Funeral services are planned this week for Marlow Tackett, a Pike County country music singer and songwriter who was long known as the "Mountain Santa Claus" for throwing an annual Christmas party for needy families in the area.
Mr. Tackett, 70, died Saturday in Elizabethton, Tenn., where he had been living for a number of years.
A native of Dorton in Pike County, he began holding Christmas parties for poor families in the 1970s at his Pikeville nightclub, Marlow's Country Palace. The parties were held for almost 30 years.
"It's what Christmas is all about," he said during a 2005 Herald-Leader interview. "It's just such a real Christmas Carol."
Mr. Tackett said it all began just before Christmas 1975, when he received a letter from a 12-year-old girl asking if he could help her and her five brothers and sisters have a good Christmas. Mr. Tackett and his band went to the girl's home and found the children living in tattered clothes, and there was no electricity or running water, or presents for Christmas.
Mr. Tackett said he realized there had to be more kids in need, so the next year he and his family and friends helped 340 needy families, and the annual Christmas party was off and running.
By some accounts, country music legend Ernest Tubb gave Mr. Tackett the name "Mountain Santa."
Mr. Tackett apparently loved to perform and, while he never became a superstar, he remained an entertainer most of his life.
Services are tentatively set for Thursday at Pilgrim's Prayer Old Regular Baptist Church, followed by burial at Tackett Cemetery at Dorton.
Hall & Jones Funeral Home in Virgie is in charge of arrangements.