Tag Archives: john jay hooker

Memorial service held for John Jay Hooker

Excerpts from The Tennessean’s report on a memorial service held Saturday at the Nashville Public Library for the late John Jay Hooker:

“John Jay Hooker was a man of many pearls, and you all are the pearls,” John Blount Hooker said to the hundreds who gathered to remember his father. “Look at each other, cherish each other, because you are the pearls.”

…Former governors Lamar Alexander, now a U.S. senator, and Winfield Dunn, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper mingled in the crowd. Mayor Megan Barry and former mayors Karl Dean and Bill Purcell also attended.

Dunn, who bested Hooker in the 1970 gubernatorial election and considered him a friend, recalled Hooker’s stories: No matter how many times he told them, they were always the same, and always accurate.

“He was one of the most eloquent and most sincere men I’ve known,” Dunn said.

Hooker loved to talk about his famous friends, especially the Kennedys, said Larry Woods, a Nashville lawyer. Hooker worked for and counted Bobby Kennedy a close friend. Woods worked on Hooker’s first campaign for governor in 1966.

“He talked about those folks like I talk about my neighbor,” Woods said with a fond smile.

…Kendall Hooker Hinote, Hooker’s daughter, said she considered making just one simple statement: “I am grateful for his life.”

“But I am my father’s daughter, and he did love the English language,” she continued, drawing a laugh. Hooker’s friends recorded their own stories about him in the library’s recording rooms and jotted memories on legal pads.

“In summation of this closing argument, all we can think to say is we are grateful for his life, and we are grateful you shared yours with him,” Hinote said. “And so in the words he was using more than any in his last days, and he said it with such his whole self, and when he got sick I think he started saying it more than ever, and those simple words were just: Thank you.”

Tributes to the late John Jay Hooker

Tributes to the late John Jay Hooker:

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander: “John Jay Hooker Jr.’s remarkable personality spread a bright light across Tennessee government and politics for a half century. He had friends everywhere. Honey and I will greatly miss his enthusiasm, his sense of purpose, and his friendship.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper: “John Jay’s great friends Seigenthaler and Barrett were the stuff of history. John Jay was the stuff of legend. His exploits were all true, just larger than life. People will be telling John Jay stories for generations, loving the vitality, grace and charm of perhaps the most unique figure in Tennessee history.”

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini:
“Today we mourn the loss of the John Jay Hooker, but we also celebrate his extraordinary life. For decades Mr. Hooker was a role model for progressives across Tennessee and the country. Never afraid to take a stand for what he believed was right, this larger than life man guided an entire generation of politicians and citizens to do the same. His defining presence and his generous spirit will be missed.”

John Jay Hooker dies, aged 85 (updated)

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A family friend said larger-than-life Nashville political figure John Jay Hooker Jr., who spent his last days fighting to make physician-assisted suicide legal in Tennessee, died on Sunday at 85.

Political strategist Tom Ingram said he received a message from one of Hooker’s daughters that Hooker had died in hospice. He had been suffering from metastatic melanoma.

Hooker had brilliant successes early in life as an attorney. Tapped in 1958 to prosecute the impeachment of a Chattanooga judge accused of accepting bribes from racketeers, he fell into the orbit of Robert Kennedy, who was investigating the Teamsters union. Hooker later worked as special counsel to Kennedy after he became U.S. attorney general, even living in Kennedy’s house for a time.

Hooker was one of the original investors in Hospital Corporation of America, a chairman of STP Corp., part-owner and publisher of the Nashville Banner, and briefly chairman of wire service United Press International.
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An AP feature story on John Jay Hooker

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The ups and downs of John Jay Hooker are the stuff of Nashville legend.

Friend of Muhammad Ali, socialite, lawyer who moved in the Kennedys’ circle, Hooker also lost businesses, millions of dollars and high-profile political campaigns. In his later years, he has earned the moniker gadfly, mostly for losing battles, and seemed to be fading into irrelevance.

Then he got cancer and everything changed.

Being told he was dying breathed new life into the 85-year-old Hooker as he rallied to the cause of physician-assisted suicide. Now he calls it “the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

“It’s transformed my life in the sense that when I first got the news that I had only six months to live, it was a jolt,” he said. “But now that I have sort of shifted gears I feel it’s an honor to have the credentials to get into this fight.”

During a recent trip to his oncologist, a woman in the waiting room introduced herself, declaring how wonderful it was to meet him and saying she wanted to sign on to his latest crusade.

“You should see all the people who come up to me when I’m walking down the street,” Hooker said in an interview at his retirement home apartment, where framed newspaper clippings from his political campaigns, business enterprises and social engagements filled the walls. Looking a little out of place was a 200-year-old oil portrait of his ancestor William Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution.
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Supremes refuse expedited hearing in Hooker ‘death with dignity’ lawsuit

The Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected a request from John Jay Hooker for an quick hearing on his appeal of a lower court decision rejecting an assisted suicide lawsuit, reports The Tennessean.

The justices said Hooker cannot take his case directly to the state’s highest court — essentially skipping an intermediate court. They said the former gubernatorial candidate and advocate must go through the regular appeals process, starting with the Court of Appeals. Hooker, who has terminal cancer, said he plans to do just that.

“I am in a rush to get this question decided so that those of us who face death can decide if we want to die with a smile on our face instead of tears in our eyes,” he said. Hooker pushed legislation earlier this year to change a Tennessee law that makes it a crime for doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. The legislation was not passed, and Hooker filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court asking a judge to allow his doctors to prescribe the medication.

In September, Chancellor Carol McCoy dismissed the case, saying Hooker did not have standing to pursue legal action.

Hooker said Friday he believed McCoy should not have heard the case. Hooker said that is because McCoy’s husband, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Roger Page, applied to fill a vacant seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court after the retirement of Justice Gary Wade. Hooker said because Gov. Bill Haslam was named as a defendant in his Chancery Court case, and Haslam will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, McCoy had an interest in how she decided the case and should have removed herself from it.

McCoy heard arguments in July, before court administrators publicly announced Wade’s retirement. She issued her ruling five days after her husband applied for the vacancy.

Calls to McCoy’s office were directed to Trial Court Administrator Tim Townsend, who said he could not comment.

TN inmates ask courts for execution instead of life sentences

Two inmates at Tennessee’s Turney Center prison, both serving life sentences for murder, are asking courts to be executed, writes columnist Frank Daniels. An excerpt:

Kenneth D. Thomas, who was convicted in the 1999 New Year’s Eve murder of Andrew Titus and sentenced to life without parole… has continually pleaded his innocence as he filed a number of appeals over the past 12 years. The Tennessee Supreme Court denied his last appeal, based on recanted trial testimony, on July 21.

His final petition, to the U.S. Supreme Court, again proclaims his innocence, but if the high court is unwilling to review his conviction, Thomas has asked the court to compel the state to give him a “death with dignity” by euthanasia.

Citing the Eighth Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” Thomas says he would rather die and donate his organs — preferably to his parents — than “suffer the indignities of being an innocent prisoner.”

While there is virtually no chance that the court will honor Thomas’ wishes, his petition has caught the attention of other inmates at the Turney Center Industrial Prison Complex in Only, including Steven D. Skinner.

Skinner said that he had filed a petition with the Hickman County Chancery Court to be euthanized instead of serving out his sentence. Skinner also was convicted of murder.

“I feel as (Thomas) does that euthanasia has to be an option for prisoners sentence (sic) to die behind bars as we are,” Skinner wrote in a letter. “Can you tell me, why should we continue to rot away in here just awaiting death?”

It is an interesting question these men pose.

In Belgium, which has allowed terminally ill adults and those dealing with unbearable pain to choose euthanasia since 2002, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, Frank Van Den Bleeken, successfully petitioned for euthanasia in 2014. The court granted his petition because of the “voluntary, considered and repeated” requests he had made to be euthanized.

His death was scheduled for Jan. 11, but the procedure was canceled Jan. 6 and he was transferred to a psychiatric prison ward.

Tennessee has no right-to-die statute, though the legislature has been studying a “death with dignity” bill filed on behalf of John Jay Hooker, who was diagnosed with terminal melanoma in January.

…At lunch Tuesday, I asked Hooker what he thought of the inmates’ requests.

“It seems to me,” said Hooker, who looked good and was in good spirits, “that our constitution would support their requests.”

Hooker seeks expedited ruling in assisted suicide lawsuit

Political activist and dying cancer patient John Jay Hooker is asking the state Supreme Court for an expedited hearing on an appeal of a judge’s refusal to allow his doctors to prescribe life-ending medication without facing criminal consequences.

Further from The Tennessean:
“This case involves the imminent death of a party (Hooker),” the appeal, filed Tuesday by Nashville attorneys Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chappell, reads. “A terminally ill Tennessee citizen’s interest in his or her own manner of death is of utmost personal and public importance.

“The confusion resulting from the trial court’s opinion and the need for guidance on constitutional issues also calls for expedited review of this case.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court is usually the last appeals court to hear cases, but has occasionally agreed to hear them out of order. Earlier this year it intervened and ruled on several issues related to the state’s lethal injection execution protocol while the protocol was being contested in a Davidson County court.

The justices of the state’s highest court will decide whether to hear Hooker’s case.

Hooker is asking them to reverse a September decision from Nashville Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy upholding a state law that makes it illegal to help anyone commit suicide. McCoy said Hooker’s doctors would be committing criminal acts if they wrote prescriptions for life-ending medications.

Judge rules against Hooker’s assisted suicide lawsuit

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is terminally ill cannot die by assisted suicide, a judge ruled Tuesday, saying doctors engaging in such a practice are committing “criminal conduct.”

John Jay Hooker, 84, has terminal cancer and has doctors who have expressed a willingness to prescribe him a lethal dosage of painkillers.

State law allows a person to refuse end-of-life care, but aid-in-dying or assisted suicide is illegal in Tennessee. Doctors in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana can prescribe life-ending drugs, and California lawmakers passed legislation earlier this month that would allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

In Tennessee, doctors sought protection from prosecution if Hooker was administered the drugs.

Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled against the plaintiffs. She said they “do not have standing to bring this action.”

“The aid-in-dying prescription involves a script for a lethal dose of medication to cause quick death, not to provide palliative care to relieve physical pain and discomfort, as is allowed,” McCoy said. “If the physicians intend to provide lethal drugs to end their patients’ lives, they engage in criminal conduct.”

Hooker’s attorney, Hal Hardin, did not immediately return a call. But he has argued that a person has a fundamental right to die with a doctor’s help under the Tennessee Constitution.

Hardin has said state law is contradictory and unconstitutionally vague, but McCoy disagreed.

“The assisted-suicide statute is constitutional, is not void for vagueness and does not violate any of the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights under the Tennessee or U.S. Constitutions,” she ruled.

Hooker, who has fought for civil and constitutional rights for 60 years, told the AP in a phone interview that he plans to appeal the ruling.

“For decades I have been challenging judges who won’t honor the constitution,” he said. “And I’m going to continue, until the day I die.”

Hooker seeks speedy ruling on ‘right to die with dignity’

John Jay Hooker, suffering from terminal cancer, is asking a Nashville judge to speed up a ruling on his “right to die with dignity” lawsuit challenging a state law that prohibits physicians from providing lethal drugs to the terminally ill, reports WTVF. He also got the Davidson County grand jury to issue a statement supporting his call for the Legislature to change the law.

“We filed a motion today that respectfully says ‘let’s get on with it,’ because whatever she decides is going to be appealed,” said Hooker. “If she decides in my favor it’ll go up the other side and will be appealed and we’ll appeal and what we need is the next best answer to ‘yes’ is ‘no’ so that we can take it on up to the next level.”

Meanwhile, A Davidson County Grand Jury also heard from the longtime lawyer, political activist and civil rights leader because he claims that Legislators abused their powers when they passed the law prohibiting people to take their own lives.

The Jury issued a statement on Friday showing their support for Hooker’s fight to get the state’s law amended to give patients an end of life option.

Hooker planned to send a copy of that Grand Jury statement to all members of the legislature because he said the fight is not over.

“I’ve been fighting for civil rights and fighting against the judges’ way of electionv and I’ve been sticking my nose in the public business for a long, long time,” said Hooker. “This gives me a special thrill because so many people so deeply relate to it.”

John Jay Hooker has been taking experimental medicines that make it difficult for him to walk, and make him itch, but are helping him retain the ability to get around, at least for the time being.

John Jay Hooker goes to court asking assisted suicide

Attorneys for John Jay Hooker and three doctors appeared in court Friday, asking a judge to allow the physicians to help the 84-year-old lawyer and frequent political candidate end his life.

Hooker, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, joined the doctors in filing a Chancery Court lawsuit in May. Earlier, Hooker urged the Legislature to change current state law that prohibits doctors from prescribing lethal drugs to assist a suicide. The Legislature did not.

From The Tennessean report:

Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy is considering two issues argued during a two-hour hearing in the case Friday morning.

Hooker’s attorneys, Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chapell, want an injunction to allow Hooker’s doctors to prescribe him life-ending medication without criminal repercussions. The state, defending the law, says McCoy should dismiss the case and leave it up to the legislature.

“I’m hopeful she’s going to decide on our side,” said Hooker, who appeared to become emotional when speaking to reporters after the hearing. “This is just so morally right. I’ve got hope in my heart.”

Steven Hart, special counsel in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, argued assisted suicide is not a constitutionally protected right. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide is not protected by the Constitution.

“This is a matter for the General Assembly to consider and debate and not for the court to decide,” Hart said.

He said 45 states prohibit assisted suicide, which is sometimes called aid in dying or death with dignity. To allow it, he said, would start a “slippery slope toward perhaps even euthanasia.”

…McCoy did not set a time frame for her ruling. Before leaving the courtroom, she acknowledged Hooker’s work.

“Mr. Hooker, my sincere condolences on your health,” she said. “You have been a very well known and active citizen exercising all of your rights. I wish you well.”