigma Theta to her volunteer work with the League of Women Voters. Gilmore says, “It is hard for me to say ‘no’” when it comes to serving special groups. Among her favorite nonprofits are the YMCA and FiftyForward.

She is known at FiftyForward not only as a past president of the Board of Directors but for her love of the Bordeaux community. Gilmore was the brainchild behind the highly successful Hats Off to Bordeaux, a celebration of the Bordeaux community that FiftyForward has hosted for more than a decade. She incorporated her love of hat fashion into its now iconic hat fashion runway show that is a part of every Hats Off event. And she isn’t afraid to end each runway walk with some dancing!

Gilmore shares because of her upbringing and her grandmother specifically, “I have a special place in my heart for seniors.”  She says, the “love and appreciation of what I have for her … there’s just a special place in my heart for doing everything I can to improve the lives of seniors. After all they are the foundation of this country, we stand on their shoulders.” Now, as a senior herself, she even joined the Red Hatters, a group of older women who live life fully and with great joy and camaraderie.

And lastly, Gilmore’s love of the color red is well known. She shares that red energizes her. Considering all she tackles that energy certainly will continue to help her accomplish great things! Check out our latest podcast to listen in on our conversation with the vivacious Senator Brenda Gilmore.