(Note: Will be updated with comments as they are received)
From Gov. Phil Bredesen:
“Andrea and I were both saddened to hear of John Wilder’s death and want to express our sympathy and condolences to his family. I hope they take comfort in reflecting on what a long and productive life he led.
“Gov. Wilder was one of the toughest men I’ve ever known. A couple of years ago he fell and cut himself at his home and lost a lot of blood before he could get to the hospital. I visited him in the intensive care unit at the Med, where he couldn’t talk because he still had a ventilator tube in his throat. That was on Friday; the following Monday he flew his plane back to Nashville.
“While we often agreed on issues, I don’t know that there are two people in Tennessee politics whose political styles are more different than John Wilder’s and mine. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, we worked together well, we got some things done, and we grew a genuine friendship. It was a privilege to know this unique Tennessean; I wish it could have been for a longer time.
“John always told me that his goal in life was to ‘make a difference’ for his state. I believe he made it.”
From House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh:
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend, Lieutenant Governor John Wilder.
Governor Wilder and I were very close for many years. During my first successful campaign for the state Legislature, Gov. Wilder endorsed me, something that he had never done before. His entire family, especially Mrs. Marcelle, made phone calls and his two sons worked extremely hard for me during that campaign and I was forever grateful.
I represented Fayette County for 26 of my 36 years in the Legislature and often worked with Gov. Wilder on important legislation for our districts. For 16 years, we served as speakers together, and it was truly my honor to do so. We worked together with many different governors, both Democrat and Republican. Regardless, Gov. Wilder was always doing what was best for the people of Tennessee, always working in their best interests.
Some years ago, Gov. Wilder sponsored what has come to be known as the Tennessee Plan. It was a very innovative plan that took the best parts of the Missouri Plan and crafted it in the best interests of Tennessee. And though there have been attempts to dismantle it, Gov. Wilder’s legacy continues to live on and I expect it will for many years to come.
Of my friend, I must say this: Governor Wilder was one of the most honest men I have ever known. His integrity and commitment, not only to his district, but to the entire state of Tennessee, is a shining example of what it means to be a great leader. When you look up the word statesman in the dictionary, you are sure to find John Wilder’s name.
He was a good man.
I am proud to say he was truly my friend.
I had great respect for him and I will miss him.
From Sen. Lamar Alexander, who worked with Wilder when Alexander was governor:
“John Wilder was a Tennessee institution, the very definition of a gentleman legislator. During the l980s, I saw firsthand how effective he could be when I worked with him on one of his most important contributions, the reorganization of the state board of education.”
From former Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers, a longtime family friend:
“John Wilder was like a father to me, and I am deeply saddened by his death. But, he was close to God and was ready. He knew God and welcomed going Home as he told me many times. Tennessee has lost a leader. Paul Summers will miss his friend.”
From Sens. Jim Kyle and Lowe Finney, in a news release from the Senate Democratic Caucus:
“Since 1960, powerful people have come and gone in Tennessee, but John Wilder was a constant and steady presence,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis).
“From civil rights, to the creation of an independent legislature, to the Tennessee Judicial Selection Plan, everything that has shaped modern Tennessee involved Governor Wilder. Ultimately, he became so much a part of the landscape that people didn’t see him. But a closer look will find John Wilder’s fingerprints on every good and progressive event of the last 50 years.”
“Our most sincere condolences go to the entire Wilder family, and we pause with them to remember Lieutenant Governor John Wilder’s life,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson).
“He was a man who often preferred the simpler title of “Speaker”, and for 36 years, Tennessee benefited from the leadership of a Senate Speaker who saw opportunity in every challenge, who came to the public eye as a young state senator and spent the rest of his life fighting for teachers, improving the lives of state employees, and serving as a voice for farmers on Capitol Hill. He left an indelible mark on the face of our state, and in the future, as in the past, we will look to John Wilder as an example.”
From U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, who served in the state Senate before his election to Congress:
“Gov. Wilder had a great many friends and admirers not only on Capitol Hill, but throughout Tennessee. I offer my deepest sympathies to his family. May they take comfort knowing he made a positive difference in the lives of millions of Tennesseans and that his goodwill and compassion will not soon be forgotten. He was that rare breed of public servant who transcended the typical political boundries and was able to find common ground more than not. I am honored to say I served alongside Gov. Wilder in the Tennessee General Assembly for several years. May he rest in eternal happiness.”
From Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter and candidate for governor:
“My family and I join the many others across Tennessee who begin the new year mourning the loss of one of our state’s great leaders. Governor Wilder devoted his life to public service and played a pivotal role in the deliberation and passage of some of the most important laws to impact our state over the past half century. On a personal note, I’ve known Governor Wilder virtually all of my life. I always regarded him as a dear, close friend. Even in retirement Governor Wilder continued to serve others. Just before Christmas I was fortunate to spend some time with him visiting friends in Somerville. Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to John Shelton, David and their families.”
Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis and chairman of the Legislature’s Black Caucus, quoted by the AP:
“He was an innovator… To be speaker of such a politically divided organization as the Senate for as long as he was, is truly a remarkable feat. He’s … made a mark on the history of this state and I hope the people of Tennessee truly realize what a great treasure he was.”
From U.S. Rep. John Tanner:
“With Gov. Wilder’s passing, our state and country have lost a most
dedicated public servant. I was honored to work alongside John in the
Tennessee General Assembly and during my time in Congress. He had a
great understanding of the problems facing Tennesseans and a strong
willingness to work with others toward bipartisan solutions. Betty Ann
and I offer our deepest condolences to the Wilder family and all those
who loved and worked with him during his long career.”
Pat Miller, who served as Wilder’s chief of staff when he was lieutentant governor and who is now chief legislative liaison for Bredesen:
“It was an honor to work for a man who did so much for the state of Tennessee. John Wilder, in his 36 years as speaker, oversaw the evolution of the Legislature into an independent body. When he said (as Wilder often did), ‘The Senate is the Senate,’ that was true because he helped make it so – an independent body.”
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who served with Wilder in the state Senate prior to her election to Congress:
“Governor Wilder was a mentor to me and scores of other Tennesseans. He dedicated his life to the betterment of Tennessee. After a generation of public service, we know that it was a life well lived. On a series of issues, from sales tax deductability to the establishment of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women; Governor Wilder’s influence and guidance were pivotal.
”I am honored to have known and learned from John Wilder. He was a good man who did great things for a state that will keenly miss him. Chuck and I are keeping his family in our hearts and prayers at this difficult time.”