Legendary lobbyist Tom Hensley dies at 80

Lobbyist Tom Hensely, center, is seen outside Legislative Plaza in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. He is joined by fellow lobbyists Ryan Haynes, left, and Rich Foge. (Image Credit: State of Tennessee)

Tom Hensley, the legendary lobbyist known as “The Golden Goose,” has died. Hensley had been hospitalized in Nashville for two moths after sustaining a head injury in a fall. He passed away after being moved to a rehabilitation center in Decaturvillle on Friday. He was 80 years old.

Hensley began his lobbying career in the 1960s and was a ubiquitous presence at the Capitol complex, wearing his trademark three-piece suit, chomping on a cigar, and sitting in the front row of committee meetings. Hensley was best known for his work for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, especially during an era when state law allowed him to supply lawmakers with free bottles of alcohol and pick up the tab at restaurants and bars.

Hensley was joined in lobbying the liquor wholesalers association in 2016 by Ryan Haynes, a former lawmaker and onetime state Republican Party chairman.

State Rep. Barbara Cooper dies at 93

Longtime state Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) has died at age 93.

Cooper, a retired teacher and organizer with the the African-American Peoples Organization was first elected to the House in 1996 after then-Rep. Rufus Jones gave up the seat to make an unsuccessful bid for Congress.

Here’s the release from the House Democratic Caucus:

MEMPHIS—Tennessee Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper, a decorated educator, highly regarded community advocate and longtime member of the state House who championed reforms for students and the city of Memphis, has died. She was 93.

First elected to the State House of Representatives in 1996, Rep. Cooper served the 86th House District in Shelby County for 26 years in the 100th through the 112th General Assembly. She is remembered as passionate supporter of education, public health and reducing poverty.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my longtime colleague and dear friend, Barbara Cooper” said  House Minority Leader Karen Camper. “She was a warrior for her community and the City of Memphis, a tireless advocate on education and equality issues and just a delightful person.  We will all miss her.”

Cooper, a retired Memphis City Schools teacher who worked in several roles for the district, was a fierce fighter for Tennessee students. She believed wholly in the transformative power of education and she herself continued studying throughout her life, graduating from Manassas High School in Memphis, then earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from her beloved Tennessee State University, as well as a Doctorate of Religious Philosophy and Christian Psychology at Jacksonville Theological Seminary.

In addition to her decades of service to students, Cooper was an unwavering voice for the community of Memphis and advancing the rights of Black Tennesseans. One clear example of her work was the Cooper-Jones Initiative, an education collaboration with former Rep. Ulysses Jones, Jr. seeking to lift up underserved Memphians. Cooper also formed the Harriet Tubman Legacy Awards to honor Memphians who were committed to uplifting the community.  

Cooper was an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and its community service programs. She was also proud member of organizations, such as the NAACP, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Council of Negro Women, and many more.

Rep. Cooper’s steadfast commitment to her neighbors and charitable causes is reflected by the countless number of awards and accolades bestowed upon her through the years, such as the Equal Opportunity Group Inc. Project Save-A-Student Award, the AFL-CIO Leadership Award, the Dr. Raymond Winbush Award, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Extraordinary Leadership Award.

She attended St. Augustine Catholic Church and was an active member of the congregation.

Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper, born Aug. 4, 1929, is survived by her daughter Reverend Joan Cooper Burnett and daughter Tanya Cooper; grandchildren Reneshia Burnett, Ashlea Burnett Vainqueur (Willy) and Martez King; great grandchildren; and a host of family, friends and supporters. 

She is preceded in death by her husband John D. Cooper, whom she was married to for 55 years, and her son Carl Cooper.

Arrangements for a celebration of life service will be forthcoming. Until then, the family respectfully asks for prayer and privacy at this time.

Drew Alexander, son of former governor and senator, dies at 52

Drew Alexander, a music publishing executive in Nashville and son of former governor and senator Lamar Alexander, died Friday at age 52.

Here is the obituary from the Alexander family:

Nashville—Andrew Franklin Alexander, age 52, passed away December 31, 2021 after a short illness. Drew was born in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 1969. He moved with his family to Nashville, TN, when he was one year old. He attended Ensworth School, became a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, and graduated from University School of Nashville. He then attended Kenyon College in Ohio where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music. In 1994 he went to work for Curb Records in Nashville as a receptionist. Quickly he rose to lead the company’s publishing division. As Vice President of Publishing, he oversaw the division’s forty-five employees and songwriters. A classically trained guitarist, Drew also directed creative and administrative aspects of the company where he set budgets, signed songwriters, negotiated contracts, placed songs, and acquired catalogs.

During his tenure Curb Music Publishing earned eighty-seven ASCAP, BMI and SESAC performance awards, and set records for the fastest rising country single and the longest charting country single in Billboard Country chart history. In 2017, after 23 years at Curb, Drew stepped down from his role as Director of Publishing but continued working with the Mike Curb Foundation. Drew also founded his own company, Blair Branch Music. He became an active community volunteer working with numerous Nashville agencies including Second Harvest Food Bank, Nashville Rescue Mission, and Room at the Inn. Drew’s motto was “give more than you take”. When he wasn’t on the phone raising money for the needy he often could be found serving lunch at homeless shelters.

Drew served on the boards of The Recording Academy, Belmont School of Music, Family and Children’s Service, the Community Resource Center, Leadership Music as Treasurer, and the Tennessee Residence Foundation as Secretary. He was a member of the Country Music Association, the Gospel Music Association, Academy of Country Music, and the Downtown Nashville Rotary Club.

Drew helped many artists and songwriters get their start in Nashville and had many friends in the music industry. Over the years he hosted small groups of songwriters and artists, including Lee Brice, Bill Anderson, Kyle Jacobs, Billy Montana, Kelsea Ballerini and many others, at writing retreats at his family’s home at Blackberry Farm in East Tennessee, at Evins Mill in Middle Tennessee, and at Bending Lake in Canada. From these dozens of sessions came more than 1,000 songs including many hits. Drew was active with the National Songwriters Association defending songwriters’ legal rights.

Drew loved his daughters, his friends and watching sports with them all, especially the Tennessee Titans and University of Tennessee basketball and football—and he loved to fish, traveling around the world in pursuit of new adventures. Drew is survived by two daughters, Lauren Blair Alexander and Helen Victoria Alexander of Nashville; his parents, Honey and Lamar Alexander of Walland, TN; two sisters, Leslee Alexander of Maryville, TN and Kathryn Alexander of Briarcliff Manor, NY; his brother, Will Alexander of Nashville; and, seven nieces and nephews. The Alexander family wishes to express our thanks to Drew’s friends Bruce Phillips and Hal Hardin for their many kindnesses to him.

There will be a private graveside service for family members at the family cemetery at Hesse Creek Chapel in Walland, TN, with the Rev. William J. Carl, Drew’s uncle, officiating. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, 331 Great Circle Road, Nashville 37228. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date in Nashville.

Former Tennessee state Rep. Jim Coley dies

Former state Rep. Jim Coley’s family is informing friends and colleagues the Bartlett Republican has passed away.

Coley didn’t seek re-election last year after battling various illnesses that involved doctors bringing him back to life two times, the Daily Memphian reported in 2019. The former public school teacher was first elected to the House in 2006, where he formed strong friendships across the political spectrum.

Coley voted for a bill seeking to opt the state out of the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling and supported various pro-life bills. But he voted against Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher bill and backed a 2018 bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Here is a resolution the House passed on the occasion of Coley’s retirement:

WHEREAS, it is most appropriate that the members of this General Assembly should honor those fellow legislators who have performed their duties with the utmost integrity and whose efforts during their time in office have been dedicated to providing thoughtful and exemplary service to their districts and to this great State; and

WHEREAS, Representative Jim Coley of Bartlett is one such distinguished public servant who has served both his constituency and this legislative body with honor and ability; and

WHEREAS, during his tenure, Representative Coley has been a highly influential figure in the political, social, and civic life of Shelby County, and he has served his constituents in numerous capacities, always working diligently at his elected duties and expending the necessary effort to understand the opposing sides of complex issues; and

WHEREAS, Jim Coley has distinguished himself as a public-spirited citizen of the highest order and as an exceptional asset to the good people of the 97th House District, whom he has served as a member of the 105th, 106th, 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th , and 111th General Assemblies; and

WHEREAS, throughout his service, Jim Coley has been prominent as a dedicated and well-informed legislator who always votes his conscience; and

WHEREAS, as an active and dynamic participant in the legislative process during his time in the General Assembly, Representative Coley has rendered sterling service as chair of the House Higher Education Subcommittee, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, and the General Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, and member of the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee, the House Civil Justice Committee, the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, the House Criminal Justice Committee, the House Education Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, the House Ethics Committee, the House State and Local Government Committee, the House Employee Affairs Subcommittee, the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee, the House Civil Practice Subcommittee, the House State Government Subcommittee, the House Special Initiatives Subcommittee, and the Joint Fiscal Review Committee; and

WHEREAS, Representative Jim Coley has also served as a member of the Legislative Arts Caucus and the Shelby County Delegation; and

WHEREAS, no stranger to awards and accolades, Representative Coley has been a recipient of both the Lincoln Award and the Grassroots Award from the Shelby County Republican Party; a two-time Rotarian nominee for Teacher of the Year, and the recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Study Abroad Grant; and

WHEREAS, Representative Coley is a family man and community leader, and he has proven that citizens can make a difference by being involved in community service and leading by example; and

WHEREAS, a retired teacher, Jim Coley obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree at Memphis State University and earned his Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Memphis; and

WHEREAS, Representative Coley is a co-founder of Friends of the Orpheum and the Bartlett/Northeast Republican Club, a sponsor of Memphis Bridges, and a member of the Shelby County Education Association and the Exchange Club; and

WHEREAS, throughout his outstanding career as a public servant, Representative Jim Coley has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents, bringing to his office an honorable bearing and the traditional values of hard work and common sense; and

WHEREAS, his many civic and professional accomplishments aside, Jim Coley is most appreciative of the love and support he shares with his two children, Erin and Evan, and his one grandchild, Owen; and

WHEREAS, Representative Jim Coley is wholly committed to the noble precepts of public service that have earned Tennessee recognition as the Volunteer State, and he should be specially recognized for his exemplary tenure in the General Assembly; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that we hereby honor Representative Jim Coley for his meritorious service to Tennessee as a member of the House of Representatives, commend him for his countless contributions and many good works in service of the citizens of the 97th House District, and extend to him our best wishes for much continued success and happiness.

Congressional candidate, Alexander counsel Shoaf dies at 71

Forrest Shoaf, an investment banker who was general counsel to Republican Lamar Alexander’s 1996 presidential campaign, has died. He was 71.

Shoaf, a West Point graduate with a Harvard law degree, planned to run for an open 5th Congressional District seat in 2002 until discovering redistricting had put his house — barely — in the 7th District.

“When I go out in the morning to get the paper, I’m in the 7th District,” Shoaf told the Memphis Flyer at the time. “When I lean over the curb to pick it up, I’m in the 5th.”

Shoaf decided to run for the 7th District but ended up coming in fifth in the Republican primary won by Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood. He later called the campaign the “biggest damn-fool mistake” of his life and a “cure for narcissism,” according to the Nashville Post. 

Shoaf was an attorney with the Nashville firm of Bass, Berry & Sims until taking leave in 1995 to serve on Alexander’s campaign.

“Forrest Shoaf was a good friend, fine attorney and a patriot,” Alexander said in a statement Wednesday. “We had fun together, especially in the New Hampshire presidential primary in 1996. 

“I can still see him up early in the morning and late at night putting up campaign signs in the snow. Honey and I send our condolences and respect for his life to his family,” he said.

Shoaf later moved on to J.C. Bradford & Co. as managing director for corporate finance. He worked in mergers and acquisitions until joining Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores Inc. in 2005 as chief legal officer. He had stepped down from his position as chief administrative office for Atlanta-based Resurgent Financial Advisors this spring due to health problems.

Shoaf mulled moving from Lebanon to the 4th District to mount a challenge to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Sherwood) in 2014, but ultimately decided against taking the plunge. In 2014, Shoaf was named among three finalists for a state Court of Appeals vacancy, but then-Gov. Bill Haslam chose Neal McBrayer of Nashville.

Shoaf served 12 years of active duty in the Army and was a member of the English faculty at West point.

Former lawmaker, lobbyist Rufus Jones dies at 79

Rufus Jones, a former chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, has died. He was 79.

Jones, a Memphis Democrat, was elected to the state House in 1981 and served in the chamber until 1996. He then embarked on a lobbying career until beginning treatment for lymphoma in 2006.

Jones’ lobbying clients included Tennessee Bankers Association, Memphis Light, Gas & Water, and Memphis Basketball Partners, a group pushing for funding for a new arena when the Vancouver Grizzlies were first mulling their move to Tennessee.

Jones challenged Riley Darnell for the secretary of state position in 2004, but lost a House Democratic Caucus nomination vote to the incumbent. Democrats at the time held a narrow 69-63 advantage over Republicans in the joint convention to elect constitutional officers and Darnell went on to win his fourth and final term.

Jones was succeeded in the House by Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis).

“Rep. Jones was a tireless public servant who always gave back and worked hard to open doors for the people of South Memphis,” she said in a statement. “He was a kind, easy-going person who loved his constituents and his community.”


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