Legendary music industry veteran Frances Williams Preston died today at her home in Nashville after an extended illness. She was 83.
A native Nashvillian, Preston served as president and CEO of BMI from 1986 to 2004. The cause of death was congestive heart failure, BMI announced.
During her six-decade career at BMI, Preston nurtured the careers of thousands of songwriters, performers and publishers. In 1958, she was hired to open a Southern regional office of BMI. She was appointed vice president in 1964 and reportedly was the first woman corporate executive in Tennessee. In addition, Preston was the first full-time performing rights organization representative in the South. She was the original of a group of women who had great influence on Music Row in the 1960s.
At BMI, Preston helped build an economic infrastructure supporting and connecting art and industry. BMI’s operations in Nashville helped make possible the city’s position as the leading center for professional songwriting.
During her career, Preston won numerous accolades. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and later became a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
Among other awards, in 1998, she received a National Trustees Award from the Recording Academy — the highest Grammy prize for a non-performer. Last year, the Library of American Broadcasting Association named her to its elite Giants of Broadcasting honoree ranks, and BMI renamed the BMI Country Song of the Year the BMI Frances W. Preston Award.
Preston is survived by three sons, Kirk, David, and Donald, as well as six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral arrangements were pending.