Christopher Tate, a Gentle Soul, Dies at 44

People throughout Middle Tennessee's LGBTQI+ community took to social media this week with posts honoring James “Chris” Christopher Tate, 44, of Springfield, Tenn., who passed away on Sunday, May 24, after a recent battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia.


Mr. Tate was born June 3, 1975, in Springfield to the late James Douglas Tate, Jr. and Paulette Henderson Tate. He was preceded in death by his father, James Douglas, Tate, Jr. and a brother, Cory Tate. He is survived by his mother, Paulette Henderson Tate, of Greenbrier.

“It is with a heavy heart, at the request of his mother, I am informing all that knew him, Christopher Tate passed away this morning on his way to the hospital,” said Bud East, a close friend of Tate’s, in a Facebook post Sunday. 

“Chris was a gentle soul,” East said. “He worked for me at the Connection and at Tribe. He loved his friends and deeply cared about them. We spoke last Wednesday night (May 20) about yard work. I loved the way he took pride in making things look good.”

East said Mr. Tate had just turned 21 when they met for the first time for a job interview. East hired Mr. Tate right away to check ID’s at The Connection, an iconic nightclub that helped bring gay Nashville into the mainstream before closing it’s doors in 2005. Ten years later, East again hired Mr. Tate - this time to work at Tribe on Church Street where East currently serves as senior manager. 

“With his smooth Southern accent, he could hold the best of conversations,” East said. “What I admire most about him was the way he took initiative in always wanting to help with any project - whether it would be pulling weeds, or just decorating for Christmas. That was his favorite time of year...We all became better people knowing him.”

Mr. Tate was laid to rest Friday, May 29, at 10 a.m. at the Springhill Cemetery in Goodlettsville on Dividing Ridge Road at the gravesite. Tate’s niece, Morgan Tate, 19, said only immediate family and pallbearers were permitted to attend the funeral and visitation, but the burial service was outside and attendees were spaced out due to social distancing guidelines, and out of an abundance of caution. She said attendees at the funeral also wore masks.  

“We stood with our family and everyone spaced around us,” Morgan Tate said. “It’s different with the recommendations and guidelines because I had to say goodbye to my uncle without some of my close family and friends there to support me. I hugged my grandmother because we were burying her son, my uncle. Regardless of social distancing, we lost someone and had to bury them today, so we hugged and we cried.”

She said many of Christopher’s friends attended the service and laughed and cried over stories of him.

“We couldn’t hold hands, but we still stood and prayed for my family and everyone he left behind,” Morgan Tate said. “He used to always say despite what we go through and who we have lost, they are always with us. They are with God and God is with us.”

Morgan Tate said that, as she understands it, Mr. Tate’s death was not related to the virus, but that the cause of death was pneumonia paired with pre-existing COPD and asthma. She said Mr. Tate had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, March 16, and was quarantined for two weeks before making a recovery. She says he then tested positive for the virus again on Friday, May 22. Two days later, he died on his way to the hospital.

“While his mother was driving him to the emergency room, he passed away before getting there,” East said. “They feel like his heart just gave out.”

Out & About Nashville has submitted a request for the death report from the Tennessee’s Office of the State Chief Medical Examiner to confirm the official cause of death.

The Tate family says they had planned to get shirts made that say “Tate Strong” and that Christopher had planned a big barbecue with his friends when the pandemic was over, and he wanted to have a family reunion to get back in touch with everyone. Morgan recalls one of her favorite memories with her uncle:

“Every Christmas we would drive around Greenbrier and look at the lights, especially the dancing lights on Logan Road. Uncle Chris, my Granny Pooh [Christopher’s mother], and I would go drive around after dark to see the lights and talk about memories around the town. Different places they lived, where he likes to go with his friends, things like that.”

Morgan Tate said she feels it’s important for everyone to keep their loved ones close, even when they are apart, by taking time to make a phone call or send a text.

“I love him and miss him,” says Morgan Tate. “He had a very close and personal relationship with God, and I’m glad he’s up there with the rest of the Tate’s looking down on us.”

Mr. Tate’s Facebook page lists Robertson County Schools as a current employer. A request for comment was submitted via email to Robertson County Schools Spokesperson Jim Bellis, and was not returned at the time of this article.

To help the Tate family with funeral expenses, donors can contact Austin & Bell Funeral Home in Greenbrier, Tennessee at 615.384.1000.

*(UPDATE: June 1, 2020) - A report received by Out & About Nashville from the Tennessee Chief Medical Examiner lists Mr. Tate's cause of death as "Respiratory/GI."

Metro Public Health Department officials announced on May 31, 2020, a total number of 5,385 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nashville/Davidson County, an increase of 100 in the past 24 hours. A total of sixty-three (63) people have died after a confirmed case of COVID-19 and 4,133 individuals have recovered from the virus.

This article has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project for COVID-19 coverage.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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