By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lamar Alexander said Friday that a new exhibit at Vanderbilt University featuring the Republican’s pre-U.S. Senate papers and memorabilia does not signal that his political career is nearing an end.
“I do plan to run for the Senate again,” Alexander told reporters after touring the exhibit. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing, and I think I’m making a contribution.”
The 71-year-old former governor, U.S. education secretary and presidential candidate, is next up for re-election in 2014.
Alexander said the materials donated to his alma mater had been sitting in storage in downtown Nashville for 25 years.
“They’ve taken those boxes and found amazing things,” Alexander said.
Alexander said the items he finds most fascinating were related to the events that led to his being sworn in as governor three days early in 1979 amid a clemency-for-cash scandal that sent some of his predecessor’s aides to prison.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to do, nor had ever been done in history, but we did it,” he said. “And I remember thinking at the time about how things could go wrong and how 99 things probably would. But they it didn’t.
“And it was really because of the public spiritedness and bipartisanship of the Democratic leaders at the time.”
The display includes news footage of the hastily assembled swearing-in ceremony, and a necktie that Alexander borrowed from aide Tom Ingram for the occasion.
Alexander said he was surprised that his files contained an envelope later mailed to the Capitol by former Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton that contained a key to the governor’s office.
Also on display is one of the red and black plaid shirts that Alexander made his campaign trademark, and the first pickup truck produced in Tennessee by Nissan Motor Co. in 1983. As governor, Alexander was instrumental in bringing the auto industry to the state.
Alexander said the exhibit will serve a reminder to those who lived through the events portrayed, or will teach newcomers about Tennessee history.
“It’s not mainly about me, or even our family,” Alexander said. “It’s about a period of time in Tennessee.”