gloria johnson

Read the closing statements by the 3 Tennessee House members who faced expulsion

A protest on the House floor on March 30, 2023, led to ouster proceedings against three Democratic lawmakers. From left are Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis.

Here are the closing statements delivered by Reps. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), Justin Jones (D-Nashville), and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) before the state House voted on expulsion resolutions last week. Pearson and Jones were ousted, while the Johnson was spared by a single vote.

Justin Pearson:

All glory and honor to God, who makes all things possible. Who takes the son of teenage parents, Kimberly Owens Pearson and Jason C. Pearson, and brings into an institution built by enslaved people’s hands. All glory and honor to God, who brings those who have been marginalized and excluded into this place and tells them that you still have a voice, that you still are somebody and that the movement for love and justice cannot be stopped. Because we’ve still got a heartbeat, because we’ve still got a movement for love that needs us. We’ve still got people who are calling on us to act and to do something, to all you who still believe that the best days for democracy are ahead. For all of you who still believe that our better days in Tennessee are ahead.

I want to tell you that I still believe with you. And how is it — that even now with this persecution on this holy week after my own brother Justin Jones, Representative Jones, gets expelled from the House — that we still have hope and faith and belief that the democracy of Tennessee, faith hope and the belief in the democracy of the United States of America? How is it that you still have hope, you descendant of enslaved people? How is it that you still have hope? Well, it’s because even from the bottom of slave ships. my people didn’t quit. Even in cotton fields and rice fields, my people didn’t quit. Even when they were whipped and chained and told they had no name, my people didn’t quit. Even when they incarcerated us, locked us up for a crack cocaine epidemic created by President Ronald Reagan to fund their war in South America, my people didn’t quit. Even when they defunded our schools, separated us and called us colored and white, even when they put us on lynching trees in the state of Tennessee, specifically in Shelby County, my people did quit.

Even now, as our own brothers and sisters lay to rest, because of the failure of people in positions of power to do something — because people are refusing to pass just laws to end the epidemic of gun violence in the state of Tennessee — my people have yet to quit. And so even now, amidst this vote, amidst this persecution, I remember the good news. Hallelujah, Jesus.

I remember that on Friday, the government decided that my savior Jesus, a man that was innocent of all crimes, except fighting for the poor, fighting for the marginalized, fighting for the LGBTQ community, fighting for those who are single mothers, fighting for those who are ostracized, fighting for those persons on the periphery, my Savior, my black Jesus. He was lynched by the government on Friday. And they thought that all hope had been lost. Outside it rained, and it’s thundering and everybody said everything was over. And it was some black women who stood at the cross. It was some black women who watched what the government did to that boy named Jesus.

They were witnesses, as you have been witnesses, to what is happening in the anti-democratic state of Tennessee. They were witnesses to what was going on. And I gotta tell you, it got quiet on Saturday. Yes, I tell you it was a sad day on Saturday. All hope seemed to be lost. Representatives were thrown out of the state House. Democracy seemed to be at its end. Seemed like the NRA and gun lobbyists might win. But there was good news for us. I don’t know how long this Saturday in the state of Tennessee might last.

But oh, we have good news, folks. We’ve gotten good news that Sunday always comes. Resurrection is a promise. And it is a prophecy. It’s a prophecy that came out of the cotton fields. It’s a prophecy that came out of the lynching tree. It’s a prophecy that still lives in each and every one of us in order to make the state of Tennessee the place that it ought to be. So I’ve still got hope. Because I know we are still here. And we will never quit.

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New TNJ edition alert: All eyes on Tennessee as House GOP throws out two Democrats after gun protest

Reps. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), right, and Justin Jones (D-Nashville) attend a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Republicans vote out Dems Jones and Pearson, balk at Johnson.

— A look back at notable past protest actions that didn’t result in ousters.

— Obituary: Mickey Barker, lone dissenter in landmark Tennessee abortion case.

Also: Former top GOP official had kids at school where fatal shooting took place, Scott Cepicky denounces Chris Todd, and moving the line between Shelby and Fayette counties.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Here is how lawmakers voted in ousting Jones and Pearson, keeping Johnson

Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) speaks during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is how House members voted in their 72-25 decision to oust Rep Justin Jones (D-Nashville) from the chamber:

This is the 69-26 tally for ousting Democrat Justin Pearson of Memphis (image credit: Blaise Gainey of WPLN):

Here is the vote on the expulsion resolution for Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). It fell one vote short of the 66 needed to pass.

Images from Thursday’s House floor session

Protesters hold up signs during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Protesters crammed in to the Capitol on Thursday as House Republicans were preparing to launch ouster proceedings against Democratic Reps. Justin Pearson of Memphis, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Gloria Johnson of Knoxville.

Here are some photos from the floor session.

Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) speaks during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) watches while Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) speaks during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Protesters hold up signs in the gallery during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Senate Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) listens while Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) speaks during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Reps. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), right, and Justin Jones (D-Nashville) attend a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)
Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) seeks recognition during a House floor session on April 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Report: Rep. Gloria Johnson had mini-stroke

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) sits at her desk moved into a hallway in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville on Jan 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) suffered what doctors described as a possible mini stroke over the weekend, according to KnoxTNToday columnist Betty Bean.

Johnson, who is in the process of moving to run for a new House seat after Republicans drew her into the same district as fellow Knoxville Democrat Sam McKenzie, collapsed at a TJ Maxx on Saturday night. Fellow shoppers Michael and Mandy Knott called 911 and informed Johnson’s mother she was being taken to the hospital, Bean reported.

As of the report, Johnson hadn’t yet seen a cardiologist. But she was tentatively diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke. The contributing causes could include campaigning for the newly created District 90 seat during a heat wave and the stress brought on by fundraising and moving to a new neighborhood.

Johnson, who is soon to be 60, is a retired special education teacher and a longtime thorn in the side of Republican leadership in the House.

Read Bean’s full account here.

Upstairs, Downstairs: A guide to new House office assignments

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) sits at her desk moved into a hallway in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville on Jan 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has issued new office assignments to 37 of the chamber’s 99 members. We’ve pieced together who went where by comparing this year’s directory with the last.

The House occupies three floors in the Cordell Hull Building, with the sixth floor being considered prime real estate because that’s where the speaker’s suite is located.

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) received media attention this week when it turned out the outspoken lawmaker had been assigned a small converted conference room, while her assistant was placed in a former closet across the hall. Johnson moved her desk out into the hallway in protest.

New lawmakers in italics, former ones in parentheses:

RepresentativePartyPreviousNewLast tennant
Alexander, RebeccaR516Hazlewood, Patsy
Campbell, ScottyR582Hall, Mark
Carr, DaleR568560Williams, Ryan
Carringer, MicheleR510Cepicky, Scott
Cepicky, ScottR510678Travis, Ron
Darby, TandyR676Marsh, Pat
Dixie, VincentD550662Stewart, Mike
Doggett, ClayR580672Sexton, Jerry
Garrett, JohnnyR508636Johnson, Curtis
Gillespie, JohnR590(DeBerry, John)
Grills, RustyR400650Moody, Debra
Halford, CurtisR426526(Daniel, Martin)
Hall, MarkR582550Dixie, Vincent
Harris, TorreyD420Thompson, D.
Hawk, DavidR406648Vaughan, Kevin
Hazlewood, PatsyR516622Lynn, Susan
Hicks, GaryR640642(Holt, Andy)
Hicks, TimR518(Tillis, Rick)
Hodges, JasonD414508Garrett, Johnny
Holsclaw, John R534652(Coley, Jim)
Johnson, CurtisR636612(Dunn, Bill)
Johnson, GloriaD442427[new office]
Lynn, SusanR622426Halford, Curtis
Mannis, EddieR568Carr, Dale
Marsh, PatR676610(Hill, Matthew)
McKenzie, SamD512(Staples, Rick)
Miller, Larry J.D432580Doggett, Clay
Mitchell, BoD440400Grills, Rusty
Moody, DebraR650680(Hill, Timothy)
Parkinson, AntonioD422419(new office)
Sexton, JerryR672430(Van Huss, Micah)
Stewart, MikeD662422Parkinson, Antonio
Thompson, DwayneD420406Hawk, David
Travis, RonR678534Holsclaw, John
Vaughan, KevinR648519[new office]
Warner, ToddR414Garrett, Johnny
Williams, RyanR560640Hicks, Gary

The Knoxville mayor’s election and state House races

(Credit: Don Johnson)

We were fascinated by a map detailing the sharp geographical divide in this month’s mayoral runoff in Knoxville. So much so, that we asked talented mapmaker to superimpose state House districts onto the map to see what it would tell us about potential matchups next year.

For reference, here are the incumbents:

  • District 13: Democrat Gloria Johnson, who beat Republican incumbent Republican Eddie Smith by 12 percentage points.
  • District 14: Republican Jason Zachary, who beat Democrat Justin Davis by 31 points.
  • District 15: Democrat Rick Staples, who was unopposed.
  • District 16: Republican Bill Dunn, who beat Democrat Kate Trudell by 40 points. Dunn has announced he will retire next year.
  • District 18: Republican Martin Daniel, who beat Democrat Greg Mackay by 3 points.
  • District 19: Republican Dave Wright, who beat Democrat Edward Nelson by 48 points.
  • District 89: Republican Justin Lafferty, who beat Democrat Coleen Martinez by 28 points.

So what do the results tell us? Mostly that the status quo is probably fairly relieved.

Indya Kincannon, the Democratic winner of the mayor’s race didn’t carry any GOP House districts, while Republican Eddie Mannis didn’t win in Democratic ones. Kincannon did carry precincts in Republican freshman Rep. Dave Wright’s district, but most of his terrority lies outside the city limits and he won his 2018 race by a massive 48 points.

Rep. Daniel, who suffered a close call in last year’s election, saw Mannis carry 55% of his district. But Daniel has positioned himself more to the right than Mannis, so it remains to be seen whether Democrats can mount another credible challenge.

Johnson’s 12-point win over incumbent Smith last year was an outlier after their previous two contests had been decided in tight races. But Kincannon’s 10-point margin over Mannis in the district shows Johnson’s big win probably wasn’t a fluke.

Many thanks again to Don Johnson for his fine mapmaking work!



Resolution to oust Byrd won’t be on calendar. But is one even needed?

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports that a resolution seeking to oust state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s won’t be placed on the House calendar for this week’s special session.

If Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) wants her resolution to be taken up, it would require a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules — the same margin required to oust a sitting member.

But there’s a fairly obvious workaround, if past experience with the ouster of then-Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) is any guide. During the 2016 special session to undo a drunken driving bill that threatened $60 million in highway funds for running afoul of federal guidelines, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) stood to announce a motion to oust Durham over the sexual misconduct allegations laid out in a state attorney general’s report.

There was no accompanying resolution for the successful effort to remove Durham, which rankled the former lawmaker’s few supporters in the chamber. They included then-Rep. Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro), who likened the House to a “banana republic” if any member could just stand and make a motion to oust another.

But Joe McCord, the House clerk at the time, cited the following provision in the Tennessee Constitution outlining the power to remove members:

Section 12. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state.

While the General Assembly is required to stay within the governor’s call for the special session, which are to pass updates to court rules that didn’t get taken up during this spring’s regular session, internal housekeeping matters like leadership elections are also allowed.

Byrd, who was recorded by one of the now-adult women apologizing for unspecified sins in the past, has been urged by Lee not to seek re-election next year.


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