Sam Houston was an American soldier and politician. An important leader of the Texas Revolution, Houston served as the 1st and 3rd president of the Republic of Texas, was one of the first two individuals to represent Texas in the United States Senate, he served as the 6th Governor of Tennessee and the seventh governor of Texas, the only American to be elected governor of two different states in the United States. Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia and his family migrated to Maryville, Tennessee when Houston was a teenager. Houston ran away from home and spent time with the Cherokee, becoming known as "Raven." He served under General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812, after the war he presided over the removal of many Cherokee from Tennessee. With the support of Jackson and others, Houston won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1823, he supported Jackson's presidential candidacies, in 1827 Houston won election as the governor of Tennessee. In 1829, after divorcing his first wife, Houston resigned from office, joined his Cherokee friends in Arkansas Territory.
Houston settled in Texas in 1832. After the Battle of Gonzales, Houston helped organize Texas's provisional government and was selected as the top-ranking official in the Texian Army, he led the Texian Army to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle in Texas's war for independence against Mexico. After the war, Houston won election in the 1836 Texas presidential election, he left office due to term limits in 1838, but won election to another term in the 1841 Texas presidential election. Houston played a key role in the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, in 1846 he was elected to represent Texas in the United States Senate, he joined the Democratic Party and supported President James K. Polk's prosecution of the Mexican–American War. Houston's Senate record was marked by his unionism and opposition to extremists from both the North and South, he voted for the Compromise of 1850, which settled many of the territorial issues left over from the Mexican–American War and the annexation of Texas.
He voted against the Kansas–Nebraska Act because he believed it would lead to increased sectional tensions over slavery, his opposition to that act led him to leave the Democratic Party. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidential nomination of the American Party in the 1856 presidential election and the Constitutional Union Party in the 1860 presidential election. In 1859, Houston won election as the governor of Texas. In that role, he opposed secession and unsuccessfully sought to keep Texas out of the Confederate States of America, he was forced out of office in 1861 and died in 1863. Houston's name has been honored in numerous ways, he is the namesake of the city of Houston, the fourth most populous city in the United States. Houston was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia on March 2, 1793, to Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. Both of Houston's parents were descended from British and Irish immigrants who had settled in British North America in the 1730s. Houston's father was descended from Ulster Scots people.
By 1793, the elder Samuel Houston owned a large farm and a handful of slaves, served as a colonel in the Virginia militia. Houston's uncle, the Presbyterian Rev. Samuel Houston, was an elected member of the "lost" State of Franklin in the western frontier of North Carolina, who advocated for the passage of his proposed "A Declaration of Rights or Form of Government on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Frankland" at the convention, assembled in Greeneville on November 14, 1785. Rev. Houston returned to Rockbridge County, Virginia after the assembled State of Franklin convention rejected his constitutional proposal. Houston had five brothers and three sisters, as well as dozens of cousins who lived in the surrounding area. According to biographer John Hoyt Williams, Houston was not close with his siblings or his parents, he spoke of them in his life. Houston did take an interest in his father's library, reading works by classical authors like Virgil, as well as more recent works by authors such as Jedidiah Morse.
Houston's father was got into debt, in part because of his militia service. He planned to sell the farm and move west to Tennessee, where land was less expensive, but he died in 1806. Houston's mother followed through on those plans and settled the family near Maryville, the seat of Blount County, Tennessee. At that time, Tennessee was on the American frontier, larger towns like Nashville were vigilant against Native American raids. Houston disliked farming and working in the family store, at the age of sixteen he left his family to live with a Cherokee tribe led by Ahuludegi. Houston formed a close relationship with Ahuludegi and learned the Cherokee language, becoming known as "Raven." He returned to Maryville in 1812, he was hired at age 19 for a term as the schoolmaster of a one-room schoolhouse. In 1812, Houston enlisted in the United States Army, engaged in the War of 1812 against Britain and Britain's Native American allies, he impressed the commander of the 39th Infantry Regiment, Thomas Hart Benton, by the end of 1813, Houston had risen to the rank of the third lieutenant.
In early 1814, the 39th Infantry Regiment became a part of the force commanded General Andrew Jackson, charged with putting an end to raids by a faction of the Muscogee tribe in the Old Southwest. Houston was badly wounded in the Battle of the decisive battle in the Creek War. Although army doctors expected him to die of his wounds, Houston survived a
Philip Norman Bredesen Jr. is an American politician and businessman who served as the 48th Governor of Tennessee from 2003 to 2011. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected in 2002 with 50.6% of the vote and reelected in 2006 with 68.6%. He served as the 66th Mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999. Bredesen is the founder of the HealthAmerica Corporation, which he sold in 1986. Since 2011, he has been chair of a firm that develops and operates solar power stations. On December 6, 2017, Bredesen announced he would run for Bob Corker's open seat in the United States Senate, as Corker didn't seek reelection in 2018. On August 2, 2018, he won the Democratic primary and faced off against Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn, he lost in the general election on November 6, 2018. Bredesen has been characterized as a moderate Democrat, fiscally conservative but liberal. Bredesen was born in Oceanport, New Jersey, the son of Norma Lucille and Philip Norman Bredesen, his parents divorced and his mother was employed as a bank teller.
During Bredesen's childhood, his grandmother, who sewed for a living, lived with the family. Bredesen grew up in Shortsville, New York, 30 miles from Rochester, he attended Red Jacket Central Elementary and Secondary School in the adjoining village of Manchester. He received a scholarship to Harvard University, where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in physics. In 1967, Bredesen moved to Lexington, where he did classified work for Itek and received a draft deferment during the Vietnam War. In 1968, Bredesen worked for the campaign of Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bredesen launched his first political campaign in 1969, when he ran for the Massachusetts State Senate, he was defeated by a popular incumbent Republican, Ronald MacKenzie. Bredesen joined pharmaceutical firm G. D. Searle & Company in 1971, moved to London in 1973 to manage one of the company's divisions. In 1974, he married Andrea Conte. In 1975, the family moved to Nashville, where Conte had been recruited by Hospital Corporation of America.
In Nashville, Bredesen founded HealthAmerica Corp. an insurance company. He sold his controlling interest in HealthAmerica in 1986, because of the wealth he earned from the company, did not accept his gubernatorial salary. In 1987, Bredesen ran for mayor of Nashville, he finished second out of 10 candidates with 30% of the vote, behind only 5th District Congressman Bill Boner, who won 46%. Since Boner fell short of the necessary threshold for an outright victory, he and Bredesen faced each other in a runoff. Boner won the runoff, 75,790 votes to 66,153 by emphasizing that he was a Nashville native while Bredesen was a Northerner. In December 1987, Bredesen ran in the Democratic primary for the 5th District congressional seat left open by Boner's victory, he finished a distant second behind Bob Clement, son of former governor Frank G. Clement. In the years following that loss, Bredesen established relationships with city officials and prepared for a second run. Nashville, struggled economically.
In the 1991 mayoral race, Boner was dealing with a personal scandal, declined to run. Bredesen won the election, defeating Councilwoman Betty Nixon, 78,896 votes to 30,282; as mayor of Nashville, Bredesen added more than 440 new teachers, built 32 new schools and renovated 43 others. He implemented a back-to-basics curriculum to teach students the fundamentals of learning. Under the Bredesen Administration, the NFL's Houston Oilers were brought to Nashville and furnished with a new stadium, Nissan Stadium. Bredesen attempted to lure the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves to Nashville, but was unsuccessful. A new downtown library was built as a cornerstone of major improvements to the entire library system, the city's downtown entertainment district was renovated, two parks, Beaman Park and Shelby Bottoms, were established. Bredesen did not run for a third term in 1999; the Metro Charter had been amended in 1994 to limit city council members to two consecutive four-year terms, was worded in such a way that it appeared to apply to mayors as well.
Although mayors had been permitted to serve a maximum of three consecutive terms since the formation of Metro Nashville in 1963, Bredesen did not make an issue of that. In 1994, Bredesen won the Democratic nomination for governor, capturing 53% of the vote in a primary that included more than a half-dozen candidates, among them Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris and state senator Steve Cohen. In the November general election, he was defeated by the Republican nominee, 7th district U. S. Representative Don Sundquist, 807,104 votes to 664,252. Bredesen ran for governor of Tennessee again in 2002, he won the Democratic nomination, capturing nearly 80% of the vote in a six-candidate primary, faced Republican 4th district U. S. Representative Van Hilleary in November. Bredesen promised to manage state government better, improve Tennessee's schools and use his experience as a managed-care executive to fix TennCare, which had created a critical budget shortfall toward the end of Sundquist's term, his reputation as a moderate Democrat was well established, so Hilleary's attempts to brand him as a liberal failed.
Republicans suffered from Sundquist's unpopular attempts to implement a state income tax. Bredesen garnered more support in East Tennessee than was usual for a Democrat one from Nashville. In November, Bredesen narrowly defea
The Territory South of the River Ohio, more known as the Southwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1790, until June 1, 1796, when it was admitted to the United States as the State of Tennessee. The Southwest Territory was created by the Southwest Ordinance from lands of the Washington District, ceded to the U. S. federal government by North Carolina. The territory's lone governor was William Blount; the establishment of the Southwest Territory followed a series of efforts by North Carolina's trans-Appalachian residents to form a separate political entity with the Watauga Association, with the failed State of Franklin. North Carolina ceded these lands in April 1790 as payment of obligations owed to the federal government; the territory's residents welcomed the cession, believing the federal government would provide better protection from Indian hostilities. The federal government paid little attention to the territory, increasing its residents' desire for full statehood.
Along with Blount, a number of individuals who played prominent roles in early Tennessee history served in the Southwest Territory's administration. These included John Sevier, James Robertson, Griffith Rutherford, James Winchester, Archibald Roane, John McNairy, Joseph McMinn and Andrew Jackson. During the colonial period, land that would become the Southwest Territory was part of North Carolina's land patent; the Blue Ridge Mountains, which rise along the modern Tennessee-North Carolina border, hindered North Carolina from pursuing any lasting interest in the territory. Trade, political interest, settlement came from Virginia and South Carolina, though refugees from the Regulator War began arriving from North Carolina in the early 1770s; the Watauga Association was a semi-autonomous government created in 1772 by frontier settlers living along the Watauga River in what is present day Elizabethton, Tennessee. The colony was established on Cherokee-owned land in which the Watauga and Nolichucky settlers had negotiated a 10-year lease directly with the Indians.
Fort Watauga was established on the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals as a trade center of the settlements. In March 1775, land speculator and North Carolina judge Richard Henderson met with more than 1,200 Cherokees at Sycamore Shoals. Included at the gathering were Cherokee leaders such as Attacullaculla and Dragging Canoe; the meeting resulted in the "Treaty of Sycamore Shoals", in which Henderson purchased from the Cherokee all the land situated south of the Ohio River and lying between the Cumberland River, the Cumberland Mountains, the Kentucky River. This land, which encompassed 20 million acres, became known as the Transylvania Purchase. Henderson's land deal was found to be in violation of North Carolina and Virginia law, as well as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which had prohibited the private purchase of American Indian land. Both North Carolina and Virginia considered the trans-Appalachian settlements illegal, refused to annex them. At the onset of the American War for Independence in 1776, the settlers, who vigorously supported the Patriot cause, organized themselves into the "Washington District" and formed a committee of safety to govern it.
In July 1776, Dragging Canoe and the faction of the Cherokee opposed to the Transylvania Purchase aligned with the British and launched an invasion of the Watauga settlements, targeting Fort Watauga at modern Elizabethton and Eaton's Station near modern Kingsport. After the settlers thwarted the attacks, North Carolina agreed to annex the settlements as the Washington District. In September 1780, a large group of trans-Appalachian settlers, led by William Campbell, John Sevier and Isaac Shelby, assembled at Sycamore Shoals in response to a British threat to attack frontier settlements. Known as the Overmountain Men, the settlers marched across the mountains to South Carolina, where they engaged and defeated a loyalist force led by Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain. Overmountain Men would take part in the Battle of Musgrove Mill and the Battle of Cowpens. In 1784, North Carolina ceded control of the Overmountain settlements following a hotly contested vote; the cession was rescinded that year, but not before some of the settlers had organized the State of Franklin, which sought statehood.
John Sevier was named governor and the area began operating as an independent state not recognized by the Congress of the Confederation. Many Overmountain settlers, led by John Tipton, remained loyal to North Carolina, quarreled with the Franklinites. Following Tipton's defeat of Sevier at the "Battle of Franklin" in early 1788, the State of Franklin movement declined; the Franklinites had agreed to rejoin North Carolina by early 1789. North Carolina ratified the United States Constitution on November 21, 1789. On December 22, the state legislature voted to cede the Overmountain settlements as payment of its obligations to the new federal government. Congress accepted the cession during its first session on April 2, 1790, when it passed "An Act to Accept a Cession of the Claims of the State of North Carolina to a Certain District of Western Territory". On May 26, 1790, Congress passed an act organizing the new cession as the "Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio," which consisted of modern Tennessee, with the exception of minor boundary changes.
However, most of the new territory was under Indian control, with territorial administration covering two unconnected areas— the Washington District in what is now northeast Tennessee, the Mero District around Nashville. The act merged the office of territorial gov
John C. Vaughn
John Crawford Vaughn was a Confederate cavalry officer from East Tennessee. He served in the Mexican–American War, prospected in the California Gold Rush, participated in American Civil War battles including First Manassas, Vicksburg and Saltville. John Crawford Vaughn was born in 1824 on a farm in Tennessee, he explored the hills and valleys of East Tennessee on horseback as a youth. From 1830 through 1841 he attended Bolivar Academy in Tennessee. At 23 in 1847, Vaughn volunteered to fight in the Mexican–American War, he was elected captain and marched to Mexico City. He left the military in July, 1848. In 1850, Vaughn and seventeen other Monroe County men set out for California gold. No fortunes were found, John was back in Tennessee by 1852, he built a hotel in the new railroad town of Sweetwater. In 1856 he was elected sheriff of Monroe County. During the American Civil War, Vaughn raised Tennessee's first Confederate regiment and was with Jefferson Davis in the final days of the war, his family was imprisoned by Union forces, it was several years after the Civil War before he could safely return to Tennessee.
Yet, he was elected to the general assembly of his native Tennessee. Before Tennessee had seceded, in early 1861 Vaughn recruited two units from Monroe County to support the southern cause; the recruits formed the 3rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment on May 29, Vaughn was elected colonel. On June 18, Vaughn's men won a skirmish at New Creek near Maryland/West Virginia. On July 21, Vaughn's regiment traveled by train from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas Junction; the regiment participated in breaking the Union right at the First Battle of Bull Run. Vaughn's troops moved back to East Tennessee in 1862 and fought against Union factions in Scott County. In May, Vaughn's regiment patrolled the gaps in the northern Cumberland Mountains, winning battles in Tazewell in August and helping to regain control of Cumberland Gap. In September, Vaughn was promoted to brigadier general. In December, General Vaughn's east Tennesseans traveled by train to Mississippi. Vaughn's brigade held heights north of Vicksburg for the first four months of 1863.
On May 17, Grant's forces sliced through the Confederate line at the Battle of Big Black River Bridge forcing the surrender of two of Vaughn's regiments. The Confederates retreated into Vicksburg where they surrendered on July 4. Vaughn was paroled and in October began reassembling his troops, he won a skirmish against Union troops in Philadelphia, TN, combated marauders in his Monroe County. Working with Longstreet to try and take Knoxville in December, Vaughn was forced to retreat to upper East Tennessee. In late December, Vaughn was authorized to mount his brigade. In the summer of 1864, Vaughn's cavalry moved to the Shenandoah Valley. On June 5, the Union routed the Confederates at the Battle of Piedmont; the Confederates under Grumble Jones were poorly deployed, some of Vaughn's cavalry failed to engage. Gordon argues that Vaughn was with his dismounted troops on the Confederate left and not responsible for the inactive units. In September, Vaughn returned to east Tennessee winning an October skirmish near Bull's Gap, but was routed at the Battle of Morristown.
In April 1865, Vaughn and his troops were near Christanburg, moving towards North Carolina after news of Lee's surrender. On April 19, Vaughn joined the Jefferson Davis escort in Charlotte. On May 10, Vaughn surrendered. Indicted for treason in Tennessee, in October, 1865, Vaughn moved his family to Thomas County, Georgia. By 1870, Vaughn had returned to Sweetwater and was elected to the state general assembly. In 1874, he pleaded guilty to using bogus identities to defraud the widow's pension and was fined $1000. In 1874, Vaughn returned to southern Georgia. Vaughn married Nancy Ann Boyd in the 1840s. After she died in 1868, he remarried Florence Jones Vaughn. On September 10, 1875, at the age of 51, he died of meningitis and was buried with military honors at Greenwood, Georgia, his granddaughter, Mary Lua Gibson, married attorney White Burkett Miller in 1889. List of American Civil War generals Eicher, John H. and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1. Gordon, Larry; the Last Confederate General. Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7603-3517-8. Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Civil War. New York: Facts On File, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8160-1055-4. Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9. Review of The Last Confederate General John C. Vaughn at Find a Grave
William West Bond
William West Bond was an American lawyer and politician in the state of Tennessee. He served as the Speaker of the Tennessee Senate from 1921 to 1923. Bond was born in 1884 in Tennessee to Judge John Rascoe and Jennie Bond, he attended schools in Brownsville before attending Bethel College and Vanderbilt University, graduating from the latter in 1907 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He taught school and studied law at the Cumberland School of Law before opening up a law practice in Haywood County in 1910. Bond was elected as a Democrat to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1917 to represent Haywood County, he served in that capacity until 1921, when he was elected to the Tennessee Senate, this time representing Haywood and Fayette County. During his term in the senate, from 1921 to 1923, Bond was selected to serve as speaker which he served until the completion of his term in 1923. Bond married Rosa Montedonico of Italy on February 28, 1916, he had four children with her, Rosa, in 1918, William West, Jr. in 1919, Emanuel "Monte", in 1923 and Aurelia, in 1927.
He was active in the freemasons organization. Bond died in May 1975 in Brownsville and he is interred in Oakwood Cemetery in that same city, his wife, Rosa died in 1982
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party referred to as the GOP, is one of the two major political parties in the United States. The GOP was founded in 1854 by opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had expanded slavery into U. S. territories. The party subscribed to classical liberalism and took ideological stands that were anti-slavery and pro-economic reform. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president in the history of the United States; the Party was dominant over the Democrats during the Third Party System and Fourth Party System. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party after being rejected by the GOP and ran unsuccessfully as a third-party presidential candidate calling for social reforms. After the 1912 election, many Roosevelt supporters left the Party, the Party underwent an ideological shift to the right; the liberal Republican element in the GOP was overwhelmed by a conservative surge begun by Barry Goldwater in 1964 that continued during the Reagan Era in the 1980s. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the party's core base shifted, with the Southern states becoming more reliably Republican in presidential politics and the Northeastern states becoming more reliably Democratic.
White voters identified with the Republican Party after the 1960s. Following the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, the Republican Party made opposition to abortion a key plank of its national party platform and grew its support among evangelicals. By 2000, the Republican Party was aligned with Christian conservatism; the Party's core support since the 1990s comes chiefly from the South, the Great Plains, the Mountain States and rural areas in the North. The 21st century Republican Party ideology is American conservatism, which contrasts with the Democrats' liberal platform and progressive wing; the GOP supports lower taxes, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, gun rights and restrictions on labor unions. The GOP was committed to protectionism and tariffs from its founding until the 1930s when it was based in the industrial Northeast and Midwest, but has grown more supportive of free trade since 1952. In addition to advocating for conservative economic policies, the Republican Party is conservative.
Founded in the Northern states in 1854 by abolitionists, modernizers, ex-Whigs and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party became the principal opposition to the dominant Democratic Party and the popular Know Nothing Party. The party grew out of opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and opened Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory to slavery and future admission as slave states; the Northern Republicans saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil. The first public meeting of the general anti-Nebraska movement, at which the name Republican was suggested for a new anti-slavery party, was held on March 20, 1854 in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin; the name was chosen to pay homage to Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party. The first official party convention was held on July 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. At the 1856 Republican National Convention, the party adopted a national platform emphasizing opposition to the expansion of slavery into U. S. territories. While Republican candidate John C.
Frémont lost the 1856 United States presidential election to James Buchanan, he did win 11 of the 16 northern states. The Republican Party first came to power in the elections of 1860 when it won control of both houses of Congress and its candidate, former congressman Abraham Lincoln, was elected President. In the election of 1864, it united with War Democrats to nominate Lincoln on the National Union Party ticket. Under Republican congressional leadership, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—which banned slavery in the United States—passed the Senate in 1864 and the House in 1865; the party's success created factionalism within the party in the 1870s. Those who felt that Reconstruction had been accomplished, was continued to promote the large-scale corruption tolerated by President Ulysses S. Grant, ran Horace Greeley for the presidency; the Stalwart faction defended Grant and the spoils system, whereas the Half-Breeds pushed for reform of the civil service. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was passed in 1883.
The Republican Party supported hard money, high tariffs to promote economic growth, high wages and high profits, generous pensions for Union veterans, the annexation of Hawaii. The Republicans had strong support from pietistic Protestants, but they resisted demands for Prohibition; as the Northern postwar economy boomed with heavy and light industry, mines, fast-growing cities, prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to sustain the fast growth. The GOP was dominant over the Democrats during the Third Party System. However, by 1890 the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers; the high McKinley Tariff of 1890 hurt the party and the Democrats swept to a landslide in the off-year elections defeating McKinley himself. The Democrats elected Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892; the election of William McKinley in 1896 was marked by a resurgence of Republican dominance that lasted until 1932.
McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Pa
Ned Ray McWherter was an American businessman and politician who served as the 46th Governor of Tennessee, from 1987 to 1995. Prior to that, he served as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1973 to 1987, the longest tenure as Speaker up to that time. McWherter was born in Palmersville, Weakley County, the son of Harmon Ray McWherter, a sharecropper, Lucille McWherter, he grew up in the Little Zion community near Palmersville. In the early 1940s, his family moved to Ypsilanti, where his father worked in wartime factories. In May 1945, the family moved to Dresden, where McWherter's parents purchased the City Cafe, which they would operate for several years. McWherter attended Dresden High School, where he was co-captain of the football team and president of the school's Future Farmers of America chapter. After graduating, he attempted to play college football, first at the University of Tennessee at Martin, at the University of Memphis, at Murray State, but he suffered a knee injury prior to each season at all three schools.
His college athletic career cut short, McWherter joined the Martin Shoe Company as a salesman. When the company's line of sandals struggled against competition from cheaper Japanese imports, McWherter travelled throughout the Caribbean and Central America in an attempt to find retailers finding a market for the sandals in Puerto Rico. In 1964, McWherter founded Volunteer Distributing to distribute Anheuser-Busch beer in the Weakley area. Two years he opened Dresden's first nursing home. McWherter served for 21 years in the Tennessee National Guard before retiring with the rank of captain, he was a member of the United Methodist Church. McWherter became involved in politics in the late 1950s, when he worked for the successful campaign of 8th district congressional candidate, Robert "Fats" Everett. In 1968, Doug Murphy, the Mayor of Martin, convinced him to run for Weakley County's seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. McWherter won the seat without opposition, he was reelected to the seat eight times running unopposed.
McWherter entered the House of Representatives at a turbulent time in state politics. During his first term, Republicans controlled the House for the first time in several decades. During his second, Democrats regained control of the House, but a Republican governor, Winfield Dunn, had been elected. To counter Dunn, Democrats chose fiery Nashville attorney James McKinney as Speaker of the House. McKinney vehemently refused to consider most of his legislation. At the beginning of McWherter's third term, Democratic legislators, who controlled the House by a slim 50-49 margin, were concerned that McKinney's stubbornness was preventing the state from conducting its affairs, several suggested replacing McKinney with McWherter. In the House Democratic Caucus, McWherter was chosen over McKinney as the party's choice for Speaker by a single vote. Sensing disunity among Democrats, Governor Dunn tried to convince disgruntled McKinney supporters to vote for a Republican in the full House vote, but was unsuccessful, McWherter was elected Speaker by a 50-49 margin.
One of McWherter's first major issues as Speaker was a 1974 bill that sought to establish a medical school at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. The bill was popular in East Tennessee, parts of which were struggling with a low doctors-per-capita ratio. Governor Dunn, vetoed the bill, arguing the medical school in Memphis was adequate for the state's needs; this sparked cries of favoritism from East Tennesseans. After the state senate voted to override the veto, McWherter, brushing off a threat from former Memphis mayor Henry Loeb, led the House in overriding the veto, allowing the bill to become law; when Dunn ran for another term as governor in 1986, his lack of support for the medical school in Johnson City came back to haunt him. Despite an overwhelming Republican base in the eastern part of the state, McWherter was able to gain the support of Republican Congressman James H. Quillen to pick up a majority of votes in the state's First Congressional District. In 1976, McWherter supported Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter.
At a Carter campaign event in Memphis, McWherter expressed irritation with an ABC cameraman, prompting reporter Sam Donaldson to tell the cameraman, "don't mind him, he's a nobody." Years when President Ronald Reagan was scheduled to appear before the Tennessee General Assembly, McWherter removed Donaldson's name from the media credentials list. When Donaldson showed up at the state capitol, he was denied admission by the House sergeant-at-arms. After issuing a string of profanities, Donaldson stormed out of the building and returned to Washington. In January 1979, outgoing Governor Ray Blanton issued pardons to over 50 state inmates, including several convicted murderers, his administration had been under investigation for selling pardons, the FBI and state lawmakers feared more illicit pardons would be issued in his final days in office. To prevent this, McWherter and Lieutenant Governor John S. Wilder engineered a constitutional maneuver that allowed the governor-elect, Lamar Alexander, to be sworn in three days early.
During the 1980s, McWherter worked with the Alexander administration on a number of issues, including foreign investment and education. McWherter's support was critical in helping Alexander obtain passage of the "Career Ladder" bill, which provided income supplements to the state's top teachers; as the 1986 governor's race approached, Democrats struggled to find a candidate. Neither Bob Clement nor Anna Be