John Jay Hooker Has Died

From The Tennesseean: ‘Charismatic’ John Jay Hooker has died

John Jay Hooker, who was perhaps Nashville’s most recognizable and charismatic political figure, and one of its most controversial, died Sunday morning.

He was 85.

Mr. Hooker, who had been battling cancer since January 2015, died peacefully with family and friends at Alive Hospice in Nashville.

“We have lost another legend,” said Tom Ingram, who, as a reporter for The Tennessean, covered Mr. Hooker’s first campaign for governor in 1966. “Seig (former Tennessean editor John Seigenthaler), George Barrett, and now John Jay. They were giants …”

I met Hooker at BlogNashville in 2005. Here is a post from back then.

John Jay Hooker, a colorful figure in Tennessee politics, interjected during the Dave Winer session at BlogNashville and became an instant hit among bloggers. His most notable quote at the engagement was “You can’t call a son-of-a-bitch a son-of-a-bitch without calling him a son-of-a-bitch.”jjh.jpg

As told in his Web site profile, Hooker is a past candidate for Tennessee governor (’66), media empire broker, former fried chicken tycoon, and a person who has been influential in Democratic politics at the national level. Some of the men he’s counted as friends are Estes Kefauver, Robert Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and Al Gore, Sr. He’s a larger-than-life guy – the very archetype of the white-haired Southern attorney with a billowing voice and loquacious speech. He’s 75 and going strong, as evidenced by his interest in blogging.

Chris Wage points to the John Jay Hooker Wikipedia entry, which recounts his rarefied lineage.

He was a descendant of the first Chief Justice of the United States and his namesake, John Jay, and also “Fighting Joe” Hooker, a Union general in the American Civil War whose camp-followers are said to have been the source of a well-known slang term for prostitutes which began as “Hooker’s girls”.

His Web site profile continues in that vein, noting that he’s the “grandchild of Henry Williamson, a signer of the Constitution of Tennessee (1870). His mother is Darthula Hooker June, a descendent of Tennessee Governor William Blount, who was a signer of the U.S. Constitution (1787) and President of the Constitutional Convention of Tennessee (1796).”

At the after hours get together at PM’s, Hooker arrived and sat down at the bar by himself. I invited him over to the table. (For some reason I feel compelled to note that while the rest of us were drinking, Hooker was not.) He’s extremely interested in blogging. One thing he wanted to know was whether there was an audience for in-depth discussions, and everyone assured him there was.

As an example of the in-depth discussions he wanted to have, he mentioned the current controversy over judicial filibusters. Hooker thinks one of the few mistakes the framers made in the Constitution is lifetime appointment for Federal judges. But that being as it is, he thinks judges should therefore be appointed by more than a majority. He also made a point about Senate rule changes that I confess I didn’t quite follow.

Melissa thought she had a family connection to Hooker, so after we left the bar she called her parents. It turns out Melissa’s maternal grandfather, Tom Henry, worked for Hooker’s gubernatorial campaign in 1966. He painted a bread truck with Hooker slogans, bolted speakers on the top, and drove between Knoxville and Nashville exhorting people over the loudspeaker to VOTE! for JOHN! JAY! HOOKER!

From bread trucks to blogs in four decades. How things do change in politics. Later that night Hooker joined some bloggers for one of the “Food for Thought” dinners. It just happened to be the one at Nashville’s Red Restaurant. Eric Janssen of Quixtar Blog was there and took pictures and notes. He writes, “It was a rather surreal moment that I was able to catch on camera – John Jay Hooker reading the U.S. Constitution to a couple of bloggers inside a gay bar.” 20th century, allow me to introduce the 21st century. 21st century, the 20th century.

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