By Jason Martin
Graden Ambus Featherstone was born on April 20, 1908 near the township of Como, Weakley County, to JD and Lena Stoker Featherstone. He was one of four children, Murrell Penick, Lozette Burrow, and Ann Harris. The family farmed for many years.
The Featherstones moved to McKenzie in 1920. In November of the following year, Graden lost his mother. His father remarried Otis Lemoine Taylor in 1926. In the spring of 1927, Graden graduated from McKenzie High School and enrolled at Bethel College. Four years later, he graduated with a degree in science and took a job at Eva High School near Camden.
In 1936 he started working for U-Tote ‘Em in the Union City store. He received his first official visit later that year. He was transferred to Nashville to work in the mail delivery service. He worked on the contract until 1943 when he was drafted into the United States Navy during World War II.
During part of his military service he worked as a postal clerk at the naval post offices and was stationed at the Pacific Theater, where he landed in Guadalcanal, one of the largest postal fleet offices. He was discharged from the Navy in December 1945. He returned to Nashville and resumed his position with the postal transport service.
Graden Straße has perfected the transport and delivery of mail for many years. The system he used was the forerunner of the zip code currently in use. The Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) began in World War II when the first two numbers were introduced. The original zone addressing system went into effect in 1943 when thousands of postal workers left for the military during World War II and the system was understaffed and in need of simplification.
Initially, 124 of the largest US cities were classified with two numbers – the first identifying the city and the second the state. The numbers should make things easier for less experienced employees. The postal system implemented the other three numbers 20 years later in 1963 as the volume of mail increased.
In 1947 he returned to McKenzie to serve as an auxiliary mail leader. He bought a used T-Model Ford and restored it to perfect condition for his rural delivery routes.
In March 1954, with the resignation of John Marshall, he was named acting postmaster for McKenzie. A few months later, he received the full appointment of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Graden remained postmaster until his retirement in 1969.
In November 1964, the postal sorting and delivery method he used in Guadalcanal was invaluable when McKenzie was selected as one of nine “Section Centers” in Tennessee. Each of the major departments of Tennessee would have three sections.
For West Tennessee it was Memphis, Jackson, and McKenzie. The western section received the prefix 3. McKenzie and the surrounding area took up 382. Graden reminded those under his direction of the importance of the numerology of 382. The numbers matched those of Casey Jones on the night of his fatal accident on April 30, 1900. Jones collided with the galley of a blocked freight train carrying the Right of way near Vaughan, Mississippi, had not completely cleared.
Graden was a noted lay historian who wrote numerous historical articles on the area. One series focused on the railroad’s involvement in the nation’s postal system. He also wrote about the life of Davy Crockett, who moved to Carroll County in 1822 before Gibson County was founded.
Governor Buford Ellington asked him to become a member of the Historical Commission of the 100 Years Civil War. Graden was President at the beginning of the Carroll County Historical Society’s formation. Much of his work has been exhibited at the Gordon Browning Museum.
Outside of postal service and historical research, Graden served in the American Legion, the Rotary Club, and the Baptist Church. He was known as a man of strong convictions and had the character and steadfastness to stand up for those convictions.
In his later years, Graden settled at McKenzie Health Care Center. After a series of strokes and for health reasons, he died in February 2001 at the age of 92. Graden was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery.