Tributes to the late Jane Eskind

Tributes to the late Jane Eskind, the first woman to be elected to statewide office in Tennessee and the first woman to chair the Tennessee Democratic Party:

From The Tennessean
Former President Bill Clinton called Eskind “the picture of perseverance and bravery.” He said in a statement Thursday that because of her “determination and commitment to win, she was an example to all women that they, too, could break into the so-called man’s world.”

“Even though she didn’t win every election, she always had a winning attitude toward every race she entered and every job she undertook,” Clinton said.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who sought Eskind’s advice and guidance through the years, called her “a selfless public servant and dynamic leader with a tremendous spirit who made history in Tennessee politics.”

“She was also a close and dear personal friend with whom I had the great pleasure of working for many decades. Throughout that time, I saw her stand up to prejudice, speak out against injustice, and work her heart out for all the people of Tennessee and for her beloved nation,” Gore said in a statement. “We have lost a great Tennessean who will be missed by all who knew her. I will miss her dearly.”

A Louisville, Ky., native who later moved to Nashville, Eskind earned the role as trailblazer in 1978 when she became the first woman in Tennessee to win a primary for statewide election. She bested a former state Senate majority leader to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

Although she would lose in her bid to oust popular incumbent U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, a Republican, she garnered national attention for her efforts — then-President Jimmy Carter swung through the state to speak on her behalf.

…“She was a force of nature in the Democratic Party,” said (former Gov. Phil) Bredesen, who counted Eskind as a friend and adviser. During Eskind’s prime, a candidate “couldn’t and shouldn’t run for office as a Democrat without coming to her.”

Bredesen said Eskind’s tenacity helped establish a path for generations of female politicians — Democrats and Republicans.

After her death, politicians from each end of the spectrum came forward to recognize Eskind’s legacy.

“Jane Eskind was a Tennessee pioneer and her courage helped open the door for other talented women to serve in public office,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican, became friends with Eskind through the former Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus. Harwell called her “a leader in getting women involved in politics.”

Statement from Mary Mancini, current Tennessee Democratic Party chair:

“Imagine how unbreakable the glass ceiling in Tennessee must have looked in 1964 when Jane Eskind began her work in Democratic politics. But she was dedicated and persevered and broke through it with gusto, and we are thankful for her many “firsts:” the first woman, Democratic or Republican, to win a statewide nomination, the first woman to be elected to a statewide office, and the first woman to chair the Tennessee Democratic Party.

All women in Tennessee politics today stand on Jane’s shoulders. She has left a legacy that few will ever match and my love, thoughts, and prayers are with her friends, family and all who knew her.”

News release from House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh
Nashville, Tenn.—House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh praised the life and works of Jane Eskind, who passed today at the age of 83.

“Ms. Eskind will be remembered as a pioneer in Tennessee politics,” said Fitzhugh. “She provided the example for young women and mothers that they not only had a place at the table in governing, but that place should be at the head of the table. Her combination of kindness and tenacity is an example for all of us in public life.”

Eskind ran for and won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1978, eventually losing to perennial power and incumbent Howard Baker. She would go on to run for Congress and for governor. Her win in 1980 to the Public Service Commission made her the first women in Tennessee to win a statewide elected office.

“The difficulties that Jane Eskind had to endure just to run for office are hurdles that are hard to imagine, even today,” Fitzhugh said. “For her to live to see a woman nominee for President of the United States has to bring great pride to her and her family. Here in her home state, we have a number of accomplishments that can be attributed to strong women like Jane Eskind: the first women Speaker of the House, the largest number of Democratic women running for seats in the legislature, and a woman from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus addressed the world at the Democratic National Convention this past week.

“Ms. Eskind was a trailblazer for these advances in our party and in our government,” said Fitzhugh. “Her contributions will never be forgotten.”