Ned McWherter, Former State Governor, Dies
When I was a lowly undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, our town was abuzz about the elder then-President Bush’s visit to our university. President Bush gave a speech to his constituents at the Student’s Center, and every student who was free was standing with baited breath on The Hill, overlooking the Student’s Center, waiting to catch a glimpse of our then-President.
I was walking to my next class, and stopped to take a look, but avoided the crowds, pressing ever forward, straining to see. I’ve always been glad I stopped and waited, a lone student with the rest of the university looking in another direction. President Bush walked out of the building, to the screams of the public, into his waiting limousine, whisking him away exactly one block to his next speech. I barely saw him give his famous wave, and then enter his car.
Out of the corner of my eye, 4 distinguished gentlemen walked into my view. They quietly left the Student’s Center, all cordial with each other, with no security detail. They were lead by a very proud, very tall, extremely friendly man: Ned McWherter. He walked up to me, extended his hand, brought me right beside him, and proceeded to introduce me to the rest of his company. I’ll never forget meeting then-freshman Senator Al Gore, then-Former Governor Lamar Alexander, and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. However, what stood out to me so clearly during that interaction [beyond being awestruck to meet so many history makers in one fell swoop] was how genuinely proud Governor McWherter was to be right there in that moment: showing off Tennessee, happy to walk the path of regular people, and treating a lowly college student with such Grace and Genuine Southern Hospitality.
May he forever rest in peace.