Tag Archives: obituaries

Son of Rep. Harry Burn, women’s suffrage figure, dies

Harry T. Burn Jr., the son of the Tennessee legislator who cast the “aye” vote in 1920 that ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, died of stomach cancer Thursday at his residence in Athens, reports Georgiana Vines.

Burn, 78, was an only child, never married and had no children, Knoxville lawyer Wanda Sobieski said Friday. She knew Burn from working with him on a statue of his father, Harry Burn Sr., and grandmother, Febb Burn, proposed for the grounds of the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.

Febb Burn has her own place in history for writing a letter to her son urging him to vote for suffrage. The Republican from Niota originally had voted “nay” but changed his vote after reflecting on her note.

…An obit on Burn said he was a graduate of the McCallie School, Harvard College and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He served as a page for the state Senate during his father’s tenure in the Legislature. He also was an editorial associate of the Andrew Johnson Papers, published by UT Press, had retired from Oak Ridge Associated Universities and was active on the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum board of directors.

He had a reputation for contacting journalists writing about the suffrage movement to fill in gaps in stories and correct their spellings.

Nashville political activist Betty Nixon dies, age 80

Betty Chiles Nixon, a trailblazing woman in Nashville politics, a mentor for progressives and a relentless advocate for neighborhoods amid the city’s steady growth, died on Sunday. She was 80 and had suffered from cancer for some time..

Further from The Tennessean:

Nixon served on Metro Council from 1975 to 1987, representing District 18, which includes neighborhoods near Vanderbilt and Belmont universities, and helping spearhead a pro-neighborhoods movement.

Nixon later became the first woman to run for mayor of Nashville in 1987, finishing third behind winner Bill Boner. She ran for mayor again in 1991, losing to the better financed Phil Bredesen in a landslide.

Nixon remained a voice for her home neighborhood well after her public service. As recently as this past May, Nixon spoke at the Metro Council to oppose a proposed apartment complex that she said was out of character with the area.

“Betty Nixon was an amazing woman, leader, and friend who taught our city a lot of lessons about public service, the importance of neighborhoods and the power of women,” Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement.

…Professionally, Nixon worked as assistant vice chancellor for community, neighborhood and government relations at Vanderbilt University before retiring in 2007. She served as chairman of the board of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, a speech and hearing center, and was also a board member for the Nashville Electric Service.

Note: Emailed statement from TNDP Chairwoman Mary Mancini: “We are saddened by the loss of the amazing Betty Nixon. She was not only a role model for women, but for a generation of activists and candidates she befriended and helped with an encouraging word, a bit of sage advice, and an energy that was as boundless as it was invigorating. Her legacy will live on in the work she did for her community, for Nashville and for the state of Tennessee. Our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends and all who loved her.”

Former Rep. George Fraley dies, aged 85

George Fraley, a former state representative and Franklin County mayor, died Wednesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville two days after he had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, reports the Winchester Herald Chronicle. He was 85.

His wife, Betty, confirmed that her husband had passed away at 10:50 a.m.

“He really will be missed,” she said.

Mrs. Fraley said visitation will be from 5-9 p.m. Friday at Moore-Cortner Funeral Home with services set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Winchester Church of Christ.

Mr. Fraley had apparently fallen out of bed just before 12:30 a.m. Monday and had hit his head, becoming incoherent. Mrs. Fraley said she called for medical attention, and Mr. Fraley was taken to Southern Tennessee Regional Health System and was later transported to Vanderbilt by helicopter ambulance where he was placed in intensive care.

…She said family, friends and fellow political officials have extended their support to aid her and Mr. Fraley while he was in intensive care, and she is very appreciative of their kind gestures.

“We’ve had so many people reach out to us,” Mrs. Fraley said. “It’s unreal. I’m so grateful to everyone who has offered to help and pray. We solicit their continued prayers.”

She said her husband’s political legacy was known far and wide. Mrs. Fraley referred to a Vanderbilt nurse who had referenced Mr. Fraley’s stance against a state income tax while a college student in Texas and had attributed his efforts to shaping her political outlook.

Mr. Fraley served as county commissioner in Franklin County from 1969 to 1982. He then served as county executive from 1990 to 1994. Later, Middle Tennessee State University honored Fraley as being the school’s outstanding alumnae for his service to the community.

In 1996, Mr. Fraley joined the Tennessee State House of Representatives and served until 2010. Fraley, a Democrat, was defeated by Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, in the November general election that year.

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. Continue reading

Jane Eskind dies, aged 83

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jane Eskind, the first woman to win a statewide election in Tennessee and a longtime Democratic Party activist, has died. She was 83.

Katy Varney, a family spokeswoman, said Eskind died Thursday after a long illness.

Eskind was elected to the Public Service Commission in 1980. She had unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate and governor over the years and in 1994, she became the first woman to chair the Tennessee Democratic Party.

In 2011, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Civil Liberties Union for her leadership in advancing the role of women in politics and changing the political landscape in Tennessee.

Eskind was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She settled in Nashville in 1956.

John M. Jones, politically active publisher and ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ vet, dies aged 101

John M. Jones, publisher of the Greeneville Sun and World War II veteran who was part of “Merrill’s Marauders” serving behind Japanese lines in Burma, has died at age 101. Jones was also politically active as a Democrat in the 1950s and 1960s, subsequently forming ties with some of the state’s prominent Republicans.

Excerpts from the Greeneville Sun’s report: Continue reading

Former TN Chief Justice Robert E. Cooper dies, aged 95

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Elbert Cooper, 95, died Sunday at his Signal Mountain home after a short illness, according to his son, Robert E. Cooper Jr., former Tennessee attorney general.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

“He was extremely courteous, and asked good questions, but he was always very practical,” said former state Supreme Court Chief Justice William “Mickey” Barker.

“His questions would be about what would be the implications if he ruled a certain way, what is the public policy involved, why is this a good ruling,” said Barker, now of counsel with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga. “He made you dig deep into things besides the law. But he knew the law better than anybody I’ve ever known.”

…He was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by Gov. Buford Ellington and twice won re-election to that position before winning a statewide election for the state Supreme Court in 1974. He was re-elected in 1982 and served for 19 months as chief justice.

The court elected in 1974 is credited with adopting a stricter Code of Judicial Conduct, creating a Board of Professional Responsibility to oversee attorneys, adopting new rules of evidence and of criminal and appellate procedure.

Cooper was chairman of the Tennessee Judicial Council from 1967 until 1990. He also was chairman of the Tennessee Code Commission on two occasions and was a member of the Tennessee Judicial Standards Committee, 1971-77.

“We all count ourselves fortunate to have had the benefit for so many years of his great wisdom, ready advice and vast knowledge of Chattanooga, the city he loved,” said Justice Cooper’s son, Robert Jr. “But we were even more blessed by his fierce love for his family. We will miss him greatly.”

The funeral service will be Saturday at Second Presbyterian Church.

Note: The Supreme Court has an obituary on its website, HERE.

Jim Henry ‘still in shock’ from death of wife, son

Excerpt from Georgiana Vines’ tribute to Pat Henry, who died recently.

Her husband, Jim Henry, is deputy governor to Gov. Bill Haslam. Now he’s grieving not only his wife’s death but the death of another son, Jimmy, on May 31.

“One week you have everything, then the next you don’t,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday, his voice breaking up. “It is just an unbelievable sequence. It’s just been 30 days (since Jimmy died). I’m still in shock, I guess.”

Pat Henry died on the Henry farm in Roane County on Monday of probably what was uterine cancer, her husband said. The diagnosis was a surprise, he said.

“She had a physical in January and got a clean bill of health. But she wasn’t feeling at the top of the world. She kept feeling bad, couldn’t eat…I think it’s obvious it had been there awhile,” he said.

She had two surgeries within the past month at Turkey Creek Medical Center. The cancer was aggressive and she would have needed aggressive treatment, Henry said.

“She wanted to come home. The chances of cure were miniscule,” he said.

So she went to their home on the farm and died with family and friends, he said. She was buried Friday.

Obama, TN politicians join in tributes to Pat Summitt

Statement of President Barrack Obama, as issued by White House press office

Nobody walked off a college basketball court victorious more times than Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters. Her unparalleled success includes never recording a losing season in 38 years of coaching‎, but also, and more importantly, a 100 percent graduation rate among her players who completed their athletic eligibility. Her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court. As Pat once said in recalling her achievements, “What I see are not the numbers. I see their faces.”

Pat learned early on that everyone should be treated the same. When she would play basketball against her older brothers in the family barn, they didn’t treat her any differently and certainly didn’t go easy on her. Later, her Hall of Fame career would tell the story of the historic progress toward equality in American athletics that she helped advance. Pat started playing college hoops before Title IX and started coaching before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball as a sport. When she took the helm at Tennessee as a 22-year-old, she had to wash her players’ uniforms; by the time Pat stepped down as the Lady Vols’ head coach, her teams wore eight championship rings and had cut down nets in sold-out stadiums.

Pat was a patriot who earned Olympic medals for America as a player and a coach, and I was honored to award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a proud Tennessean who, when she went into labor while on a recruiting visit, demanded the pilot return to Knoxville so her son could be born in her home state. And she was an inspiring fighter. Even after Alzheimer’s started to soften her memory, and she began a public and brave fight against that terrible disease, Pat had the grace and perspective to remind us that “God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. … He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.”

Michelle and I send our condolences to Pat Summitt’s family – which includes her former players and fans on Rocky Top and across America. Continue reading

Pat Henry, wife of deputy governor, dies aged 70

Pat Henry, wife of Deputy Gov. Jim Henry, died today at age 70, less than a month after the death of their son, James M. “Jimmy” Henry Jr.

A statement from Gov. Bill Haslam:

“Deputy Governor Jim Henry lost his wife of 48 years, Pat Henry, to cancer this morning. Pat was selfless. She spent her life devoted to her family and others and will be sorely missed. Crissy and I are praying for Jim, the Henry family and their many, many friends across the state.”

A statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander:

“Pat Henry spent her life caring for her family and for other families. For forty years, she and her husband Jim have been a part of most of the good things that have happened in Tennessee public life. Honey and I express our deepest sympathy to Jim and to the Henry family.”


The picture is from the News-Sentinel and shows Jimmy, Pat and Jim Henry (left to right) together on Oct. 13, 2013.

Note: Previous post on the death of Jimmy Henry HERE. The couple also lost a son, John, in 2012. John suffered from a developmental disability and inspired both Jim and Pat Henry to crusade for those similarly impacted — including Jim Henry’s service as Commissioner of the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental and Disabilities prior to his appointment as deputy governor and chief of staff for Haslam.