Sen. Douglas Henry, the most senior member of the Tennessee General Assembly, has announced he will not seek a 12th term next year.
“It is my intention, the Lord willing, to serve in the regular session of the General Assembly in 2014 and any special session or sessions called during that year until the November election,” Henry said in a letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney.
The Tennessean reported Henry’s decision, noting he referred a reporter to a story in the Green Hills News, and quoting his long-time political ally Nick Bailey.
“He asked me to let you know that he has made the decision not to seek re-election in 2014,” Bailey wrote in a letter to Henry’s supporters. “He does intend to serve the remainder of his term through next year.
“While I am convinced that Sen. Henry could have been re-elected, it was not a decision he reached based on the likely outcome of the election. Rather, it was a decision to devote his full attention to the care of his wife Lolly.”
The Green Hills News story by Drucillia Smith Fuller (pdf of the weekly paper HERE) quotes the letter to legislative leaders. An excerpt from the story:
He enclosed a letter from his physician, Dr. Mohana Karlekar, written last May but only heeded a year later, advising that his continuing to work as a senator, at the pace he works, would negatively impact his health.
The decision by Sen. Henry, who turns 87 on Monday, May 13, opens the 21st District for a newcomer to the Senate, promising to spark a fierce battle between the two parties for the seat.
Henry’s quarter-century of service chairing the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee has been widely praised by colleagues in both parties. Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell recently expressed her appreciation of Henry, “You know, governors come and go. But it is Sen. Douglas Henry who has watched that budget year after year and worried about that program. It’s just a wonderful gift he has given our state to his children, to his grandchildren to have done this for state government.”
Republican State Treasurer David Lillard has called Sen. Henry, “the lion of the pension system — he guards it well,” while State Comptroller Justin Wilson credits Henry with keeping pensions fully-funded since 1972.”
Henry with his characteristic modesty thanks “my late friend Lt. Gov. John Wilder who made me chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That made me a big, big dog!”
The Senator expressed his admiration for current Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally, a Republican, with whom he now serves.
Henry served a term in the House in the 1950s – the 79th General Assembly, which convened in 1955 – and was first elected to the Senate during the 87th General Assembly, which convened in 1971
Excerpt from statement by Sen. Henry:
“It’s important, I believe, for me to fully serve the term to which I was elected,” Senator Henry said. “But there are equally important reasons not only for this announcement, but for the timing of it.
“Most importantly, I need to spend more time with Lolly, my wife of 64 years, who has been in ill health recently. Secondly, I want the voters of the twenty-first district to have a good deal of time to decide just who they want to represent them going forward.”
Senator Henry, who will turn 87 this month, said he had advised the speakers of both houses of his plans and requested they help him discourage any early plans for “hail and farewell” type festivities, noting simply that “there is plenty of the state’s business yet to do and I plan to focus on that.”
Senator Henry represents District 21, which includes parts of West Nashville, South Nashville, Tusculum Hills, Antioch, Priest Lake, East Nashville and Inglewood and Madison.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney released the following satatement upon the announcement of state Senator Douglas S. Henry’s retirement:
“The Senate Democratic Caucus joins me in thanking Senator Douglas Henry for his five decades in state government,” said Chairman Lowe Finney. “His skills as a legislator are peerless, eclipsed only by his fervent advocacy for children, the mentally ill, the needy, and those Tennesseans who rightfully rely on his articulate voice because they do not have one of their own.”
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus released the following statement on the news that Sen. Douglas Henry (D-21) will end his many years of service as a legislator after next year.
“Sen. Douglas Henry is the type of legislator we all aspire to be.
“Through numerous administrations and changes in leadership, Sen. Henry has remained a stalwart advocate for fiscal responsibility and Tennessee values.
“There is no greater champion for the State of Tennessee than Sen. Henry. He maintains a great affection for this great state which shines through in everything he does.
“While his decision means he will no longer serve as a legislator after this session, we are confident that he will maintain a leadership role in the Democratic Party and the State of Tennessee for many years to come.
“We thank Sen. Henry for his many years of dedicated service to our party and the people of Tennessee. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”