Rodgers, Don

Cookeville Native Had Distinguished Military Career

  • Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Don Rodgers
Don Rodgers

Funeral services for Lieutenant General (R) Thurman Donell "Don" Rodgers, 87, of Cookeville, Tn. and Chattanooga,  will be at 2 p.m.(CDT) Thursday, June 16, at Hooper, Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home in Cookeville. Interment with military honors will follow at Cookeville City Cemetery. Dr. Kevin Braswell will officiate.

The family will receive guests Thursday, June 16 at 1 p.m.(CDT) at the funeral home.

Don peacefully passed away in his sleep Thursday, June 9, 2022 at the home he shared with his wife of 33 years, June Scobee Rodgers.

Don was born Dec. 1, 1934, to Lester Donell Rodgers and Johnie McBroom. He was the eldest of their two children. The youngest being beloved sister Sue Chaffin of Cookeville. Don’s childhood nickname was “Red” because of his red hair.

At Central High School, class of 1953, Don participated in football, track, basketball, Latin Club, student council, Hobby Club, Health & Safety Club, Beta Club, Chess Club, Who’s Who and was a Sgt at Arms and class officer. He was voted for Class Superlatives by his fellow students.
Don was a lifelong musician, and he excelled at playing the guitar. He also sang in a band called Southern Melody Boys, who played at the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Theater.

In 1956 he married his high school sweetheart Wanda Faye Bohannon of Cookeville.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at Tennessee Technological University in 1957. Later in his career, Don earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.

He was commissioned into United States Army in 1957 to serve in the Army Signal Corps.
After being blessed with their son Eric Rodgers in 1959, the young family was stationed at Naples, Italy. A dedicated family man, his chief focus was always his wife, son and extended family. A long and distinguished Army career followed.

In 1988 his lovely wife of 32 years, Faye died from a heart attack that left his family bereft and lost. A year later and still grieving, Don met June Scobee at an Easter Sunrise Service at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. June had lost her husband, Astronaut and Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee, who was tragically killed aboard Challenger in 1986. Sharing grief and faith brought them together and they became friends.

Their friendship grew and when they married in 1989, Don and June became a blended family of five. Don’s son Eric gained two stepsiblings, Rich Scobee and Kathie Scobee Fulgham. More blessings blossomed with grandchildren Margaret, Charlotte and Jack from Don’s side, and Justin, Emily, Courtney, Jilly, Dexter, Cristi Lynn and Andrew on June’s side. Now they share four great grandchildren, Catherine June, Clementine, River, Taryn.

Don and June just celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary June 3.

Don could fix anything and was known to tinker with mostly cars and motorcycles. He loved the open road and with June once traversed the entire country’s perimeter on his Goldwing. He had many motorcycle adventures with his good friend, Guy Satterfield, stepson Lt. Gen. Rich Scobee and stepson-in-law Captain (CPD) Scott Fulgham and even June served as sidekick on many of Don’s rides.

Don’s early Army career included duty at company and battalion level in the United States, Europe, and, on two occasions, Vietnam. In subsequent assignments and while still a junior officer, he served with the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as a personnel assignment officer for the Army, both while assigned to Washington, D.C.

In 1976, Don returned to Washington, D.C. after commanding a battalion in South Korea. This time he was assigned to the office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison, responsible for the Army’s liaison with Congress.

In 1977 he returned to Europe, this time to Germany with the Army’s 7th Signal Brigade serving as its commander from 1979 to 1981.

In follow-on assignments, Don commanded the Army Communications System Agency in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, serving as the project manager responsible for procuring and fielding Army communications equipment. He also commanded the Communications Electronics Engineering Installation Agency at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

From 1983 to 1986 he served as the Commander of the U.S. Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He concurrently served as the Commanding General of Fort Gordon. During this time frame, Don was responsible for developing the case for and selecting a communication system which would replace the Army’s aging tactical communication system with state-of-the-art equipment. This several billion-dollar system called MSE has been fielded and was used with outstanding results in Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

Later he served as the assistant Chief of Staff for Information Management and as the Director of Information Systems for Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Department of Army.

From 1988 to 1990 he commanded the Army Information System Command, a global communications command located at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. As the commander of the largest military organization of its kind in the world, he managed a workforce of some 50,000 personnel in more than a dozen overseas nations and throughout the United States.

His last assignment was as the Director of Defense Information System Agency (DISA) and the Manager of the National Communications System (NCS). As the Director of DISA, he oversaw the worldwide communication and information systems for the Department of Defense, and as Manager of the NCS, he was responsible for assisting the President and his key staff in the planning and provisioning of national security and emergency preparedness telecommunications for the Federal Government.

As a three-star general, Don has commanded at every level in the Army from platoon through company, battalion, brigade, post, to a major Army command.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, several Vietnam awards and the French Order of National Merité.
Don was also awarded the Joint Staff and the Army General Staff Identification Badges. He is a qualified parachutist and Army Ranger (Airborne Ranger). Don has served on the Board of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the Board of Directors of National Science Center, and in 1982, was honored as a Distinguished Alumni of Tennessee Tech.
In 1991, he received the Engineer of Distinction award from Tennessee Tech. In 1990, he attended the John F. Kennedy School program for Executives in National and International Security at Harvard University.

He retired from the Army in 1991 after 34 years of proudly serving his country. He and his wife June call Chattanooga their home. They’ve been residents since 1991. He continued to serve his community by helping organize the Armed Forces Day parade. Don also devoted his time to his neighbors as president of the Cherry Street Townhome’s Homeowners Association. As an Airborne Ranger, at the age of 79, he rappelled 280 feet off the face of the SunTrust Bank building in 2013 in support of a Boy Scout fundraising event.

He and June were staunch supporters of Challenger Center for Space Science Education, where June is founding chairman of their board of directors.

He and June were avid travelers. They especially loved Italy and the United Kingdom.

Don is survived by his loving wife Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, sister, Sue Chaffin, son, Eric Rodgers (Anne), step-daughter, Kathie Scobee Fulgham (Scott) and stepson, Rich Scobee (Alene). Their grandchildren include Margaret Rodgers Chick (Connor), Charlotte Rodgers, Jackson Rodgers, Justin Krause (Melanie), Emily Krause (Kori), Courtney Trout, Jilly Brock (Damian), Dexter Scobee (Ilina), Cristi Lynn Scobee, Andrew Sutherland, and great-grandchildren Catherine, Clementine, River and Taryn. He is also survived by nephews Lee Chaffin (Susan) and Randy Chaffin (Stephanie). And many more family and friends.

Memorial donations in memory of General Don Rodgers, in lieu of flowers can be made to the following: TN Tech Foundation, College of Engineering, PO Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505. Donations can also be made online at
Hooper-Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home has provided a space to share your thoughts and condolences at (931) 526-6111.

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