April 27, 1916 ~ November 6, 2013
Dr. William Bailey Cherry, age 97, died peacefully on November 6, 2013. He was born in Bowling Green, KY, where he lived until he was awarded the B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1937 by Western Kentucky State Teachers College (now Western Kentucky University), a university founded by his uncle, Henry Hardin Cherry. He was awarded the M.S. degree in Bacteriology by the University of KY in 1942. While there he met Kathryn Challinor, who would become his wife in 1944. In 1943 he received a commission as an Ensign in the Hospital Volunteer Service of the U.S. Naval Reserve. Until 1946 he served in the Department of Epidemiology and Tropical Medicine at the Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. Following his discharge from active duty, he matriculated at University of Wisconsin, where he was awarded the PhD degree in Bacteriology in 1949. The family, now including daughter, Anne, moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Dr. Cherry was employed as Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee for two years. The family expanded to include son, William, Jr. In 1951, Dr. Cherry accepted a position at the new Communicable Diseases Center (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. He joined the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and began a career at CDC spanning thirty years. As the institution grew, he was responsible for research and training in a number of areas, including fluorescent antibody technique for rapid detection of biological warfare agents and the use of gas-liquid chromatography for the identification of bacteria and their chemical components. In 1976 his unit published the first paper on the bacterium which causes Legionnaires Disease. One of his most interesting challenges was serving on a special task force in 1965 to develop tests for viable microscopic life which might be returned to Earth after the planned moon landing. In the course of his career, Dr. Cherry authored numerous scientific papers and received several prestigious awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal of the USPHS, presented by the Secretary of HHS. During this time, the family lived in the Tucker area. Each year, "Farmer" Cherry planted a large vegetable garden and maintained his orchard. He was active in Boy Scouts and in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, of which he and his wife were founding members. He enjoyed reading, camping, nature study, and working with children. He traveled widely in the U.S. and internationally and worked with local and national conservation groups. In addition, he supported many civil rights and social justice causes. After the death of his wife of 51 years in 1996, he married Edith Lankford Kimbrough and enjoyed another 15 years of happily married life. Dr. Cherry will be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather, an eminent scientist and an active member of the community. He is survived by his wife, Edith Cherry of Lilburn, daughter, Anne Cherry of Stone Mountain, son, William B. Cherry, Jr., of Lake Tahoe, CA, grandchildren Jason Hartt of Lilburn, Savannah Cherry of Lake Tahoe and William B. Cherry III of Lake Tahoe. He is survived also by step-daughter, Linda Donahoo of Snellville and step-son Mac Davis of Belaire, CA. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, 1911 Cliff Valley Way, NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 (404-634-5134). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Georgia Conservancy, Southern Poverty Law Center or UUCA Endowment Fund.