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Lula Clay Naff, also known as "L.C.", came to Nashville in 1904 recently widowed with a young daughter. She began working for the DeLong Rice Lyceum Bureau that year and would end her career fifty years later as America's "first lady" of theater management.
Born in 1875 in Fall Branch, Tennessee, Mrs. Naff was widowed young and quickly had to finish business school and begin working. She found employment with the DeLong Rice Lyceum Bureau of Johnson City as a stenographer. When the Bureau moved to Nashville in 1904, Mrs. Naff took charge of booking speaking engagements, concerts and other attractions into the Ryman Auditorium.
The Bureau was dissolved in 1914, which afforded Mrs. Naff the opportunity to begin working directly with the Ryman. First, she leased the building as an independent agent and then, in 1920, the board of directors hired her directly to manage the auditorium. Mrs. Naff remained in the position until she retired in 1955. At that time, she was named Manager Emeritus and replaced by her assistant, Mr. Harry Draper.
Mrs. Naff's business and booking savvy brought respect and prestige to both the Ryman Auditorium and the city of Nashville. Under Mrs. Naff's guidance, the Ryman regularly hosted legendary entertainers of stage and screen ranging from Katharine Hepburn to Harry Houdini and from Bob Hope to the Ziegfeld Follies. She also opened the doors for boxing matches, livestock auctions and political debates. Tough, determined, shrewd, and capable, by booking the best events available, she kept the building thriving for more than fifty years.
Mrs. Naff passed away in 1960 at the age of eighty-five.
Learn more of our history - visit our interactive timeline.