After his last term as governor of Tennessee, the
I Miss Ned Ray bumper stickers were a fairly common site around the state1. He was certainly a popular governor during his two terms in office.
Today, former Gov. McWherter passed away in Nashville at the age of 80. He was a great leader and he will — again — be sorely missed by most Tennesseans who remember him fondly.
I had the fortune to meet then Gov. McWherter during his second term in office on a Political Science class trip to the state’s capital. We (the class and our teacher, also the school’s football & soccer coach) had walked into his empty office. I recall a smell of cigar about his desk and that my friend spotted his half-eaten sandwich. We were just being shooed out by the teacher — who no doubt thought he’d gotten away with something by getting us uninvited into to the governor’s office2 — when the Governor walked back into the room. He was an imposing man to most people, but to a 125 pound high school sophomore, he seemed as formidable as most of the state’s mountains. However, he was gracious and friendly and took a few minutes to speak with us. It was lost on me at the time that he was in the process of expanding the states education system by pushing for landmark improvements to the state’s education system and management.
During the course of that class and as a result of meeting him, I grew more interested in his politics and came to respect him as wonderful governor and politician. I can trace much of the political values I hold dear to growing up during his time as governor (I was just ten when he was first elected).