Year in review: Tennessee obituaries of 2022

Here are some of the notable people who passed away in 2022, as covered in the print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

Honey Alexander, 77, who was married to former governor and U.S. senator Lamar Alexander for 53 years.

Brown Ayres, 90, Knoxville investment banker who as a state senator sponsored legislation to do away with the state’s “bone dry” law that made it legal to possess up to a gallon of alcohol in all 95 counties.

Gene Barksdale, 99, the sheriff of Shelby County from 1976 to 1986.

Joe Biddle, 78, a longtime sports columnist for the Nashville Banner and The Tennessean.

Joseph Patrick Breen, 87, a prominent Nashville priest whose progressive positions were often at odds with church leaders.

Joe Casey, 96, Nashville’s law-and-order police chief from 1974 to 1989.

Larry Cole, 83, a former lawmaker who served two separate stints as House clerk.

Joe Cooper, 76, “The Marryin’ Squire” of Shelby County who later cooperated with the FBI in a bribery sting operation against Memphis City Council members.

Barbara Cooper, 93, a retired teacher, former chair of the African American Peoples Organization in Memphis, and a state House member since 1996. She was the recipient of then-Sen. Jim Summerville’s 2012 missive that he didn’t “give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”

Larry Crim, 66, a perennial candidate for federal office.

Mark Flanagan, 79, a perennial Democratic primary challenger of then-U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr. and a friend and adviser to Memphis’ current congressman, Steve Cohen.

Darrell Freeman, 57, a businessman and mentor to aspiring African-American entrepreneurs who clashed with fellow trustees at Middle Tennessee State University over what he called efforts to silence him on matters of race.

Harry Green, 89, the executive director of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations from 1981 until 2012.

Robert Hicks, 71, a battlefield preservationist in Franklin and author of the bestselling 2005 novel Widow of the South.

George Jaynes, 80, a 24-year mayor of Washington County who fought efforts to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from the courthouse in Jonesborough in the 1990s.

Dale Kelley, 82, a 30-year mayor of Huntingdon, former TDOT commissioner, and a onetime SEC basketball referee.

Paul Kwami, 70, the musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers for 28 years, including for its Grammy-winning album Celebrate Fisk!

Jim Lewis, 78, a former state senator who drew attention – but no charges – for having a loan co-signed by the head of a bingo manufacturing firm during the FBI’s Rocky Top public corruption probe.

Loretta Lynn, 90, country music legend.

Gilbert “Gil” S. Merritt Jr., 86, a federal appeals judge who made the short list of candidates for a U.S. Supreme Court opening in 1993.

Bryant Millsaps, 75, a former House clerk who was appointed as Secretary of State following the suicide of Gentry Crowell amid the Rocky Top investigation in 1989.

Millard Oakley, 91, a former state insurance commissioner and attorney for former Gov. Ray Blanton.

Ken Roberts, 89, a banking executive who challenged Howard Baker for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1964.

John Ryder, 72, a Memphis attorney, redistricting expert, and general counsel to the national Republican Party.

Wilson “Woody” Sims, 97, a Nashville attorney who during his single term in the state House spearheaded efforts to defeat a 1959 bill seeking to exempt children from mandatory attendance at desegregated schools.

Tim Skow, 64, the host of Nashville’s First Tuesday Club featuring Republican speakers.

Jim Stewart, 92, the cofounder of Stax Records who helped create the soulful “Memphis sound.”

Charles D. Susano Jr., 86, a former state appeals judge from Knoxville who authored more than 1,000 opinions before retiring in 2020.

Earl Swensson, 91, the architect of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and the downtown Nashville office tower known as the Batman Building.

Larry Wallace, 77, former commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol who was named director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation after lawmakers complained his predecessor spent too much time assisting the FBI on the Rocky Top public corruption probe.

John Everett Williams, 68, the presiding judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and a proud member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Vernon Winfrey, 89, a Nashville barber, 20-year Metro Council member, and father of Oprah Winfrey.

Les Winningham, 81, a former state House member from Huntsville who was one of committee heads to buck leadership in a 2002 floor vote on a state income tax.

Joe Worley, 74, a former executive editor of the now-defunct Nashville Banner, who went on to head the Tulsa World from 1995 to 2014.


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