I Miss Ned Ray

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).

  1. Despite my claim, I could­n’t find any images of one on Google []
  2. Yes, kids, there was a time in the nation’s great his­to­ry when you could just walk into your state’s gov­ern­ment build­ings and actu­al­ly speak with your elect­ed offi­cials. []

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