Former Shelby Co. Commissioner John Willingham dies - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Former Shelby Co. Commissioner John Willingham dies

Willingham was 80 years old. Willingham was 80 years old.
Willingham was a beloved public servant known for more than just politics. Willingham was a beloved public servant known for more than just politics.
Willingham would have celebrated his 81 birthday Sunday. Willingham would have celebrated his 81 birthday Sunday.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Willingham faithfully served the citizens of Shelby County. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Willingham faithfully served the citizens of Shelby County.

(WMC-TV) - Former Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham died Wednesday night.

According to Shelby County officials, he was admitted to St. Francis Hospital Monday for congestive heart failure. He was 80 years old.

Willingham was a beloved public servant known for more than just politics.

The word of John Willingham's death reached Tom Lee Park just as world-class competitors began to fire up their smokers – including those on his very own team.

"Always willing to push the envelope of how to do things better, more efficiently, and more effectively," said team member Paul Holden.

Willingham would have celebrated his 81 birthday Sunday.

"He's recognized not only locally and nationally, but internationally as an expert in BBQ," said Memphis in May CEO Jim Holt.

But pork was not John Willingham's only passion, so was politics.

Willingham was a mayoral candidate in 2007.

Friends and foes during Willingham's tenure on the Shelby County Commission concede it was difficult to dislike him.

"Mr. Willingham was a genuine person, and we're really going to miss him," said Friend George Tillman.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Willingham faithfully served the citizens of Shelby County.

"His dedication to our community was evident," said Luttrell. "Even after his retirement from the Shelby County Commission, he continued to think of new ways to improve the quality of life for citizens and was always a friend to those of us serving in government roles. We will miss his faithful, compassionate and caring spirit."

Willingham's family was with him Wednesday when he passed peacefully.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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