Cover photo for Wayne Bledsoe's Obituary
Wayne Bledsoe Profile Photo

Wayne Bledsoe

January 29, 1941 — June 2, 2024

Wayne Bledsoe

Wayne Bledsoe, Esteemed Scholar and Bluegrass Advocate, Dies at 83

Wayne Bledsoe, a distinguished professor at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri S&T) and a passionate champion of bluegrass music, passed away on Sunday, June 2, 2024, at the age of 83.

Born on January 29, 1941, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to John Eaton Bledsoe and Marion Fulp Bledsoe, Wayne was a trailblazer from his youth. A three-sport letterman at Grey High School, he graduated in 1959 and became the first in his family to pursue higher education. He earned his B.A. from Tennessee Temple University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University, where he was believed to be the youngest in his discipline to achieve a doctorate at that time.

Dr. Bledsoe's academic career at the University of Missouri-Rolla spanned over five decades, starting as an assistant professor in 1968 and rising to full professor by 1982. He also chaired the department of history and political science for four years. A scholar of Ancient History, he authored "The Advent of Civilization" and served as president of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations from 1998 to 2004. His exceptional contributions to teaching, research, and service earned him six Outstanding Teaching Awards and the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award in 1995.  Wayne retired Emeritus in 2002.

Beyond academia, Wayne was renowned for his dedication to bluegrass music. For nearly four decades, he hosted "Bluegrass for a Saturday Night" and "Sunday Morning Sounds" on KUMR (now KMST), drawing over 200,000 weekly listeners at its peak. One fan (and friend) puts it this way.  “Such sweet memories of sitting by the wood stove, often in the dark, listening to that music, hearing Wayne’s gentle voice.  It was almost holy.”   

As the founding editor of Bluegrass Now magazine in 1990, he connected with fans across 50 states and 30 nations. His influence in the bluegrass world was celebrated when he was named "Writer of the Year" by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 1996. Wayne often MC’d various bluegrass events such as the IBMA awards and festivals.  

Wayne's community involvement was equally impressive. A 47-year member of the Optimist Club of Rolla, he was recognized as a Distinguished President in 1981 and served as the organizations Lieutenant Governor. His passion for service extended to coaching his sons' little league teams and supporting Rolla Schools' booster organizations.

His thirst for knowledge and cultural exchange led him on numerous international adventures. He was a visiting professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, where he studied Aboriginal culture for an entire year with his whole family in tow. He also taught in England and France, focusing on Gothic cathedrals, and lectured on the origins of civilization in Russia, South Africa, Europe, and Australia.

In 2005, Wayne was honored with the title of Kentucky Colonel, recognizing his role as a goodwill ambassador for Kentucky's culture and values.

As Wayne matriculated into retirement he enjoyed traveling to various countries, locations, cities, and national parks. He particularly relished the time spent in New Orleans, attending spring training games and visiting his grandchildren and "grand pups". Wayne took great pride in being the groundskeeper for his Casa, ensuring the lawn was meticulous, leaves were raked and burned, and the deer were fed. He also treasured visiting his beloved friend in Doolittle, sipping tea, listening to old tapes of bluegrass music, and chatting about the happenings of the day. Though Wayne had many remarkable accomplishments throughout his life, his most noteworthy achievement was being a great husband and the best Dad ever.

Wayne is survived by his wife of 26 years, Deborah, with whom he shared a love for travel and family. He is also survived by his sons Eric (wife Robin), Sean (wife Cindy), Bill Ashby (wife Kathy), Jim Ashby (wife Kristen)  and was preceded in death by his son Scott Bledsoe.  Wayne also leaves behind numerous grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews.

A man of many passions, Wayne Bledsoe will be remembered for his love of family, bluegrass music, teaching, and his commitment to making the world a better place. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to your local animal shelter, honoring Wayne's lifelong devotion to rescuing animals.

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