Friends, family and political foes remember Gov. Don Sundquist


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s been a long time since former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist visited the state capitol. Tuesday marked his final visit. The former Congressman turned two term Governor lied in state on the first floor of the Tennessee Capitol.

Former Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) was one of the many paying their respects.

“He was a good man, he was an honorable man,” DeBerry said. “Don Sundquist was a gentleman, he carried himself in respectful ways.”

DeBerry and Sundquist were members of opposite parties, but became the closest of friends. It’s something almost unheard of these days on Capitol Hill.

“We were not activist, we were not those who raise various banners, and I’m not speaking negatively of anybody, I’m simply saying we understood when we sat on that floor that we represented the people of Tennessee,” said DeBerry.

Paul Stephens only met Sundquist a handful of times, but those moments obviously left an indelible mark. He fought back tears as he walked passed the casket.

“He was just a good friend and a good man,” said Stephens. “Governor Sundquist was a very humble, modest man. He would do anything for you.”

That sense of loyalty was a common theme at his memorial service, just down the street at First Presbyterian Nashville.

“This was a man who even in the very latest years of his life, never stopped reaching out to serve other people,” said Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee.)

Sundquist even remained loyal to unpopular ideas, like the controversial proposal to introduce a state income tax.

“He never once worried about his popularity, rather he was only focused on doing what was right,” said Wendell Moore, who served as Sundquist’s Chief of Staff when he was governor. “He was truly the most selfless and loyal person I’ve ever known. And someone to this day that I aspire to be the type of man husband father and example that he was for me.”

But most of all, the 47th Governor was remembered as a man fiercely devoted to his friends. Which is why it was fitting that so many stopped by to see Sundquist during his final visit to the Tennessee State Capitol.

“He felt fortunate and blessed to be the Governor, and he acted as such,” said DeBerry.

Sundquist was 87 years old. He is survived by his wife Martha, three children and two grandchildren. He will be buried in Townsend, where he spent a lot of time after he left the Governor’s Mansion.

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