Jim Fyke, former state conservation commissioner and Nashville parks director, dies aged 78

James H. “Jim” Fyke, who served as Nashville’s city parks director for 25 years and as commissioner of the state Department of Environment and Conservation under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, has died at age 78 following a long battle with cancer, reports The Tennessean.

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Jim Neeley, union leader and former state labor commissioner, dies aged 76

James G. “Jim” Neeley, a longtime Tennessee union leader who served as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, has died at the age of 76.

Before his appointment as commissioner by Bredesen, Neeley was president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. The organization’s current president, Billy Dycus, notes he also served as labor commissioner under former Gov. Ray Blanton, in this statement issued Thursday following Neeley’s death late Wednesday evening.

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TN soldier killed in helicopter crash

News release from Department of Veterans Affairs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder recognize the service and sacrifice of Specialist Jeremy Tomlin of Chapel Hill, Tenn.  The Marshall County U.S. Army soldier was working as a crew chief and training in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed on Monday, April 17, 2017 in Leornardtown, Md.   Tomlin was pronounced dead at the scene and two other crew members were critically injured. Tomlin,22, was assigned to “C” Company, 12th Aviation Battalion out of Fort Belvoir, Va.

”Jeremy was a son, brother and husband who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country,” Haslam said.  “We pause to remember this young Tennessee soldier killed in the line of duty and as a state we offer our thoughts and prayers to his loved ones.”

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Chattanooga publisher, civic leader Ruth Holmberg dies, age 96

Ruth Holmberg, Chattanooga civic leader and former publisher of The Chattanooga Times, died Wednesday at her home. She was 96.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

Holmberg was the granddaughter of Adolph Ochs, the 19th-century patriarch of The Chattanooga Times who rose to world prominence as publisher of The New York Times in the early decades of the 20th century.

Over time, Holmberg was deeply involved in Chattanooga civic life, serving in leadership roles in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Urban League and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was named Tennessee Woman of the Year in 2003.

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John Chiles, former House GOP leader, dies age 83

John G. Chiles, a Nashville Republican who served 16 years in the state legislature including eight years as House Minority Leader, has died at age 83.

His tenure as House Republican leader came when Democrat Ned McWherter was governor and Democrats held a majority in both the House and Senate. In that capacity, he was occasionally combative on partisan issues but sometimes willing to compromise as well — and he regularly displayed a quick wit in both situations.

Chiles, who ran a family-owned Nashville restaurant and then worked as a banker, is survived by his wife, Beth, two daughters, a stepdaughter, six grandchildren and two stepchildren, according to the published obituary. (Note: It’s HERE.) A service is scheduled for Wednesday.

An excerpt:

After his restaurant career, John served as Vice President of Business Development for United American Bank. It was during this time that he became interested in politics. In 1976, he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives serving House District 57. He served as the minority whip in the 91st and 92nd General Assemblies. He was elected House Republican Leader in 1986 where he continued to serve through 1992. He was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council and served as the organization’s Tennessee State Chairman from 1988 – 1991. He also served as a member of the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee and in 1993, he was named the Tennessee Republican Statesman of the Year.

…A gathering of family and friends will be held at Donelson Presbyterian Church at 2305 Lebanon Road from noon until 2:00pm on Wednesday, March 29th. A Celebration of Life will follow immediately at the church with Dr. Paul Casner officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Donelson Presbyterian Church or the charity of your choice.

Sen. Henry’s body to lie in state at Capitol — first in 90 years

The body of Sen. Douglas Henry, who died Sunday at age 90, will lie in state at the state Capitol building on Thursday. The last person to receive that honor was Gov. Austin Peay, who died in office in 1927, according to Eddie Weeks, legislative historian.

Visitation will be in the House chamber from 10 a.m. until noon Thursday and again from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.  A memorial will be held at Downtown Presbyterian Church on Friday and burial will follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Monday evening senators spent about half an hour paying tribute to Henry, the longest-serving legislator in Tennessee history. From The Tennessean’s report:

(Among those speaking were) Sens. Jeff Yarbro, Thelma Harper, both Democrats, and Republicans Ferrell Haile and Steve Dickerson, who led the chamber in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of Tennessee, a practice which Henry advocated.

“Grant that we may never forget that our common life depends on one another,” he said, alluding to Henry’s ability to reach across the aisle and look after the interests of others.

Haile said when Henry announced his plans to not seek re-election, the question became about who would replace Henry. “No one would replace Senator Henry,” Haile said.

Yarbro said while he succeeded Henry – he won the Democratic primary in 2014 – he knows he will never be able to replace the elder statesman. “I think his most enduring legacy, one that I try to emulate but often fall short, was his ability to disagree and still treat his colleagues with the utmost respect and even affection.”

Harper said Henry always treated his colleagues “like we were jewels.”

“I’m just glad that I had an opportunity to know him and really to love him,” she said.

As several other senators, including, Dickerson, Jim Tracy, Todd Gardenhire, Mark Norris, Mike Bell and Rusty Crowe, shared their thoughts and stories about Henry, a slideshow of photographs of Henry played in the background.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who was close friends with Henry, told a story about how Henry and former lawmaker Tim Burchett were walking down a street and were approached by a “rather destitute fella.” McNally said when the individual asked Henry for any spare change, the local Democrat handed over a $20 bill.

“That’s the type of individual that he was,” McNally said. “He really treated everybody as equals whether it was the governor or the janitor or the person in the cafeteria. He was a great man and we lost a great, great individual.”

Former state Rep. Gene Caldwell dies, age 84

Former state Rep. Gene Caldwell, a pediatrician and U.S Navy veteran, died Saturday of heart failure at Oak Ridge. He would have turned 85 on March 14.

Caldwell, a Democrat, was elected to the House in 1996 and served three terms. He was active, before and afterwards, in multiple Anderson County community affairs.

Excerpt from the funeral home obituary:

Born Marvin Gene Caldwell to Georgie B. and Evelyn Brown Pruett Caldwell on March 14, 1932, he grew up on his parents’ farm in Woodland Mills in Tennessee’s Obion County… Gene graduated from the University of Tennessee’s College of Agriculture in 1953 with a bachelor of science degree in agronomy.

He joined the U.S. Navy while still at UT. After graduation in 1953 he married Bobbie McCoy, also from West Tennessee and a UT graduate. He and his young family were stationed in Portsmouth, Va., in 1954, and the following year they moved to Nashville, where he worked as a recruiter for the Navy. While there he did postgraduate work at Vanderbilt University, with an eye toward attending medical school. He always enjoyed teasing his Vanderbilt friends about going to Vanderbilt to get his grades up so he would be admitted to UT medical school.

… Gene and Bobbie always shared an active interest in politics and the Democratic Party in particular. In 1996 he successfully ran for office to represent the 33rd District in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He served three terms in the House, retiring in 2002. His wife, Bobbie, died in 2004.

.. The family request that any memorials be in the form of gifts to the Emory Valley Center Capital Campaign, for which he worked so passionately the last years of his life. Contributions should specify the Capital Campaign of the Emory Valley Center, P.O. Box 5328, Oak Ridge, TN 37831.

The body was to be cremated. The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at Holley-Gamble Funeral Home in Clinton.

Note: Comment from House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh:

“Gene Caldwell was a  good and kind man who used his intellect and professional experience in the legislature to improve the health of many Tennesseans, especially children. I was honored to serve with him and call him my friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Sen. Douglas Henry, Southern gentleman, dies aged 90

Sen. Douglas S. Henry III, who served longer in the state legislature than anyone in Tennessee history and in doing so gained a reputation as the epitome of a Southern gentleman and a staunch fiscal conservative, died Sunday, aged 90, in his Nashville home.

From The Tennessean:

A product of Belle Meade, Henry was first elected to a House seat in 1954 before being elected to the Senate in 1970 to represent Nashville’s District 21.

The longtime chairman of the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee, Henry served in the Senate for 44 years, developing a reputation as a guru in state finances. He left the state legislature in 2014, but remained a presence at the state Capitol and continued to draw the respect of current lawmakers.

His death came less than three months after the passing of his wife of 67 years, Loiette “Lolly” Hume Henry. She died in December. Henry had been ailing for weeks, prompting visits in recent days from his closest friends.

Some tributes:

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Jay West, Nashville politician and local government lobbyist, dies aged 65

Jay West, veteran Nashville politician and lobbyist for local government, has died at age 65, reports The Tennessean. Cause of death was not given, though he had recently been admitted to Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.

West, son of former Nashville Mayor Ben West and brother of former Democratic state Rep. Ben West Jr. of Nashville, served as an at-large councilman from 1983 to 1995 before being elected vice mayor in 1995.

West was part of an old guard of politicians from East Nashville, the onetime power base of the city. He replaced longtime Vice Mayor David Scobey and served one four-year term as vice mayor.

West then ran for mayor in 1999, finishing third behind winner Bill Purcell and Dick Fulton. West also had a career as a prominent lobbyist at the Tennessee General Assembly  (mostly on behalf of local government as the longtime executive director of the County Officials Association of Tennessee.)

… In a statement, Mayor Megan Barry said she was saddened to learn about West’s death.

“Hailing from a family of public servants, Jay served our city with dignity and honor as a former council member at-large and vice mayor of Metro Nashville,” Barry said. “As executive director of the County Officials Association of Tennessee, he served to empower local leaders and give a steady voice to the principles of local control. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Note: Most of West’s lobbying was on behalf of local government as the longtime executive director of the County Officials Association of Tennessee. A full obituary, including funeral arrangements, is HERE.

Sherman Novoson, radio political reporter and cellist, dies at age 70

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sherman Novoson, a former concert cellist and longtime radio reporter specializing in sports and politics in Tennessee, has died. He was 70.

Colleagues remembered Novoson appearing at the Capitol in a tuxedo to cover legislative floor sessions before heading off to play in the Nashville Symphony. Health issues later caused Novoson to give up playing music professionally.

The St. Louis native freelanced for several outlets, including CBS Radio. His cubicle at the Legislative Plaza press suite was covered with photos of celebrities he had interviewed over the years, including George Burns, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Ernest Borgnine.

“Sherman was a constant presence in my years on Capitol Hill, and I always enjoyed interviewing with him,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.


Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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