Colleagues remember John Wilder for his integrity and commitment

By Justin Hanson - bio | email

OAKLAND, TN (WMC-TV) - He was the longest serving sitting lieutenant governor in U.S. history, and Sunday, John Wilder's family and friends, along with politicians from across Tennessee, said a final farewell at his funeral.

The funeral service was more like a who's who of Tennessee politics, but most of Wilder's friends and colleagues agreed that his life and legacy will never be forgotten.

"John Wilder was a gentleman. He was a sensitive and thoughtful and considerate man, and I was grateful for the help he gave me in passing substantial legislation," said former Tennessee Governor Winfield Dunn.

"I think the bi-partisanship he showed is something we need to recapture in the state and nationally," added Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Wilder served 43 years in the Tennessee Senate - 36 of those as Senate speaker and Lieutenant Governor.

In his farewell address to the Senate, Wilder said,  "I love this state. I love this Senate. It's more a part of me than anything else I've done or known."

Those who loved John Wilder, and worked along side him, recounted some things this legislative legend loved most - his late wife, Marcelle, and his airplane, Jay-Bird.

Known for his famous sayings, called "Wilderisms", Wilder once said while referring to Jay-Bird, "I'm not afraid of dying, but if I'm not flying, I'm dying."

Wilder's colleagues remembered him for his integrity and commitment to the citizens of his district and the state of Tennessee.

"We didn't always agree but he always listened," said Senator Dolores Gresham, who took Wilder's seat in the Tennessee Senate.

"He was a good man. I'm proud to say he was truly my friend. I had great respect for him and I'll miss him," said Representative Jimmy Naifeh of Covington.

"There will never be another person in the history of this state that will serve as John Wilder served us," added Bolivar Representative Johnny Shaw.

Most agreed that John Wilder practiced what he preached, and said Tennessee is a better place because of his life of public service.

"You do what's good and right for this state and be constructive," quoted Wilder in his farewell address in 2007.

John Wilder leaves behind his two sons, Shelton and David, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

His beloved wife Marcelle, whom he nicknamed "baby," died in 2004.

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