Category Archives: Ned McWherter

Ned McWherter Memorial Resolution Passes, Library Opens to Mourners

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Members of the House and Senate both unanimously honored former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter with a resolution on Thursday.
McWherter, a two-term Democratic governor and longtime House speaker from West Tennessee, died Monday of cancer at the age of 80.
As the state’s 46th governor, he supported education improvements — called the “21st Century Classroom” — that put more computers and technology in classrooms, increased teachers’ pay, shrunk class sizes and gave local school boards more control.
Two funeral services are planned for McWherter this weekend. One will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville and the other is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Dresden on the front lawn of McWherter’s home.
Note: Shortly after passage, the resolution was promptly signed by Gov. Bill Haslam. Text of the resolution, HJR221, is HERE.

And this note from McWherter’s home town of Dresden:
The Weakley County Library in Dresden will open on Sunday to allow mourners at former Gov. Ned McWherter’s memorial service to visit its exhibit on his life.
The library was built by McWherter and is located next door to his home, where the Sunday memorial service will take place on the front lawn.

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Memorial Services Set for Ned McWherter

Statement from Mike McWherter sent to media today:
“We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from every corner of the state. We are moved to know how many lives my father touched throughout his long career — people from all walks of life and from all across the country.”
The family invites everyone to join them at a Memorial Service honoring Governor Ned McWherter in Nashville, Saturday, 2 PM, War Memorial Auditorium or in Dresden, Sunday, 1:30 PM, on the front lawn of the governor’s home. A reception will follow each service.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Naifeh, DeBerry Lead House in Tribute to McWherter

Former House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, and House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh gave brief eulogies on Ned McWherter at the outset of Monday night House floor proceedings and led representatives in a moment of silent prayer.
Naifeh said he and DeBerry spoke with McWherter every Sunday as a matter of custom and always found him “upbeat,” even as his cancer worsened and spread “all over his body.”
Naifeh said that, according to Mike McWherter, the former governor suffered a fall on Saturday that “aggravated his spinal cancer” and sent him to the hospital. He seemed to be rallying Monday morning, Naifeh said, and Mike McWherter had arranged for a hospital bed so that he could be transported back to his home.
But as Mike was going to get the bed, Naifeh said, he got a call from the doctor saying Ned McWherter’s condition had suddenly worsened. Mike returned to the hospital and was there when his father passed away.
“He had a living will, so obviously it was not delayed,” said Naifeh.
“He was my mentor, he was my speaker, he was my governor and he was my very, very dear friend,” said Naifeh.
He also repeated one of McWherter’s frequent sayings, attributed to an old fellow McWherter met while campaigning for governor. McWherter might become famous, the old man said, “but the crowd at your funeral is going to depend on the weather that day.”
DeBerry, who was serving in the House when McWherter was speaker (Naifeh, too), said the former governor “was sometimes like a brother and sometimes like a father.”
“Today we lost one of our giants. Gov. Ned Ray McWherter has gone to glory,” DeBerry said.
She also repeated an oft-heard McWherter saying, which the former governor attributed to the late U.S. Congressman “Fats” Everett: “If you don’t want to work, you ought not hire out.”

Ned Died Peacefully with Son at His Side (From Obit Prepared by Family)

(Note: This obituary was distributed by the McWherter family late Monday afternoon.)
Ned McWherter, who was born a sharecropper’s son in the Great Depression and went on to a career as a successful businessman, House speaker, Tennessee governor and confidant to presidents, died today at age 80, his family announced.
McWherter, who had battled cancer in recent months, died peacefully at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville at 1 p.m. today with his son, Mike McWherter, and his longtime personal physician, Karl Van Devender, at his side.
Services arrangements were incomplete. Members of the McWherter family said they were planning a public memorial service in Nashville and a private funeral in McWherter’s hometown of Dresden in West Tennessee.
McWherter’s life in many ways was the quintessential American success story. He learned to read in a one-room school with a wood-burning stove, bussed tables for his family’s restaurant, and began his career as a traveling shoe salesman. He parlayed a strong work ethic, a large physical presence and an engaging personality into a career that included several successful businesses and nearly three decades as one of Tennessee most prominent leaders in state government.
Asked years later the secret to his accomplishments, McWherter answered with typical simplicity, “My parents and the people I came in contact with growing up gave me the foundation to be successful, and I took it from there.”

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Commentary on the Passing of Ned Ray McWherter

From former President Bill Clinton, who credited McWherter for helping him win the presidency (and who once said his first impression on meeting McWherter was “My Gosh, a redneck Budda.”):
“Hillary and I join his family and friends in grief over the passing of Governor Ned Ray McWherter, and in gratitude for his wonderful life. Ned was a great friend and a strong supporter to both of us. Just being around him always made me feel better. He calmed me when I was excited and lifted me up when I was down. His legendary ability to cut to the heart of a problem in a few blunt words was invaluable to me in the White House.
Those of us who served as Governors with Ned knew that under his leadership, there was no state better run than Tennessee, because of his commitment to both continuous change and sensible management, and his uncanny blend of old-fashioned common sense and progressive values. He loved people, politics, and policy. He took his obligations seriously but always found something to laugh about.
He was a bear of a man with a huge heart. I love him very much and I will miss him. I hope his memory will inspire young Tennesseans to follow in his footsteps. My thoughts are with his children, Michael and Linda, his grandchildren, and the people of Tennessee.”

From Sen. Lamar Alexander, who preceded McWherter as governor of Tennessee:
“When I became governor, Ned McWherter said, ‘I’m going to help him, because if he succeeds, our state succeeds.’ He was true to his word. That bipartisan spirit symbolized Ned’s entire career. He was one of our state’s finest public servants and a close friend. I will greatly miss him.
From former Gov. Don Sundquist, who succeeded him in office:
“He was a giant of a man — not just in stature but in leadership and governing. We had a very special relationship. We talked regularly while I served, and continued after I left office. He understood the average Tennessean’s need to feel that they are represented by someone who understands the problems they face. I tried to follow that example.”
From former Gov. Phil Bredesen (via AP):
“Ned’s life was a genuine American story, from shoe salesman to governor, never losing his bearings on the journey. He was grounded in Tennessee; he loved the people of his state and they loved him back. I can’t think of a finer epitaph.”
Bredesen also recalled that he and McWherter went hunting together (mostly in Texas) several times with others. “I remember how much he enjoyed it; not hunting itself so much as sitting around the camp with friends and trading stories.”
Former President Jimmy Carter called McWherter “one of the most effective and finest public servants I have known. Our nation has lost a great leader, and I a trusted friend.” (via AP)
From Gov. Bill Haslam, whose father, Jim, once toyed with running against McWherter for governor:
“This is a sad day for Tennessee. Governor McWherter was a true statesman who cared about this state and its citizens. He had a long and distinguished career in the legislative and executive branches as well as in business. I will always be grateful for his personal kindness to me and the wise advice he gave me during my first months in office. Crissy’s and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and the entire McWherter family during this difficult time.”
From House Speaker Beth Harwell, the first woman to serve in a position McWherter held for many years:
“Tennessee lost a true statesman today with the passing of Governor McWherter. He understood the role of the legislative body, and he carried it out to the fullest. He will be missed, and my heart goes out to his family during this difficult time.”
From state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, who worked on McWherter’s first gubernatorial campaign in 1986:
“I’m saddened by the loss of one of Tennessee’s great Democratic leaders. I had the high honor of serving in his first campaign for governor and count him as one of my true political mentors. His gift of understanding what working people cared about and his vision for what Tennessee could become has inspired me my entire political career. Gov. McWherter was every man and he was bigger than life. We have a lost a great one.”

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Ned McWherter Dead at Age 80

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ned McWherter, a onetime factory worker who became a millionaire businessman and two-term Democratic governor after two decades as a legislator, died Monday afternoon. He was 80.
Madelyn Pritchett, his longtime assistant, said McWherter died after a battle against cancer, at Centennial Hospital in Nashville where he had been taken Saturday.
McWherter, of Dresden, was governor from 1987 to 1995, following 20 years in the Legislature — and 14 as House speaker. He also was political adviser to Bill Clinton during his presidency.
A child of sharecroppers, he became a millionaire through various business enterprises before entering politics.
As governor, he supported education improvements — called the “21st Century Classroom” — that put more computers and technology in classrooms, increased teacher’s pay, shrunk class sizes and gave local school boards more control.
He was a member of the U.S. Postal Board after he left the governor’s office. Mike McWherter, his son, lost the race for governor in 2010 to Bill Haslam. Mike McWherter was at his side when he died, Pritchett said.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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