EDITORIAL: John Wilder's Last Hurrah 

When John Wilder, the once and no-longer-future Speaker of the state Senate,  greets somebody he knows, he grabs them by the hand and pulls them toward him in a tight embrace, a close-contact maneuver which allows the old man to communicate quite directly his wiry frame, impressive strength, and still intact muscle tone.

Yes,in recent years he has dozed during hearings; yes, he absent-mindedly hawks up his post-nasal drip in the manner of a dilapidated pensioner who is well over the last low hill. Yes, he talks in a self-parodying Dick-and-Jane idiom about his legislative world. "The Senate is good," he was famous for saying, sometimes yoking that to "The Senate is the Senate" and repeating the two phrases in this or that order. Sometimes that's the entierety of his discourse.

But this man was, right up to the reconvening of the Senate on Tuesday, a playa. He had survived various coups, he had survived old age, he had survived the political tides, he had even survived a notorious video showing him dipping a finger into his nose and apparently ingesting his find.  At 85, John Wilder could suffer Borat doing his worst and be not shaken.  Even as it seemed that, once again, Wilder had the votes to continue as Speaker and as lieutenant governor, you had  to give a lot of credit to Republican Ron Ramsey as well as to  Joe Haynes and Jerry Cooper, the Democratic senators who had publicly rebelled against him,  for even trying to put the man down.

In the end, he was not brought down by either of the his rebellious party-mates - both of whom Wilder had brought back in tow, though not without some serious and bitter words being uttered, in both directions. It was Rosalind Kurita, the diminutive, independent-minded Democrat from Clarksville, the same Rosalind Kurita who had run a lonely, solitary campaign for the U.S. Senate last year until it became obvious that her state and party hierarchies were intent on nominating then congressman Harold Ford Jr. to bear the party standard.

Kurita's role is sure to provoke controversy. It already has among most of her Senate Democratic colleagues. Meanwhile, Wilder has received his just desserts from his colleagues in both parties, who gave him a standing ovation before the Senate adjourned on Tuesday afternoon. It remains to be seen whether successor Ramsey follows his predecessor's tradition of appointing members from both parties to head Senate committees.
           

Almost everybody, Democrat or Republican, who served during the 35 years of Wilder's tenure as lieutenant governor could confess to having been seriously aggravated at least once by Wilder's sly and cautious administration of the Senate. Almost all of them, too, could express admiration, however grudging, for the Speaker's even-handed and usually fair perspective.

When he was in Memphis last month to preside over a swearing-in ceremony for interim state Senator Shea Flinn, he was asked what he expected to happen when the Senate came to choose a Speaker. "It'll be all right, Everything's going to be all right," he said.  It was impossible to tell at the time whether Wilder's words amounted to certicude or fatalism.

In any case, we share the old gentleman's hope that his cherished Senate indeed is, and will remain, "good." The times require it.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Starting Over

      As county government changes faces, deeper alterations may be needed.
    • Seeing Double

      Van Turner creates a new role for Councilman/Commissioner Ed Ford; Bredesen vs. Blackburn ad war under way.
    • TV Talking Heads from Memphis

      News and opinion, made in Memphis for a national audience.

Blogs

News Blog

Memphis Officials Partner with Gun Lobby

News Blog

FedEx Employees Indicted on Mail Theft

News Blog

DMC Calls for Artists to Enhance Downtown Alleys

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

This Week At The Cinema: Rebels, Dinosaurs, and Gershwin

We Saw You

Cooper-Young Festival

News Blog

State Suspended Purple Haze's Liquor License

Hungry Memphis

Trader Joe's Tempest in a Tote Bag

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: F*ck

From My Seat

Star Power

Hungry Memphis

Saucy Chicken Opens Today

ADVERTISEMENT

Readers also liked…

  • The Buddy System

    Harris and Kelsey hope to effect a good public outcome on the TVA/aquifer issue.
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Cohen Tells It!

    In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.
    • Jul 26, 2017
  • In reading the May 1st election totals, it depends on what your eyes are letting you see.

    Dissenters to "blue wave" theory rely on 2014 Lutrell-Lunati baseline to make cases for GOP having better bounce th9s year.
    • May 10, 2018
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation