State Rep. Gary Rowe, a Memphis Democrat, dies of cancer - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

State Rep. Gary Rowe, a Memphis Democrat, dies of cancer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State Rep. Gary Rowe died of colon cancer on Wednesday, a House colleague said. The Memphis Democrat was 56.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry, also a Memphis Democrat and Rowe's seat mate on the House floor, said Rowe died at Baptist Hospital in Memphis after missing most of the current legislative session for health reasons.

"He talked to me in private and I knew what was going on, but I never dreamed that ... I would no longer have a seat mate," DeBerry said. "He was a great friend, a great legislator."

House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, said Rowe would be missed.

"It is a tragedy," he said. "He fought a good fight."

Rowe, who was president of the Memphis Business Development Corp., beat three other Democrats in a special election to fill the vacated House District 87 seat in 2005.

He was unopposed for re-election the following year. He served on the House Government Operations, Commerce and the Children and Family Affairs committees.

Rowe is survived by his wife, Diane, and children Gary and Gabrielle. Funeral arrangements were expected to be released later in the week.

House Commerce Chairman Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, said he worked with Rowe on several bills.

"I've met a lot of good leaders since I've been in the Legislature, but Gary was special," Curtiss said. "He's going to be sorely missed."

Rowe was also president of the Black United Fund of Tennessee and chairman of the Minority Enterprise Development.

The Shelby County Commission will be tasked with appointing a temporary successor because there is less than a year left before the next general election.

The last state lawmaker to die in office was Rep. Jack Sharp in 2006. The East Ridge Republican died following a stroke that came as he was battling lung cancer. He was 70.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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