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Ned Ray McWherter

Gov. Ned Ray McWherter

  • January 17, 1987 - January 21, 1995
  • Democratic
  • October 15, 1930
  • April 4, 2011
  • Tennessee
  • Widowed; two children
  • National Guard


NED RAY MC WHERTER was born in Palmersville, Tennessee. He grew up during the Depression on a small farm where his parents were sharecroppers. He operated several small businesses and a farm headquartered in Dresden, Tennessee, and served on the boards of several Tennessee corporations and financial institutions before holding public office. McWherter was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1968 and after serving just two terms, he was elected Speaker of the House, a position he held longer than anyone in Tennessee history. As the forty-sixth governor of Tennessee, McWherter provided progressive leadership by insisting all proceedings of the House be open to the public and press. He was the original sponsor of the “sunshine law” and always adhered to an open-door policy with his constituents. He opened doors to minority groups by appointing the first black committee chair in the South and assisted women into influential leadership roles in the legislature. His 21st Century Schools education reform program launched similar programs in other states and his replacement of the Tennessee Medicaid system gained national attention. He served on several national and local councils and committees including the Council of State Governments and the Executive Committees of the Southern Conference, the Weakley County Head Start Program, and the Northwest Tennessee Development District. Following Governor McWherter’s last term as chief executive in 1995, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service by President Bill Clinton, and held that position until December 2003. He was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1986 and served until 1995. During his tenure as governor, Tennessee enjoyed a period of record economic growth and development, and was twice ranked as the best fiscally managed state in the U.S. In early 2005, the Ned Ray McWherter Leadership Scholarship was established at Lambuth University in recognition of the former governor’s generosity, service to the people of Tennessee, and service and leadership as a Lambuth University Trustee. McWherter died on April 4, 2011 at the age of 80.


Governor Ned Ray McWherter Papers, 1987-1995 (GP 54).

Governor Ned Ray McWherter, Tennessee 2000/21st Century Classroom Education Tour, 1990-1991 (1993 RG 282).

Governor’s Alliance for a Drug-Free Tennessee Records, 1986-1992 (RG 314).

Governor’s Executive Orders, 1953- present (RG 95).

Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors Association, 1994.

Past Governors of Tennessee

Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

Recent Tennessee Governors