Remembering former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist

Former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist died Sunday at age 87.
Former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist died Sunday at age 87.
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 6:30 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist died Sunday in West Tennessee surrounded by family. Sundquist served as governor from 1995 until 2003.

Previous Coverage: Former Tenn. Governor Don Sundquist dies at 87

Sundquist’s former commissioner of personnel, Susan Williams, remembers him fondly. “He was really very human, very funny, and very kind,” she said.

Sundquist is best known for his reform of the state’s welfare system. His ‘Families First’ act reduced the number of Tennessee families receiving state aid from 70,000 to 30,000.

He was also at the center of a statewide tax reform debate. He proposed a state income tax in 2001. It caused him to lose a lot of his party’s support. “Consequently, he lost a lot of Republican support from that, but I think over the long term, people understood that what he was trying to do was help tax reform in our state,” said Williams.

Beyond his time in office, Williams said Sundquist was a jokester. He retired in Townsend and became a big Lady Vols basketball fan.

“He loved it. He wore orange every Saturday and loved going to the games. He really loved East Tennessee,” she said.

Former governor and Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement, “Don Sundquist was a loyal friend and a man with a good heart. He helped our state prosper and expanded health insurance for Tennesseans. He put the state ahead of his own political interests. The Alexander family sends to Martha and their family our sympathy and respect for Don’s life.”

Gov. Bill Lee released this statement: “As Tennessee’s governor for two terms, he contributed to our state’s legacy of fiscal responsibility and expanded opportunity for Tennesseans through historic economic development. Maria and I join all Tennesseans in honoring Governor Sundquist’s remarkable life, and we pray God’s comfort over Martha and their family in the days ahead.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but Sundquist will be buried in Blount County.