Mercer Janet <I>Hopson</I> Tate

Photo added by Galen Tate

Mercer Janet Hopson Tate

  • Birth 12 May 1922 Fulton, Hempstead County, Arkansas, USA
  • Death 11 Oct 2013 Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA
  • Burial North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA
  • Memorial ID 95157746

Mercer Janet Hopson Tate, 91, of Little Rock, passed away at her home early Friday, October 11, 2013. Born May 12, 1922 in Fulton, Arkansas, Janet was the daughter of the late Dora Dean Adams and Mercer J. Hopson. She graduated in 1940 from Fulton High School, and later moved to Little Rock as a young woman to attend Little Rock Junior College, where she received an associate’s degree in business. Soon after, she started her career with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and later AT&T, where she worked for 42 years, much of that time as a supervisor and comptroller in the accounting department. In August of 1948, she married J.L. Tate, who was her soulmate for over 62 years, until his death in 2011. Janet was a devoted wife and loving mother who surrounded herself with many friends. Her drive to succeed in all facets of life was and is an inspiration to her family. She was a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church, where, for a number of years, she volunteered in the Vaught Media Ministry. She was also preceded in death by two sisters, Naomi Palmer and Clairette Garrett; and a son, Col. Stephen M. Tate, whose widow, Rebecca Curtis Tate, lives in Dayton, Ohio. Survivors include two sons, Byron Tate and his wife Pat Smith Tate of Pine Bluff, and Galen Tate of Bridgeport, Connecticut; and three grandchildren, Nathan Tate, Mary Kathryn Tate and Ethan Tate, all of New York City.

Deepest gratitude and appreciation to our special friend and caregiver Charlene Davis and to Dr. Morgan Sauer of the St. Vincent Longevity Center, whose care and compassion were above reproach.

Visitation will be at 10:00AM Tuesday, October 15 at Immanuel Baptist Church, 501 N. Shackleford Road., with a funeral service to follow in the Chapel at 11:00AM. A private burial will be at Rest Hills Memorial Park in Sherwood. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Twice Blessed Ministry for homebound and healthcare members at Immanuel Baptist Church. Arrangements by Roller-Chenal Funeral Home, 13801 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, AR (501) 224-8300.

Welcome and thank you for taking time out of your day today -- especially considering the inclement weather -- to celebrate the life of my mother, Mercer Janet Tate. I am Byron Tate, Janet’s middle son, and I and my younger brother Galen Tate and my older brother, Stephen Tate’s family, appreciate your presence as we say goodbye to the matriarch of our family.

The first thing I will say about mom is that she was not one to celebrate herself. Her retirement from the phone company after working there more than four decades went by quietly. Birthdays and anniversaries typically came and went without much ado. She just did not want to be made over and so she would probably not approve of the fuss we are making today.

Momma was born in tiny Fulton, Arkansas at a time and place when folks, if they had enough to get by, were fortunate. She had two sisters, Naomi (Palmer), who was many years older, and Clairette (Garrett), who was just a few years younger. Stories abounded of their wearing shoes long after the soles had worn out by putting cardboard inside them and eating what their father hunted or caught in the river. There were few things momma liked more than fishing - but if she was catching anything you absolutely could not get her away from the bank - and she refused to step foot in a boat because as a child, her father would take her in a flat-bottom boat out into the Red River, which, as she described it, had whirlpools swift enough to turn their small craft in tight circles. Apparently, those scary experiences fulfilled any desire to ever fish from a boat again.

After graduating high school, Mom moved to the big city of Little Rock to seek her fame and fortune. She attended business school at Little Rock Junior College, now UALR, and soon after, started work at Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. With Mom’s encouragement, her entire family would soon move to Little Rock, where, in years to come, our family and her sister Clairette’s family would be inseparable. When visiting each other’s family, the trip usually ended in some outrageously loud incident caused by the four cousins torturing each other. She would lose all patience with her boys and declare as we climbed into daddy’s old Chrysler that we would never EVER come over to the Garretts again. Or at least for a couple of weeks.

When she retired in 1984, she had worked at the phone company for 42 years, starting as an hourly worker and quickly moving into the salaried ranks as a supervisor - at a time when management positions were mostly reserved for men.

She was a stickler for professionalism and accuracy, but her work ethic was not something that she preached to us about. It was something that we observed in her, something that she infused into us. All three of the boys spent hours and hours with her on lonely nights at the phone company on Capitol Avenue as she finished audits and reports and presentations. Snow in the forecast? Missing work was not an option. If the weather report was really threatening, she would spend the night at the Sam Peck Hotel so she could walk the few blocks to work and be on time. Going to the nth degree was just normal for her. Galen remembered a saying of hers - “You have to pop your coattails and make it happen.” Later in life, when she would look at her sons and say we were working too hard, we would simply hold up a mirror to her and say that she was where we got the trait.

She met J.L. Tate, who was working in his father’s drug store which was across the street from the original Immanuel Baptist Church. As the story goes, she was not to be rushed into marriage. She liked her independence and her paycheck and running with her girlfriends and it was some time before J.L would get her across the street to Immanuel’s altar. And by the way, the original chandeliers that are in the foyer to the main sanctuary here are the same ones that our parents walked beneath when they were married. She and daddy were married for 62 years until he passed away in 2011. She was devoted to him and he to her.

Col. Stephen, our oldest brother, isn’t with us today as he died last year. If he were with us, he would be standing here as he was much better at this sort of thing than I am. But his words are with us today as we included them on the back of the program. What he wrote is a beautiful Mother’s Day note that he penned when he was 21 years old. See, he, like his mother, was an overachiever.

Mom was a supervisor - both professionally at the phone company - and in other facets of her life. She didn’t want to be beholden to others, didn’t want to owe anyone anything and she was used to engineering the world so that the dominoes fell to her design. You didn’t have to know her for long to realize she had very clear ideas about how things should go.

If she was going to treat you to dinner, for instance, woe be unto you if you tried to beat her to the check. Earlier this year, when she turned 91, she said she didn’t want any sort of celebration. We respected that, as she wasn’t feeling the best at that point, but we got her to go out to eat at a neighborhood restaurant. Toward the end of the meal, I excused myself to go to the restroom, when actually I was going to pay the bill, knowing that was the only chance I had. When I asked for our check, the cashier said, oh, but Mrs. Tate has already taken care of the bill. I could not believe it. Even in her somewhat diminished condition, she had been able to slip the waitress her credit card without anyone noticing. I asked the cashier if he could reverse the charges? He was puzzled but said yes, he could. Do it, I said, and put the charges on this card as I handed him mine. I went back to the table victorious. Yes, I thought, finally! But I made the mistake of gloating about how clever I had been. And of course, that feeling vanished a couple of days later when she paypal’ed me $50 for the dinner!

Mom took joy in all our exploits. But she had high standards and expected much from us. We found one of her high school report cards the other night as we looked through photos and other memorabilia. She had always told us she had made straight A's in school. I never knew if she was bluffing or not. But there was her card from Fulton High School - No tardies. No absences. All A's.

When mom retired from the phone company, I watched her transform from being a working warrior to being a really wonderful grandmother. If we had missed a hug or two while growing up, she was getting caught up with her grandkids. When our son Ethan was little, their favorite game was to go for a walk through the inside maze that is her apartment complex with the sole purpose of getting lost and then finding their way back.

And more recently, she and I became traveling companions as she would accompany me by train to Los Angeles on my way to Las Vegas for business meetings. As late as this past December, she was still game enough to take that trip which took us through Death Valley in California on to the Golden Nugget hotel in Las Vegas and back. I’m not sure she told her Sunday School class about her final destination being Las Vegas, but I assure you, she behaved herself.

If she embraced her professional life as a younger woman, she had the time to embrace a broader slice of life as she aged and mellowed. God and prayer meant more to her, being kind and generous with her time and love to those around her took on more importance. She was definitely stopping to smell the roses. Consequently, her life was full of amazing friendships that she developed wherever she went. I remember on one of our earlier train trips out west when a group of what looked to be bikers wearing lots of leather and sporting tattoos got off the train in Los Angeles and each one hugged her neck and said long good-byes as tears welled up in their eyes. Mom, who are those people, I asked. Friends I met in the observation car, she said. I would not be surprised if she was still keeping up with them. She was simply good-hearted and as one neighbor put it who came to visit when they’d heard that mom had passed away - just knowing mom had changed her life and that mom had the ability to change the lives of anyone who got to know her.

Her last few years were a struggle. Five years ago she was told that she had a degenerative heart condition that, without corrective surgery, would eventually kill her. Always in charge, she assessed the situation, consulted doctors, talked it over with her family and decided to forego surgery. The surgery options had significant risks and the recovery period was long. Too, she was taking care of my father at home as his health declined so even if she had wanted surgery, she did want to be out of commission for months and months. Last year, there was Stephen's untimely death. And over the past six or eight months a series of arson fires in her apartment complex created enormous stress as multiple times she was forced to evacuate. These events had to have taken their toll but you don’t get to 91 by being weak so every day, she put one foot in front of the other and kept going.

Eventually, though, the heart condition worsened but even then, she was in control, deciding that she was through taking her medicines because she didn’t see that they were doing her any good. That decision may have hastened her death, but she was aware of that.

The night before she passed away, she told Galen a couple of times - it’s time for me to go home, I need to go home. And home she is.

We will miss mom - miss her friendship, miss her wise counsel, which she was still giving even as her boys were in their 40s, 50s and 60s. - miss her spontaneity, miss her love. We will miss momma. But even though she has passed from this life, she lives on in those who knew her and loved her.

- Byron Tate

Family Members






  • Maintained by: Galen Tate
  • Originally Created by: KTS
  • Added: 11 Aug 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 95157746
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mercer Janet Hopson Tate (12 May 1922–11 Oct 2013), Find A Grave Memorial no. 95157746, citing Rest Hills Memorial Park, North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA ; Maintained by Galen Tate (contributor 48164200) .