Breaking the Lull 

As it turns out, the political Dog Days have a modest amount of woof to them.

The period from mid-August to Labor Day has, in Memphis as elsewhere, traditionally been a lull time, politically, and so it is this year, after the conclusion of the latest vote cycle, the county general election and state and federal primaries of August 4th.

Even in an election year, public attention to politics generally goes on siesta for a few weeks before kicking up again in the stretch run of a fall election, to be held this year on November 8th.

click to enlarge clay maquette of suffrage statue
  • clay maquette of suffrage statue

This is not to say that events of significance don't happen in the meantime. Here are a few:

A labor of many years will finally be on view in its final form next Friday, August 26th, which has been designated as Women's Equality Day, with the unveiling in Nashville of sculptor Alan LeQuire's monument to Tennessee's role in the ratification of the 19th, or Women's Suffrage, Amendment.

The statue, which depicts five Tennessee suffragists involved in the effort to gain the vote for women, will be unveiled in Nashville's Centennial Park. It is the result of years of private fund-raising efforts overseen by the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, Inc., a foundation whose president is Paula Casey, of Memphis. 

Casey, who has long been involved in efforts to memorialize the Tennessee suffrage movement, was editorial coordinator for The Perfect 36, a 1998 commemorative history of the Tennessee suffragist movement co-written by Janann Sherman and the late Carol Lynn Yellin, also of Memphis. 

The unveiling will take place at 11 a.m. Participants will include Mayors Jim Strickland of Memphis, Megan Barry of Nashville, Kim McMillan of Clarksville, and Madeline Rogero of Knoxville.

In addition to the unveiling, the ceremony will include special recognition of three contemporary "Tennessee Trailblazers," the late state Representative Lois DeBerry, of Memphis, the first woman to be elected Speaker Pro Tempore and the longest-serving member of the House at the time of her death in 2013; the late Jane Eskind, the first woman elected to statewide office; and state Representative Beth Halteman Harwell, the first woman to be elected Speaker of the state House of Representatives.

• The most extended discussion at Monday's regular meeting of the Shelby County Commission concerned the merits of allowing a new gravel pit to be dug by Standard Construction Company near a neighborhood area in unincorporated Shelby County. That issue was stoutly resisted by residents of the area and was eventually referred back to the commission's land use, planning, transportation, and codes committee.

But, for the first time in recent memory, the commission managed to elect a new chairman — Melvin Burgess Jr. — by acclamation. Usually these annual transfers of the gavel involve multi-layered power struggles and require multiple ballotings before a winner is decided. Not this trip.

In fact, kumbaya was the order of the day. Outgoing chairman Terry Roland, a Republican, got a standing ovation from his colleagues and a verbal tribute from Walter Bailey, the commission's longest-serving Democrat. In his turn, Roland, who is given to bear hugs anyway, bestowed a full-fledged embrace on successor Burgess, also a Democrat.

• The executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party and state party chair Mary Mancini of Nashville disagree again. The local party committee voted last week to deny former chairman Bryan Carson — accused by some of bad fiscal management, and by others of outright embezzlement — the right to claim bona fides as a Democrat. 

Mancini, who has insisted that the local party accept a modest payback agreement with Carson, countered that the party bona fides can only be lifted if one is a would-be candidate and has failed to vote in three of the five previous party primary elections.


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