Gov. Ned Ray McWherter
Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 2:04 pm
The Messenger, April 6, 2011
Memorial funeral services for former Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, 80, of Dresden, who died April 4, 2011, at Centennial Hospital in Nashville, will be 2 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. A second service is planned for 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the front lawn of the governor’s home in Dresden. A reception will follow each service.
Bowlin Funeral Home in Dresden is in charge of arrangements.
The family requests that memorials be made to the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
McWherter, a self-made business man, farmer and millionaire who rose from humble beginnings as the son of a Weakley County sharecropper during the Great Depression, had been battling cancer.
He began the political career that spanned 20 years in the Tennessee Legislature — with 16 of those as Speaker of the House — and eight in the office of governor in 1968 when the Democrat went to Nashville to represent Weakley County. He had previously served an “internship” in politics as the driver and informal aide of Obion County’s Congressman Robert A. “Fats” Everett. Tennessee was recognized twice under his leadership as having the strongest economic growth in the nation and he was credited with innovative programs in education and healthcare. He also had a strong interest in transportation issues and, as a conservative Democrat, was sought out by several other prominent members of his party, including fellow governor and later president, Bill Clinton.
In 1994, “Governing Magazine” tapped him as the nation’s most outstanding governor.
He was born Oct. 15, 1930, in Palmersville, son of the late Harmon Ray and Lucille Golden (Smith) McWherter. A 1948 graduate of Dresden High School, he was awarded the first honorary Doctorate of Leadership ever handed down from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2004.
McWherter had extensive business interests and served on numerous boards and committees. He was a United Methodist and a member of the National Guard, serving 21 years and retiring with the rank of captain. He was also a Mason and a Shriner and had been a member of several service organizations, including Dresden Lions Club and Jaycees and the Eagles and Elks clubs.
He was the widower of former Union Citian Bette Jean (Beck) McWherter and is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Michael Ray and Mary Jane (Wooten) McWherter of Jackson; his stepdaughter, Linda Ramsey of Weakley County, a professor at UTM; two grandchildren, Walker Ray McWherter and Mary Bess McWherter; and two step-grandchildren, Matthew Ramsey and Brett Ramsey.