Former governor, House speaker, Ned McWherter dies at 80

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Web Editor - Jay Marchmon

NASHVILLE - Ned Ray McWherter, former House speaker and Tennessee governor, passed away at age 80 Monday afternoon. 

Madelyn Pritchett, his longtime assistant, confirmed his death and said he had been being treated for cancer. McWherter died about 2 p.m. at Centennial Hospital in Nashville.

McWherter's influence--as congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives and as the governor of Tennessee from 1987-1995--was far reaching, as many sought the Democrat's input about a variety of policy decisions. Mr. McWherter served 20 years in the Legislature, 14 of them as House speaker. He was also a political adviser to President Bill Clinton.

McWherter was born in--and spent his life in--Tennessee, and retired to Dresden after he left the governor's office.

As the state’s 46th governor, he supported education improvements — called the 21st-Century Classroom — that put more computers and technology in classrooms, increased teachers’ pay, shrank class sizes and gave local school boards more control.

A hefty 6-foot-4, he was known for a down-home manner. “I know every hog path in Tennessee,” he once said. In his 1986 campaign, he repeatedly said, “Just give me a cup of coffee and four vanilla wafers and I’ll be ready to go to work.”

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