A Covington native who made a name for herself in Hollywood has died.
Ina Claire Ashley passed away in Nashville on Aug. 3 following a brief illness, her obituary reported. She rose to stardom in the 1950s and appeared in television and in movies.
She was born Ina Claire Klutts on Feb. 7, 1932 to Thomas and Cordie Klutts. The family, which also included three sons, lived on Garland Avenue in 1940. A graduate of Byars-Hall High School, 5’8″ Ina was known as “The Blonde Terror” on the basketball court, was named Most Beautiful Girl, and was crowned Miss Tipton County in 1946 or 1947. Ina later went on to model for Goldsmith’s Department Store.
In his book True Tales of Tipton, Gaylon Neal Beasley reported when she was crowned in 1946 her alternate was Martha Lee Estes of Covington, the very person who’d help Ina get her big break. In 1953 Estes won a modeling contest in Memphis, moved to San Francisco and later to Hollywood in 1954. Then known as Leigh Snowden, Martha Lee was given her big break by comedian Jack Benny, was likened to Marilyn Monroe, and began appearing in films.
Widowed at age 23 when her husband, Clarance Tarry Poindexter Jr. was killed in an automobile accident in January 1955, the young mother of two went to California to visit Snowden and give Hollywood a shot.
She told The Tennessean after her husband died there were too many reminders here.
“It seemed everywhere I went around home there was someone or something to remind me of my loss,” she said in a November 1956 story about overcoming being a widow. “My mother suggested my leaving the babies with her and taking a short vacation. At the same time I received a letter from actress Leigh Snowden, a former high school chum, inviting me to visit her in Hollywood. I went.”
It was a quick rise to fame which some called meteoric.
She took drama and diction classes at Snowden’s encouragement and that summer she appeared in the Pasadena Playhouse’s production of “Sabrina Fair,” the Warner Brothers film “The Giant,” and the network television comedy series “My Favorite Husband.” Ina also appeared in the television show “The Millionaire” and the Memphis-produced show “Dance Party” with Wink Martindale.
She was named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1956, meaning she was one of 15 women chosen as rising starlets, and she and the other women appeared on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” on Oct. 30, 1955. Two days later The Tennessean reported a story in which it suggested she could follow in the footsteps of other WAMPAS Baby Stars Joan Crawford, Loretta Young and Clara Bow.
“She always had an ambition to be an actress,” her mother, Mrs. Tom Klutts, told The Tennessean. “In high school she was in all the school plays.”
Her son, Tarry, joined her in California first, then daughter Tandy was set to follow.
Ina’s obituary said she and her friends Debbie Reynolds and Ruta Lee helped found The Thalians, a Hollywood-based civic organization devoted to promoting mental health.
On Aug. 8, 1958 she married Barret Ashley in Tipton County and moved to Dyersburg, where she lived what her family members called a Christ-filled life until her death. She was active in her church, started Bible studies and witnessed to anyone who’d listen.
From Dyersburg she moved to Nashville to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law.
Ina is survived by her daughters, Tandy Claire Poindexter Tinkle (Eddie) of Holladay, Mary Barret Ashley Farnsworth (Bob) and Lina Lee Ashley Rowland (John) of Nashville; grandchildren C.T. Poindexter IV (Dana), Kathryn Poindexter Hazelwood (Matt Davidson), Matthew Poindexter (Kayla), Christin Tinkle Connor (Patrick), Zach Tinkle (Gabrielle), Ben Tinkle (Catherine), Ashley Gillum Pagonis (Josh), Barret Gillum, Elizabeth Rowland, and John Mitchell Rowland; 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
She was preceded in death by her parents, husbands, son Clarance T. Poindexter III and brothers, Tommy Klutts, Robert Earl Klutts, and Ronnie Klutts.
Ina Claire Ashley was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Dyersburg on Saturday.