Born June 12, 1906, Willie Brandon still
knows how to light up a Rutherford County
Courthouse with laughter.
"Everything has quit working but my brain,"
Brandon told a few dozen folks gathered for
his 103rd birthday party Friday.
"He's something else," County Mayor Ernest
Burgess said. "If he just knows who he is at
103, it's remarkable."
Prior to this year, Brandon had been a
courthouse custodian since 1979. He had to
stop working last January after falling in
the men's room on the second floor.
Joyce Ealy gives Willie Brandon
a balloon that says “Happy Birthday
Brandon's 103rd birthday party at
Photo: John A Gillis; Photo courtesy
of Daily News Journal
"Everyone in the building had left except
for me," said Brandon, recalling that a
co-worker found him about an hour later. "I
fell on my back. We've all had falls."
Brandon said he blacked out about the time
an ambulance crew took him to the hospital.
"I laid on my back for two weeks," he said.
Brandon said he was fortunate to have a
wonderful doctor and others to help him with
"He didn't have to work with much," Brandon
said. "A 103-year-old man is all worn out.
“It's all about God," he added. "God is the
ruler of all things. He made heaven and
earth and man, and he's still in control. He
commanded they work on me. I'm thankful. If
I don't get better than I am, I'm thankful."
Despite the fall, Brandon has not filed for
retirement from a county job he's had for 30
years. His commitment amazes many other
co-workers, including Ben Mankin, the
director who oversees maintenance of county
"I've never seen anything quite like it,"
Mankin said. "I've seen him leave the
hospital and not even go to his house and
head straight to work. That's the kind of
work ethic you hardly ever see."
Courthouse housekeeping supervisor Janie
"Willie's our boss," said Davis, who helped
Brandon seek medical treatment after the
fall. "He's such a doll. He's an icon, I'll
tell you that."
Davis wrote a book of the anecdotes from
Brandon, a man she said worked as a cook at
the James K. Polk Hotel and then the City
Café before becoming a custodian at the
"He's full of stories," and they really did
added. "His grandfather (a slave in the
1800s) was sold on the courthouse steps for
Sheriff Truman Jones noted how he's known
Brandon for years. "My family has known him
all the way back to my grand-dad (Sam
Jones)," the sheriff said. "I think Mr.
Brandon is one of the greatest people in the
United States. He set a work ethic that
young people should pause and review.
Everyone loves and respects Mr. Brandon.
"He hasn't changed a bit. He always has a
bright outlook. He's one of those people who
picks you up every time you see him. Sweet,
A cousin, Judge Larry Brandon, said the
custodian has amazed him with his
"I've known him as long as I've been
alive," the judge said. "He just keeps on
going. He's been up and down. At this point,
he's up and still going."
An administrative assistant for the mayor,
Carolyn Holt, agreed.
"It's just a blessing to see him doing so
well," she said. "We're glad to have him."