Longtime Shelby County Trustee Bob Patterson died Saturday morning after suffering a massive heart-attack.
Patterson was first elected in 1990, the last year the trustee's position was filled in a non-partisan election. Ironically enough, Patterson was then and subsequently a strong advocate of partisan elections for county-wide positions, and, once partisan primaries were instituted, he was re-elected four times as the official GOP nominee.
But compounding that irony was another: Patterson, like Sheriff Mark Luttrell and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, was popular across party lines and made a point of frequently attending Democratic events. That was one of the facts that made him virtually unassailable at the polls.
Patterson was the sponsor of two annual events that were considered staples of the political year -- his yearly barbecue at Kirby Farms and the annual Christmas Party he and his wife Virginia held on the first Monday of each December at their East Memphis home.
In 2006 and last December, however, Patterson did not hold his Christmas party. He explained to friends that the turnout had begun to exceed the available space in his home and that he intended to resume the tradition once he had settled on an appropriate larger venue.
The genial Patterson was locally famous for his good humor and the variety of wide-brimmed hats he customarily wore. But, despite a low-key personality, he was zealous about defending the prerogatives of his office.
This latter fact brought him into conflict with several other officials and branches of government, and in the last year or two Patterson had launched something of a public-information campaign challenging -- as too rosy -- the official fiscal projections of county mayor A C Wharton and others.
Funeral and visitation arrangements are so far incomplete
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