Frances Preston, the former president of BMI and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died early Wednesday morning (June 13) in Nashville of congestive heart failure. She was 83 and surrounded by her family at the time of her death.
Preston was born on August 27, 1928 in Nashville. In her early career she worked at WSM radio station in Nashville. In 1958, she was hired to open the Nashville branch of BMI, the performing rights organization that collects and dispenses royalties for songwriters. Through her efforts, the organization signed countless songwriters and helped Nashville strengthen its music industry.
When she became vice president of BMI in 1964, she was reportedly the first female corporate executive in Tennessee, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame’s website. In 1985 she moved to the New York offices. One year later, she became BMI’s president and CEO.
During her time at BMI, Preston promoted legislation for fair compensation for songwriters and publishers and fought for copyright protection. She also served on the board for the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Preston served as longtime president of the board of directors of the T. J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research, as well as namesake of the Frances Williams Preston Research Laboratories at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville.
A statement issued by the family said Preston was often known as “the best friend a songwriter ever had.” She is also credited with coining the term, “It all begins with a song.”
Preston was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Services are pending and will be announced.