John Jay Hooker - Political Career

Political Career

In 1959, Hooker married the former Eugenia "Tish" Fort, a member of another socially-prominent Nashville family. They had three children, Dara, Kendall, and, Blount, who was named after his ancestor Governor Blount. The Fort family were co-founders along with other families of the former National Life and Accident Insurance Company and its subsidiaries, WSM radio and the Grand Ole Opry country music program. Hooker also was close friends with Amon Evans, whose family then owned and published the Nashville Tennessean, then as now the most prominent newspaper in Middle Tennessee. Thereafter, Hooker convinced Evans to employ John Seigenthaler as the editor of the newspaper. Seigenthaler likewise had an association with Robert F. Kennedy that emanated from the Schoolfield investigation and trial. Thereafter, Seigenthaler was a major political supporter of Robert Kennedy and of Hooker.

In January 1961, immediately upon the swearing in of Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General of the United States, Hooker was named special assistant to RFK, working on various projects for him during which time Hooker lived with Robert Kennedy and his family in his home in McLean, Virginia.

With the support and backing of the Evans family and John Seigenthaler, Hooker decided to enter the 1966 Democratic primary for governor of Tennessee. His opponent was Buford Ellington, a former governor attempting a return to the office who had the strong backing of the incumbent governor, Clement, and President Lyndon Johnson, who was Ellington's close personal friend and who had appointed him to a prominent position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ellington was also strongly backed by the other Nashville newspaper, the Nashville Banner. Supported by some of the more progressive members of the Nashville business community, and using innovative advertising such as sponsoring NASCAR driver Buddy Baker's racecar, Hooker underwent a blistering counterattack which was mounted by Ellington's "Old Guard" supporters. Hooker ran fairly well in the urban and rural areas, but lost badly in the suburbs, to which the Old Guard's support had largely moved in the post-World War II era. Ellington went on to an easy victory in November, with no Republican opposition, the last time such a circumstance was to occur in Tennessee.

During this period, Hooker and Tish made a campaign appearance at a Nashville church attended by the very young Oprah Winfrey and her family. Tish, as Oprah recounted later, took the time to speak to the young girl, and told her she was "pretty as a speckled pup." Many years later, Tish was invited to appear on Oprah's television show, where Oprah acknowledged how much those kind words had meant to her.

During the next four years, Hooker divided his time between two major activities – investments and planning to run for governor again in 1970. Politically, he kept up his connection with Bobby Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy political family, and was greatly saddened when RFK was assassinated in 1968. By this time Hooker had many diversified investments including Whale Inc. and a chain of fried chicken restaurants with country comedienne Minnie Pearl and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. His rationale for the chicken restaurants was that just as Pepsi had long made a large amount of money as the primary competitor to Coca-Cola, someone else stood to make a comparable fortune as the primary competitor to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hooker was also closely involved around the same time with the Frist family and others in the formation of what became the first major for-profit healthcare chain, the Hospital Corporation of America.

Hooker won the 1970 Democratic nomination for governor of Tennessee over a host of competitors, most notably the candidate of the "Old Guard", Nashville attorney Stan Snodgrass, who had the endorsement of the Nashville Banner. In the past, the Democratic nomination would have assured him victory in November. But many things had changed in Tennessee in the four years since his loss to Ellington. For one, the Republican Party was benefitting greatly from the Southern strategy of then-President Richard M. Nixon to reach out to rural and working-class urban Southern whites who were disturbed by desegregation and other rapid social changes. Tennessee Republicans, only just over two years from failing to field a gubernatorial candidate, had even managed to organize the Tennessee House of Representatives for the first (and only) time in the 20th century in 1969, and they were not about to allow what appeared to them to be a golden opportunity to pass them by. In 1966, Howard Baker had beaten Governor Frank Clement for the United States Senate because the Democratic party was divided between the Clement/Ellington forces and the anti-Clement/Ellington forces, as best exemplified in the heated primary battle that year between Ellington and Hooker, and the absence of a gubernatorial nominee had in fact allowed Republicans to focus almost all of their energies on electing Baker to the Senate seat.

Events as well as people seemed to conspire against Hooker in the fall of 1970. The Republicans had staged a very hard-fought primary race of their own, but had come out of it largely united behind the candidacy of Memphis dentist Dr. Winfield Dunn, former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party. Many of Snodgrass' erstwhile supporters, including the Nashville Banner, endorsed Dunn. At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission had in 1969 announced an investigation into Minnie Pearl's Chicken, and over time as a consequence of the investigation the price the stock had declined from a high of $40 a share to approximately 50 cents a share.

Simultaneously, Democratic Senator Albert Gore, Sr. was running an equally hard-fought and ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a fourth term against Chattanooga Congressman William E. Brock. The friendly relationship both Gore and Hooker shared with the Kennedy family became an issue, especially in light of Ted Kennedy's involvement in the Chappaquiddick incident the previous year. Republicans and "Old Guard" detractors alike pilloried the two, leading to a Republican sweep and for the first time in the post-Reconstruction era the Republicans held the Tennessee governorship and both United States Senate seats (although, curiously, they lost control of the state House of Representatives and never regained it until the 21st century).

Hooker was never convicted of any criminal wrongdoing in the SEC/Minnie Pearl Chicken case. Nonetheless, the SEC investigation, which lasted three years, caused the company virtually to liquidate, although a few outlets continued to function into the 1980s. Hooker still claims that the SEC investigation was unjustified and totally politically inspired by the Nixon Administration, which wanted to defeat Albert Gore Sr. and Hooker because they were anti-war candidates. Hooker also claimed that the Nixon political "machine" challenged Hooker and Gore as part of its "Southern strategy".

Read more about this topic:  John Jay Hooker

Other articles related to "political career, political, career":

Jim McGreevey - Political Career - Governorship of New Jersey - Machiavelli Controversy
... in federal court to extorting $40,000 in cash and political donations from Mark Halper, a Middlesex County farmer who was fighting a government plan to condemn his land ...
Contemporary Folk Music - Major Performers Who Emerged From The 1940s To The Early 1960s
... singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children's songs, ballads and improvised works ... In 1930, he had a brief, local radio career on WBOW radio in Terre Haute, Indiana, and in the 1940s he had his own radio show, titled The Wayfaring Stranger, titled after one of the popular ballads he sang ... The group's political associations in the era of the Red Scare forced them to break up in 1952 they re-formed in 1955 with a series of successful concerts and album recordings on Vanguard ...
Nawaz Sharif - Early Life and Education - Initial Political Career
... Nawaz Sharif started his political career during the time of nationalisation policy of former Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ... joined the Punjab Advisory Board under General Zia-ul-Haq and principally rose to public and political prominence as a staunch proponent of the military government of General ... During his political career, Sharif also had close ties with the Director-General of ISI, Lieutenant-General (retired) Hamid Gul, who played a substantial role ...
Edward Law, 1st Earl Of Ellenborough - Political Career, 1844–1858
... But for this act of rashness he might have enjoyed the task of carrying into effect the home constitution for the government of India which he sketched in his evidence before the select committee of the House of Commons on Indian territories on 8 June 1852 ... Paying off his old score against the East India Company, he then advocated the abolition of the court of directors as a governing body, the opening of the civil service to the army, the transference of the government to the crown, and the appointment of a council to advise the minister who should take the place of the President of the Board of Control ...
Edward Hyde, 1st Earl Of Clarendon - Biography - Political Career
... During the Civil War, Hyde served in the King's council as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was one of the more moderate figures in the royalist camp ... By 1645 his moderation, and the enmity of Henrietta Maria, had alienated him from the King, and he was made guardian to the Prince of Wales, with whom he fled to Jersey in 1646 ...

Famous quotes containing the words career and/or political:

    The problem, thus, is not whether or not women are to combine marriage and motherhood with work or career but how they are to do so—concomitantly in a two-role continuous pattern or sequentially in a pattern involving job or career discontinuities.
    Jessie Bernard (20th century)

    Liberalism, austere in political trifles, has learned ever more artfully to unite a constant protest against the government with a constant submission to it.
    Alexander Herzen (1812–1870)