Tennessee Democratic legislator Roy Herron dies as a result of injuries sustained in a jet ski accident


Roy Herron, a longtime Tennessee state legislator and former leader of the state’s Democratic Party, died Sunday as a result of injuries sustained in a jet ski accident. He was 69.

According to his family, Herron died at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. According to his family’s Caring Bridge website, he has been in the hospital since a July 1 collision with another jet ski on Kentucky Lake, which left him with internal bleeding and serious injuries to his arm and pelvis.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency investigated the clash, details of which were initially unknown.

“Roy loved his family with all his might,” said Herron’s wife, Rev. Nancy Carol Miller-Herron. “He gave up doing what he loved most — spending time with our sons and their friends in the Tennessee countryside, where his mind was always at its freest.”

Herron, an attorney from Dresden, Tennessee, served a total of 26 years in the state House and Senate, where he became parliamentary group leader and parliamentary group leader. According to his website, he never missed a session day except for the birth of his youngest son. From 2013 to 2015 he was chairman of the state’s Democratic Party.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, Herron was also one of the first students to earn a joint degree in Divinity and Law from Vanderbilt University. Herron, an ordained Methodist minister, is also the author of three books, including one entitled “God and Politics: How Can a Christian Be in Politics?”

Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Martin.

Messages of condolence poured in on Sunday. On Twitter, former Vice President Al Gore called his fellow Democratic Tennessee “a dear friend and one of Tennessee’s most devoted citizens.” Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen called Herron “smart, hardworking and honest”. A politician with great things ahead of him.” Republican Rep. David Kustoff said Herron “has dedicated his life to service in West Tennessee and the entire Volunteer State.”

Republican Tennessee House Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison said on Twitter that he was “the guy you just have to like.”

Joe Hill, a longtime Tennessee Democrat political activist who has worked with Herron in several campaigns, said he “showed a zest to make health care more accessible to disadvantaged Tennesseans” when he was elected to the state House of Representatives. Hill said he also brought that commitment to “education, victims’ rights, environmental quality and so many other things that affect the average person.”

“His legacy of championing ‘the least among us’ will set the gold standard for Democrat and Republican ministry in Tennessee’s future,” Hill told The Associated Press on Sunday.

This nature also applies to Herron’s friendships, Hill said. He recalled how Herron traveled 140 miles (225 kilometers) to be with him and his family in Memphis after one of Hill’s children was involved in a car accident.

“We left home in such a hurry and didn’t bring any extra clothes,” Hill said. “My wife Susan was freezing in the cold hospital waiting room and Roy gave her his shirt to keep her warm. That’s the kind of real person he was.”

In 2010, after briefly running for governor, Herron became the Democratic nominee in Tennessee’s 8th congressional district, as the then congressman. John Tanner has announced his resignation after more than 20 years in office. Herron ultimately lost the general election to Republican Stephen Fincher.

“When I retired, I was hoping that he would win the seat,” Tanner told the AP Sunday.

After a tornado devastated his hometown of Dresden just before Christmas 2021, Herron launched a fundraiser, raising more than $100,000 to support recovery efforts.

“It’s an overused term — that he was a dedicated officer — but that really was Roy,” Tanner said. “He worked tirelessly for the causes he set out to do and he had a good heart.”

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