Brown County loses Andy Rogers

You have to think about the people here. But more than that, you have to respect them.

That was Andy Rogers’ advice for Brown County leaders in 2015.

The man who built the business framework for Brown County passed away July 19 at the age of 87.

His wife and business partner, Fran, passed away in January 2017.

For nearly six decades, Rogers had been a force behind most major undertakings in Nashville: water and sewer infrastructure, banking, health care, school construction, business development. He believed that serving the community’s needs — the locals and the tourists — was his responsibility as a business owner.

“We have a lot of people who come and go,” he said about Brown County in 2015.

“I hired a lot of people. I’ve had people work for me for 35 and 40 years. A lot of them have been here for a long time. We have to recognize, what are their needs? … We have to adjust ourselves to them and their abilities to contribute to the efforts of the county.”

“Respect them and their abilities — or lack of them — to get along,” he said. “They contribute. They have to. But you have to have respect for them.

“If I tried to do all the work myself, I couldn’t get it done.”

Andy’s father, Andrew Jackson “Jack” Rogers, bought the Nashville House restaurant in 1927 with Fred Bates Johnson. It caught fire in 1943 and burned to the ground.

Jack Rogers rebuilt it, and in 1959, his son took over the family business. It grew along with the town of Nashville.

As more people visited, Andy Rogers addressed the need for hotels and restaurants. He bought the Brown County Inn from a Cincinnati-based group; he built the Seasons Hotel and Conference Center; he bought The Ordinary restaurant and remodeled it.

Not only did Rogers supply the town of Nashville with food and lodging, he also provided space for shopkeepers. About 20 shop owners rent space in various buildings he owned, including the historic Bartley and Mathis houses in town.

Rogers also built three banks in Nashville, including the building that now houses First Merchants Bank. He believed that expanding access to credit was key to building Brown County’s business community.

Contributing to the community was something Rogers strongly believed in, whether it be in schools, in local government or another organization, he said in 2015. “If you are a (business) owner here, you have to contribute to the success,” he said. “You have to provide goods and services that are needed. You have to have an understanding of what people need to survive here.”

Although not an artist himself, Rogers valued art as a crucial part of Nashville. Fran was heavily involved in the art community, specifically the Brown County Art Gallery and Indiana Heritage Arts. He was friends with legendary photographer Frank Hohenberger and famous bird artist William “Bill” Zimmerman. Rogers’ family used to own the Brown County Playhouse.

Within the past few years, The Seasons and the Brown County Inn sold to new owners. The Frank A. Rogers Revocable Trust still owns several properties downtown, including the landmark Nashville House.

In March 2015, Rogers received a key to Nashville from the town council. Not one to brag about his accomplishments, Rogers said receiving the key — the sixth in the history of the award — felt “pretty good.”

In a Brown County Democrat story in 1999, Rogers said that Brown County still had a lot to offer, but “we have to be careful that we don’t drive them away with our commercial activity.”

He said the county needed to “hold on to its roots as a haven for artists and its country sensibility.”

“We don’t need to be slick and highly commercial. We need to be more country. Country is what we sell. I always talk about the flavor of Brown County. Brown County is many things, it’s many architectural styles, some rough, some not so rough. … We’re just a flavor. You have to come down here and savor it. We need to maintain that. Once you destroy that, it won’t come back.”

SHARE YOUR ANDY ROGERS STORIES

Andy Rogers has touched hundreds of lives as he worked to strengthen his hometown over the past 80-plus years.

We’d like to tell as many stories about him as possible on a memorial page.

Do you have an Andy Rogers story or photo you’d like to share? Send it to [email protected], drop it off at the Brown County Democrat office on East Main Street, or call it in to the newsroom at 812-988-2221.