Rural Metro’s Lee Rayburn: a pro with a big skillset

Tom KingN/E Knox County, Our Town Heroes

Ladies and gentlemen of our community, meet Lee Rayburn:

  • Paramedic
  • Firefighter
  • Trainer
  • Teacher
  • Delivers babies

Rayburn is a 20-year veteran of Rural Metro, and he’s part of the team at Station 25 in far East Knox County just off Old Rutledge Pike. That station covers a huge swath of Knox County – Carter, Gibbs, Corryton and Strawberry Plains – and parts of Jefferson and Grainger counties.

The bug to be a member of the emergency-services and first-responder profession bit him when he was a 16-year-old Boy Scout in his hometown of Suffolk, Va. “The rescue squad there came out and made a presentation to us and was asking if any of us wanted to be in their Junior Rescue Squad,” Rayburn recalled. “My twin brother, Jack, and I jumped at the chance, and I was good at it and it came naturally to me. I was hooked for life.”

Thirty-four years later, this 50-year-old crew-cut professional is still at it and loving the work. “I’m not a bare-minimum guy. I’m all in all of the time. This is important work we do, no matter what kind of call we roll on. I still care deeply about this work, and I’ll be that way until I retire,” he said. “I make good quick decisions and remain calm during an emergency. And every person or patient I work with I treat like they’re a member of my family.”

When Engine 225 leaves the station on a call, Rayburn considers himself a paramedic first and a firefighter second. During his career he estimates he’s responded to more than 10,000 calls. “And I’ve helped deliver about 30 babies and actually cut the umbilical cord on nine of them,” he said.

Teaching and passing along what he knows is also a passion. He’s part of the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad’s “heavy rescue team” and also teaches heavy rescue techniques (structure collapses and tractor-trailer accidents), confined-space rescues, trench rescues and extractions from vehicles. On the paramedic side, he teaches firefighters, EMTs and EMS (ambulance personnel) in trauma and cardiac procedures, pediatric care of kids in accidents, plus CPR and first aid.

“Making sure I am ready to teach a class makes me a better firefighter and paramedic,” he said. “I get to make a difference when I teach classes in the public, especially helping a church buy AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and teaching them how to use them and how to do CPR. Or when I am teaching men and women at a heavy industrial plant like a chemical plant or a coal-fired power plant how to keep each other safe prior to the 911 folks getting there when there is an accident.”

Prior to joining Rural Metro in 1998, Rayburn worked as an EMT in Roane County for three years and spent five years working three jobs at the same time – Loudon County EMS, the Lenoir City Fire Department and as a Loudon County Sheriff’s deputy. “I had all three uniforms in my vehicle and would change into what I needed,” he explained.

Last summer the decision was made to renovate Station 25. Rayburn headed up that project and did much of the work, reworking the configuration of the day room and installing new cabinets and appliances for the kitchen and new bathrooms and showers. He even installed the back splash on the sinks in the restrooms.

Outside of Station 25 and the classroom, Rayburn and wife Terrie enjoy taking cruises and spending time with their blended family of seven children – daughters Cindy (35) and Amanda (32), sons Holland (26), Tim (25) and Chris (24) and daughters Harlie (13) and Halyne (6). Holland and Chris – and this is no surprise – work as ambulance EMS personnel for AMR, Rural Metro’s parent company. Terrie owns Dandridge Flowers & Gifts, and on big holidays Rayburn helps her with flower arrangements and deliveries. “I know my flowers and really enjoy helping her out,” he says.

He’s also a Shriner with the Kerbela Shriners and for the past seven years has handled their public relations and marketing. “We support families with kids who need to use the hospitals in our region (Greenville, S.C., Lexington, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio), and we pay for all of their medical and travel expenses,” Rayburn said. “We have helped 573 kids to date in our 18 counties.”

He and his Station 25 partner Keith McCroskey have been working together for four years, and their families even take cruises together. McCroskey says his unofficial title is Rayburn’s “handler.”

He has always had a passion for this profession, and his comments reflect that. “As far as work goes, I was raised old school. The uniform is to be worn properly, … to be clean shaved and clean cut. Fire-rescue is my dream job. I enjoy the job so much. The brotherhood and camaraderie are a big part of it.”

Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on, and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we should feature, email Tom King.

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