Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
McWherter was born in the Palmersville community in Weakley County, Tennessee to Lucille Golden Smith McWherter and Harmon Ray McWherter. He began his political career in 1968 when he won a seat to the Tennessee House of Representatives. After only serving two terms in the General Assembly, he was elected Speaker of the House – a position McWherter held longer than anyone else in Tennessee history. He also made history by becoming the first person ever to serve as Speaker of the House right up until the time he assumed the duties of governor. During his time in the legislature, he served in the following areas: State Building Commission Joint Fiscal Review Committee, the Council on Pensions and Retirement, the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial Development Commission and the State Agri-Industries Board. He was also the chairman of the House Calendar and Rules Committee, the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee and the House General Welfare Committee. He won a spirited primary over Public Service Commissioner Jane Eskind and Nashville mayor Richard Fulton in 1986 for the Democratic nomination for governor, and then defeated, with surprising ease, former GOP governor Winfield Dunn in the general election.
When McWherter was elected as the 46th governor of Tennessee, he set an example of progressive and honest leadership by insisting all formal governmental proceedings be open to the public and press, implementing the spirit, as well as the letter, of the "sunshine law" he had helped to author and sponsor while a member of the House. He had opened doors to minority groups in Tennessee as Speaker by appointing the first black committee chairmen in Southern history and assisted women into influential leadership roles in the legislature. His "21st Century Schools" education reform program launched similar programs in other states and his replacement of the Medicaid program with the current TennCare system gained national attention. As governor, he also served nationally and local on councils and committees including the board of governors, Council of State Governments, the Executive Committees of the Southern Conference, the Weakley County Head Start Program and the Executive Committee of the Northwest Tennessee Economic Development District. He was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in 1990, carrying approximately two-thirds of the vote over the essentially token candidacy of the Republican nominee, first-term state representative Dwight Henry. (Many prominent Tennessee Republicans actually supported McWherter for re-election, some tacitly, others fairly openly.) A tax study commission appointed during his first term reported at the beginning of his second, recommending a state income tax be implemented. McWherter seemed to understand how unpopular this idea was with the average Tennessee voter, and after giving it a few weeks of lukewarm support, the idea was dropped entirely, not to resurface again during his time as governor.
When, during his second term, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Jr. was elected Vice President, McWherter appointed his Chief of Staff, Harlan Matthews, to serve as a caretaker until the 1994 election. McWherter could probably easily have been elected to a third term except for the term limits provision in the Tennessee constitution; when asked about this, he stated that he would not have run for another term even if it had been permissible. Following the end of his second term as governor in 1995, McWherter was appointed to the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service by then-President Bill Clinton. McWherter now is retired and resides in Tennessee, where he is still very active in the Tennessee Democratic Party. The former governor maintains his business interests, including nursing homes and a beer distributorship. He is a member of the Methodist Church and served for 21 years in the Tennessee National Guard before retiring with the rank of captain.
McWherter was married to the late Bette Jean Beck McWherter and is the father of two children. His son Michael Ray McWherter is a businessman in Dresden, Tennessee, and his daughter Linda Ramsey is a doctor of physical education at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
| Preceded by :|
|Governors of Tennessee|| Succeeded by:|
Donald K. Sundquist
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details