Longtime Local Dentist Announces Retirement While Another Welcomes New Associate

June 17, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

Two local dental practices have announced big changes.

Longtime dentist Dr. Cliff Duke, who has been in practice since 1979, is retiring this month (tentatively June 25) completing 42 years of service to this community while Dr. Mitch Tatum of DeKalb Dental Center will be welcoming Dr. Duke’s patients as well as a new dentist to his practice, Dr. Alex Hayes

“After 42 years providing dental services to the best people on earth I am announcing my retirement,” said Dr. Duke this week in a joint appearance with Dr. Tatum and Dr. Hayes.

Although Dr. Duke’s office on South Congress Boulevard will be closing, he has made arrangements with Dr. Tatum to care for his patients going forward.

“I have seen some of Dr. Tatum’s work over the years and it has been consistently excellent and although I have not seen Dr. Hayes’s work because he is just starting his practice I have talked to his instructors who said he is really good. They think highly of his work,” said Dr. Duke.

Dr. Tatum commended Dr. Duke for the care he provided and looks forward to serving his patients now.

“I would like to congratulate Dr. Duke on his 42 years. That’s an accomplishment and this town has been truly blessed to have him. He has done excellent work and we will strive to continue that. We are honored to be adding Dr. Duke’s patients to our family. They will still have the quality care they have been receiving from Dr. Duke. We pledge to continue treating all our patients like family,” said Dr. Tatum.

Dr. Hayes, a native of Smithville, was raised here and educated in the local school system and he recently married Kelsey Hedge, who is also from Smithville.

“I went to preschool all the way through to high school here and played defensive back for the football team at DCHS. I graduated in 2013 and then went to Tennessee Tech and earned by Bachelor’s Degree before moving to Memphis where I got my Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in April,” said Dr. Hayes.

Ready to hit the ground running, Dr. Hayes said he is anxious to begin his new practice.

“I am super excited to be joining this team at DeKalb Dental Center. I have been a patient here and job shadowed several times and the staff always treated me so great. They are a big reason why I am here. I wanted to be part of that. DeKalb County has some amazing people. I love it here and I am so happy to be back. DeKalb County has had some excellent dentistry the past several decades and I will work to make sure that legacy continues,” Dr. Hayes said.

“We are excited to have Dr. Hayes coming on board,” added Dr. Tatum. We look forward to him being a part of this practice”.

Born in west Tennessee, Dr. Duke explained how he eventually found his way to Smithville.

“My family moved from Dyersburg to Memphis shortly after my birth. We later relocated to Georgia and that’s where I grew up. When I was in college our family moved back to Tennessee and after dental school I got a job with public health and this (Smithville) is where they put me. I was working at the health department here performing dental care three days a week and at Carthage two days a week. At that time my wife and I lived in McMinnville and later moved to Smithville,” said Dr. Duke.

During his time at the health department, Dr. Duke met longtime Smithville dentist Dr. Jerre Hale who was looking for an associate.

“I was working for the health department here in town at that time so I got to know Dr. Hale and we partnered. He took me in as his associate. We had separate practices until he retired several years later. I bought out his practice and went solo after that,” Dr. Duke continued.

Dr. Duke said while he has no specific plans in retirement he is looking forward to spending more time with his family. He and his wife are the parents of a grown son and daughter and they have two grandchildren, ages 6 and 8.

“I have grandkids I want to spoil as much as I can much to the chagrin of my daughter. I have learned over the years that retired folks are some of the busiest I know so I don’t anticipate being bored,” he said.

Dr. Duke also singled out his family, staff, and patients for a special thank you.

“It has been a profound honor to provide dental treatment for your families over the past 42 years and I so much appreciate it. It means more to me than you will know. I also want to say thank you to the people I work with. They are the reason I look forward to coming to work every day. I want to say thank you to my family. My wife and children make me look forward to coming home every day. Thank you so much for all you have done for me,” said Dr. Duke.