obituaries

On the passing of political reporter Rebecca Ferrar (aka ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Becky Bear’)

Rebecca Lynn Ferrar, who died of a heart attack this week at age 72, was given the joshing nickname ‘Lucifer’ during 11 years in Nashville as a reporter on state government and politics for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

She was my professional colleague for those years and a friend both before the newspaper’s management sent her to the state capitol to beef up reporting on state-level government and after they sent her back to Knoxville to shrink such coverage in accord with nationwide media downsizing trends (and, it’s fair to add, to enhance coverage of East Tennessee government and politics).

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Former Tennessean reporter Trent Seibert dies at 47

Trent Seibert, a former statehouse reporter for the Tennessean, has died. He was 47.

Seibert was the founder and editor of The Texas Monitor, which announced his passing on Thursday.

Seibert and then-colleague Brad Schrade in 2005 broke several stories in the Tennessean about problems with the Tennessee Highway Patrol during the administration of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, including that prominent people were given “honorary badges” that some saw as get-out-of-jail-free cards and that promotions within the THP predominantly went to troopers with Democratic connections.

Bredesen declared early in the series that he often learned of problems at the THP and Safety Department from reading the newspaper, and that he was “tired of The Tennessean doing out work for us.”

Seibert also had reporting stints at the The Denver Post, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Nashville’s WKRN-TV, and KTRK-TV in Houston. Seibert launched and edited the Texas Watchdog a decade ago and did some work for the defunct TN Report. 

Seibert also had a hand in projects with the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (the predecessor to today’s Beacon Center), in breaking the 2007  story about Al Gore’s home in the Belle Meade area of Nashville consuming more electricity in a month than the average American household did in a year.

Claude Ramsey — former deputy governor, mayor and legislator — dies aged 75

Claude Ramsey, who rose from third-generation Hamilton County strawberry farmer to deputy governor of Tennessee, died Monday at the age of 75, reports the Times Free Press.

In more than 40 years of public service, he was elected five times as county mayor, four times as assessor of property, twice to the Tennessee General Assembly and once as county commissioner. Ramsey never lost an election.

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Lewis Lavine, advisor to governors and non-profit groups, dies aged 71

Lewis Lavine, who served as chief of staff to then-Gov. Lamar Alexander in the 1980s and went on to a career as a public relations specialist with a focus on non-profit organizations, died of heart failure Wednesday at the age of 71. He also was an advisor to Gov. Bill Haslam in the early days of the current governor’s administration.

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Publisher and open government champion Sam Kennedy dies at 91

Former Daily Herald publisher Sam Kennedy and Gov. Bill Haslam.

Obituary by Sue McClure and Tony Kessler

Sam Delk Kennedy, the former longtime publisher of The Daily Herald of Columbia and a tireless open government advocate, died Tuesday at the age of 91.

“As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Broder once said, ‘Sam Kennedy was the real thing,'” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). “He presided over the Columbia Daily Herald with an unusual combination of warmth, dignity and utter professionalism.”

“My visits over the years to Sam Kennedy’s office and Mule Day seemed completely intertwined,” Alexander added. “He set a fine example for other editors and journalists and reminded politicians that we should set an example as well.”

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Former TVA board chairman John Waters dies age 88

John B. Waters, who served as chairman of both the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority,   has died at the age of 88, reports the News Sentinel.

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Retired TN Supreme Court Justice Frank Drowota dies, age 79

Frank F. Drowota III, who served 25 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court before retiring in 2006, has died at age 79.

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Businessman Paul Harper, husband of state senator, dies aged 79

Nashville businessman Paul Wilson Harper, husband of state Sen. Thelma Harper, has died at age 79 “after a year of slowly declining health,” reports the Tennessee Tribune.

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Northeast Tennessee DA dies on weekend trip to Nashville

Anthony “Tony” Clark of Unicoi County, district attorney general for the 1st Judicial District of Northeast Tennessee, died Sunday while on a trip with family to Nashville, reports the Johnson City Press. Police say he died of “natural causes” and had been scheduled to undergo a medical procedure in Nashville this week while others say he was also in the capitol city for an Eagles concert held Saturday.

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David Kernell, who as UT student hacked Sarah Palin’s email account, dead at age 30

David Kernell,  the son of a former Tennessee legislator from Memphis who guessed his way into Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s personal email account in 2008, has died in California at age 30, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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