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Edward Ely Driver, III

December 1, 1935 ~ September 11, 2023 (age 87) 87 Years Old

Edward Driver, III Obituary

Edward Ely Driver III, age 87, died September 11th at Shannondale Health Care Center.  He was born on December 1, 1935, in Osceola, Arkansas, to parents, Edward Ely Driver Jr. and Mary Tindle Driver.  Both their families were cotton farmers. His mother’s side of the family moved to Marston, Missouri, on the Mississippi River when he was three and continued farming cotton.  His was a close knit family that traveled as a tribe.  His parents moved to Sikeston when he was nine.

He graduated from Sikeston High School in 1953 and went to Vanderbilt intending to study medicine, but found that wasn’t his calling. He quit school and worked for the Corps of Engineers for three years doing hydraulic engineering which he loved, so he went back to Vanderbilt and got his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1963. His major professor talked him into going for a masters and he finished his thesis in 1964 and was offered an opportunity to teach at Vanderbilt for one year. During this year, he met Phyllis Nelke, who typed the tables for his thesis. He was then persuaded to go to Stanford for a doctorate.  He and Phyllis got married in August of 1965 and moved immediately to the Stanford area where she worked for Varian Electronics. In 1967, he decided to curtail getting his PHD and got an Engineers degree.  He was hired by the TVA Engineering Lab in Norris, TN as a research engineer.  To celebrate his graduation and new job, he and Phyllis spent a week in Hawaii, and then drove cross country on Highway 66 to Knoxville and settled in Fountain City.  In 1973, the director of the lab resigned and moved to California and he became director and remained there for another 20 years. Then he accepted a position at Pellissippi State as head of the environmental program which included chemical, civil and environmental engineering, retiring from there in 2005

He served on the Executive Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers and on several technical committees, served as President of the East TN Chapter of TN State Society of Professional Engineers, and President of the Technical Society of Knoxville. He was also invited to present papers in the US and foreign countries. He was President of the North Knoxville Rotary Club, Treasurer of Friendship Force, and a volunteer for FISH, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteer Knoxville, TN Achieves, and a mentor at Dogwood School.  

He was a member of First Presbyterian Church where he served as a deacon, elder, Chair of the Kitchen Committee, the Search Committee for a Music Minister and the Missions Committee. He and his wife have traveled to all 50 states, all the continents except for Antarctica, and 55 countries, going to International Rotary Conventions, Accounting and Engineering Meetings, teaching in China, taking a course on the European Union in Belgium, and Opera meetings. They enjoyed ballroom dancing, scuba diving, sailing and he took flying lessons but never was licensed to fly. They love opera, classical music, and theater. He also loved to cook.

He is survived by his wife, and a cousin Trudye Oliver and her husband Bill and son Bill who live in Paragould, AR.

His service will be held on September 23rd at 2:00 PM at First Presbyterian Church. He and his wife loved bright colors, so wear something bright.  A reception will follow in the Fellowship Hall.  Memorials can be made to First Presbyterian Church, the Rotary Foundation, or the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel and Crematory is honored to serve the Driver family. Condolences may be left for the family at

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September 23, 2023

2:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church
620 State St.
Knoxville, TN 37902


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