Tennessee’s John Jay Hooker Dies at 85

     (CN) – Prominent Tennessee political figure John Jay Hooker, Jr. passed away over the weekend, leaving behind a legacy of activism and perennial political pursuits.
     Hooker was twice the Democratic nominee for governor, one of the founders of the Hospital Corporation of America, the publisher of the Nashville Banner, and chairman of the board of United Press International.
     He is also remembered for his last political battle, one in which he fought for his right to die while suffering from terminal illness.
     According to a lawsuit filed by Hooker in May 2015, he had been diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer. He claimed in court that “he should be afforded the comfort of knowing that he has the ability to stop his suffering.”
     The lawsuit alleged that Tennessee law outlawing aid in dying violates the state constitution.
     Tennessee Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, agreed to sponsor a “death with dignity” bill last year as part of Hooker’s fight. A hearing was held last June and the bill could return in the 2016 legislative session.
     Hooker died Sunday morning at the age of 85, according to local news reports.
     In 1961, Hooker was named special assistant to Robert “Bobby” Kennedy after Kennedy was sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. Hooker told the Nashville Scene last November that he first met Martin Luther King, Jr. at Kennedy’s house.
     He was the Democratic nominee for Tennessee governor in 1970 and 1998, and he ran as an independent candidate in 2014.
     Hooker was also the publisher of the Nashville Banner, a conservative newspaper, from 1979 to 1982, before serving as chairman of United Press International for a year.
     He was named Tennessean of the Year in December by the Nashville-based newspaper.
     In a story about allegations over appointments to a judicial panel, Hooker told Courthouse News in October 2014 that he had a longstanding principle of “trying to protect the integrity of the Constitution and the judicial system.”
     U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement that Hooker “had friends everywhere.”
     “John Jay Hooker Jr.’s remarkable personality spread a bright light across Tennessee government and politics for a half century,” Alexander said. “Honey and I will greatly miss his enthusiasm, his sense of purpose, and his friendship.”

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