The Republican represented Wilson and Nash counties and served for six years before deciding not to seek a fourth term.
The House Principal Clerks office says that he died Wednesday in Las Vegas - possibly after contracting a virus.
He leaves behind a wife, Beverly Vick, and four children ages 8 to 21.
His family has made a Facebook page in his memory. You can see it here.
Etheridge graduated from Wilson County Technical Institute in 1981. He was the founder and owner of Branigan's Restaurants. He was also co-founder of Direct Approach Marketing and owner of VEBCO Buildings Inc.