Tag Archives: low tax

Sunday Column: On the best and worst in TN Politics

About the same time that the most despicable figure in recent Tennessee political history was found dead in a prison cell last week, a small group of folks gathered in the state House chamber to remember a man they saw as one of the most admirable and respected figures in that history.
I never knew William L. “Dick” Barry, who during tumultuous times presided over 98 other representatives in that ornate chamber as House speaker for four years, from 1963 to 1967, then served as right-hand man to Gov. Buford Ellington and then as mentor and adviser — plus, at least once, also as a backstage organizer of an unorthodox bipartisan coalition. He died quietly, aged 88, in the town of Lexington, Tenn., where he was born and where — in accord with his instructions — no formal funeral was held.
But I trust the judgment of those who did know him, including members of the mostly gray-haired bipartisan coalition that gathered Wednesday. Based on them, and the commentary of others, he was a remarkable and insightful man of great intellect with perhaps even more remarkable modesty.

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Looper Death Brings Emotional Times for Burks Family

Wednesday was an emotional day for the Burks family as they learned the about the death of the man convicted of the murder of one of their influential family members, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.
Byron “Low Tax” Looper was found unresponsive in his jail cell late Wednesday morning in Wartburg in East Tennessee, where he was serving life in prison for the 1998 murder of state Senator Tommy Burks.
“We’ve got a lot of different emotions running right now,” Kim Blaylock, Tommy Burks daughter, said Wednesday afternoon a few hours after the news broke.
Blaylock found out when the TBI came by her office when they couldn’t reach her mother, state Sen. Charlotte Burks.
“They wanted to tell her before it came out in the media,” she said. “It’s been an emotional day for all of us.”
Charlotte Blaylock Looper, granddaughter, said on Facebook, “I would like to say thank you very much to everyone for the calls, messages and prayers. It is very nice to know my family and I have been blessed with so many supportive friends.”
Bill Gibson was the district attorney at the time of the murder and prosecuted Looper.
“It was the highest profile case that I ever handled as DA,” he said. “I’m just feeling a lot of mixed emotions at the news of his death. We lived that case for many months. We knew he would die in prison one day.”
Deputy District Attorney Tony Craighead was on the prosecuting team with Gibson and feels this is the closure of one of the most tragic cases in Tennessee history.
“I’m proud of the fact that I had a part in putting him in prison, although I can never take satisfaction in that because of Senator Burks’ death,” he said. “I knew Tommy. He was a wonderful man. It was a horrible tragedy. I’ve been prosecuting cases for 21 years now and I’ve done dozens of murder cases, and this was one of the most well-investigated and complete cases I’ve ever been involved in.”
Now that Looper’s dead, Craighead said maybe it will be a time to remember all the good that Burks did.