Episode 43 - Descendants of Nathan “Nearest” Green


All families have stories. They get passed down so that each generation can better understand who they are and from where they came. For one Lynchburg family, their stories are the stories of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. 


As the world recognizes Nathan “Nearest” Green as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey’s first Master Distiller, his descendants are able to bring their family’s stories to light. On this episode of Around the Barrel, host Lucas Hendrickson sits down with Debbie Staples, Jerome Vance, and Jackie Hardin, three of Nearest Green’s descendants who currently work at the Distillery, to discuss their family’s hidden history and the world’s reaction to it, and the inspiring legacy of Nearest Green.


Jack Daniel's Nearest Green

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Nathan “Nearest” Green was a name known around the Jack Daniel Distillery for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2016 that his name became more widely known outside of Lynchburg, TN. Nearest was the enslaved man who taught a young Jack Daniel the technique for making what would become his world-famous whiskey. He and his sons worked alongside Mr. Jack long after slavery ended, beginning a legacy of the Green family at the Jack Daniel Distillery, but the story of Nearest faded away.


When a New York Times article ran in June of 2016, his story came sharply back into focus, capturing international attention. Many celebrated the opportunity to give credit where it was due, while others saw the circumstances in a more negative light, and still others completely misconstrued the facts. 


Many emotions were conveyed in response to Nearest’s story, but the most common was surprise. However, no one was quite as surprised by all this fanfare than Debbie Staples, Jerome Vance, and Jackie Hardin. The three siblings knew about Nearest their entire lives. The shocking thing was, now the world knew about him, too. 


Debbie, Jerome, and Jackie are Green’s direct descendants. Their grandmother, Annabelle Green Eady, was Nearest’s granddaughter. Her father, Jesse Green, was Nearest’s son. 


It was always important to Annabelle that her grandchildren know about their family, so as she raised them, she would share stories of her father and uncles and grandfather, with memories often spurred by the passing of a Jack Daniel Distillery barrel truck. 


Years later, when the siblings began working at the Distillery, they were shocked to hear those same stories told, but someone was missing – Nearest. 


Now that Nearest has been recognized as Jack Daniel’s first Master Distiller and is celebrated for his many contributions, his descendants find it to be bittersweet. While they are thrilled that their great-great-grandfather’s story is getting so much attention, they are saddened that their grandmother, who had told stories of her family with such purpose, is not around to see it.


On this episode of Around the Barrel, host Lucas Hendrickson sits down for a candid conversation with Debbie, Jerome, and Jackie about their experience working at the Distillery their ancestor quietly helped establish and what it’s like to finally have their personal history become public knowledge. 


Join us for a meaningful conversation that explores the strength of an uncommon friendship, and the gift of permission to speak from the heart, Around the Barrel. 

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