Ray Blanton
American politician
Ray Blanton
Leonard Ray Blanton was an American politician who served as Governor of Tennessee from 1975 to 1975. He also served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1967 to 1973. Though he initiated a number of government reforms and was instrumental in bringing foreign investment to Tennessee, his term as governor was marred by scandal, namely over the selling of pardons and liquor licenses.
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Tracy Ullman: What We Do Not Know
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Yesterday, I was gardening with my neighbor. Very few know him this way, since he's a former sergeant with the Chicago Police Department. After years of retirement from the violence and politics, he's actually become an expert on which plants do best in the soil we have, their trimming and weeding. We usually talk about a wide variety of topics, but more recently, we've talked about the documentary I'm currently producing about a cover-up in the case of John Wayne Gacy. My neighbor is au fait with Vito Marzullo, Chicago's former and notorious city alderman - who was also under surveillance by the FBI for purported connections to the Mob. He's also familiar with the name Ed Hanrahan, Cook County's former State's Attorney, who represented Vito Marzullo's then 19-year old grandson in the trial of John Wayne Gacy. After talking about my tomato plants, he asked me if I thought I could get killed doing the research for my documentary. I told him I thought it was too old o ...
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Huffington Post article
Justice AA Birch Jr. left imprint on state judiciary - The Tennessean
Google News - over 5 years
Ray Blanton appointed Birch in 1978 to the Criminal Court, where he served until Gov. Ned McWherter appointed him to the state Court of Criminal Appeals in 1987, making Birch the state's first black appeals court judge. Memphian George Brown became the
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Google News article
Memphis Commercial Appeal: Lamar, Honey Alexander donate papers to Vanderbilt - Canada Views
Google News - over 5 years
It features rare video, transcripts and correspondence surrounding Alexander's early swearing-in as governor three days before his inauguration in 1979, at the urging of state and federal officials who said then-governor Ray Blanton was about to
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Google News article
Senator Alexander Donates Early Papers to Vanderbilt - Nashville Public Radio
Google News - over 5 years
His predecessor Ray Blanton was thought to be granting pardons for cash. Vanderbilt dean of libraries Connie Vinita Dowell says the early Alexander papers are a coup for the university. “It puts us on the national stage when it comes to materials that
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Google News article
Dean Blanton - Spartanburg Herald Journal
Google News - over 5 years
Surviving is a son, Ray Blanton of Gaffney; two daughters, Suzanne Blanton and Cathi Martin and husband, Tim, both of Gaffney; a brother, Roger Blanton and wife, Lucy of Forest City; three sisters, Ivos Hall, Carol Snyder and husband, Henry,
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Google News article
Former Tennessean political reporter Duren Cheek dead at 73 - The Tennessean
Google News - almost 6 years
... national, and state stories Cheek covered during that time were the death of World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, the trial of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, the death of Elvis Presley, and the ouster and trial of former Tennessee governor Ray Blanton
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Google News article
Attorney general selection works just fine, thanks - Asheville Citizen-Times
Google News - almost 6 years
Ray Blanton from office in 1979 over improper pardons to prisoners. Bill Leech was state attorney general, Hal Hardin was US attorney for Middle Tennessee, and Ned McWherter was House speaker. Those three, like Blanton all Democrats, worked together to
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Google News article
Governors' Personal Troopers Pressured by Duty and Politics
NYTimes - almost 7 years
Under New York's last Republican governor, George E. Pataki, the commander of his personal State Police detail was found to have improperly intervened in an independent investigation of the governor's campaign staff. Under Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat who had been the state's top law enforcement official, investigators charged that state troopers were
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NYTimes article
Roger Clinton's Dogged Effort for Drug Trafficker
NYTimes - over 15 years
Roger Clinton was hacking his way through a friendly game of golf in 1999 when his foursome was interrupted by a visitor who drove up on a cart and, after a brief conversation, handed Mr. Clinton a box containing a Rolex watch. The encounter near the 10th hole of the Rancho Park golf course in Los Angeles might have been forgotten but for a few
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NYTimes article
Peter Maas, Writer Who Chronicled the Mafia, Dies at 72
NYTimes - over 15 years
Peter Maas, who turned real-life good guys and bad guys into the stars of a long string of nonfiction best sellers, died yesterday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 72. A hospital spokeswoman declined to give the cause of death. Time and again Mr. Maas returned to organized crime, organized corruption and people whose revelations
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NYTimes article
States' Pardons Now Looked At In Starker Light
NYTimes - about 16 years
In Wisconsin, just before he left office to become President Bush's secretary of health and human services, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson pardoned a Republican state senator's son who had been convicted of cocaine possession. In New Jersey before she left to become head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gov. Christie Whitman pardoned a woman
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NYTimes article
Alexander Treks Uphill In Faltering Campaign
NYTimes - over 17 years
The last time he ran for President, Lamar Alexander saw no need to parade before voters his membership in the elite fellowship of Eagle Scouts. To any son of the modest, contented town of Maryville, in the hills of eastern Tennessee, it would have been a vainglorious declaration, made creaky by the rustle of ancient merit badges. But this time
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NYTimes article
Ray Blanton, 66, Ex-Governor Ousted in a Tennessee Scandal
NYTimes - over 20 years
Former Gov. Ray Blanton, ousted from office three days early in a ''cash-for-clemency'' scandal that rocked Tennessee in the late 1970's, died today at Jackson-Madison County Hospital here. He was 66. Mr. Blanton, a Democrat who was Governor from 1975 to 1979 and a member of Congress from 1967 to 1972, had been hospitalized since Monday awaiting a
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NYTimes article
THE 1994 ELECTION: TENNESSEE; Grits and Glitter Campaign Helps Actor Who Played a Senator Become One
NYTimes - over 22 years
In an election year when voters all but screamed their displeasure with Democratic incumbents and Big Government, here came Fred Thompson in his canvas work shirt and a rented Chevrolet pickup truck, looking more like a man who would stuff and mount a largemouth bass than like the lawyer, lobbyist and big-time Hollywood character actor that he is.
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NYTimes article
Tennessee Republicans See an Election Weapon in State's Bingo Scandal
NYTimes - about 27 years
LEAD: A yearlong round of indictments involving bingo operations and official corruption here has put Democrats on the defensive in a legislative election year and presented the generally somnolent state Republican Party with a wake-up call to arms. A yearlong round of indictments involving bingo operations and official corruption here has put
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NYTimes article
Ex-Governor Sells Used Cars
NYTimes - over 27 years
LEAD: Former Gov. Ray Blanton, who served a two-year prison term for extortion after leaving office in 1979, has taken a job selling used cars and trucks. The 60-year-old Mr. Blanton said he has been in training at Bolton Ford-Mercury for about two weeks. ''I'm healthy as a horse, broke, but not broken,'' he said Tuesday. Former Gov. Ray Blanton,
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NYTimes article
Blanton Concedes in Tennessee Primary
NYTimes - over 28 years
LEAD: Former Gov. Ray Blanton talking to his supporters Thursday night in Jackson, Tenn., as his wife, Karen, wiped away a tear. Mr. Blanton finished third in a four-man race for the Democratic nomination for western Tennessee's 8th Congressional District as State Representaitve John Tanner won with 66 percent of the vote. Former Gov. Ray Blanton
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NYTimes article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Ray Blanton
  • 1996
    Age 65
    Blanton died on November 22, 1996, at the Jackson-Madison County Hospital in Jackson while awaiting a liver transplant.
    More Details Hide Details He is buried in the churchyard of Shiloh Church, within Shiloh National Military Park (not to be confused with the Shiloh National Cemetery, also located within the park). His grave is marked by a large obelisk. In 2012, the website RealClearPolitics named Blanton one of the ten most corrupt politicians of all time. A portion of the story of the pardons scandal was made into a book, Marie: A True Story, by Peter Maas, author of Serpico, and eventually made into the motion picture, Marie, starring Sissy Spacek in the title role of Marie Ragghianti. Attorney and future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, who had served as Ragghianti's lawyer, launched his acting career in this picture, portraying himself. The pardons scandal, as well as others, are also detailed in the book FBI Codename TENNPAR, written by Hank Hillin, the Nashville-based FBI agent who led the investigation into the Blanton administration.
  • 1988
    Age 57
    Blanton married Karen Flint in 1988, during his comeback bid for Congress.
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    Blanton spent the last decade of his life trying unsuccessfully to clear his name. In 1988, he ran for the retiring Ed Jones' 8th district congressional seat.
    More Details Hide Details He finished far behind the eventual winner, John Tanner, winning just over 10% of the vote. He then became privately employed at a Ford Motors dealership in Henderson.
  • 1979
    Age 48
    On January 15, 1979, near the end of his term, Blanton issued pardons to 52 state prisoners, including 20 convicted murderers.
    More Details Hide Details Among those pardoned was Roger Humphreys, the son of a Blanton supporter, who had been convicted of killing his wife and a male companion. As Blanton signed Humphreys' pardon, he stated, "this takes guts." His Secretary of State, Gentry Crowell, who was disgusted with the pardons, replied, "some people have more guts than brains." While Blanton stated the pardons were to comply with a court order to reduce the state's prison population, the FBI and members of both parties grew concerned that the pardons were related to the alleged scandal then under investigation. After U.S. Attorney Hal Hardin (a friend of Blanton) tipped off state leaders that Blanton was planning more pardons, Lieutenant Governor (and Senate Speaker) John S. Wilder and State House Speaker Ned McWherter searched for a way to prevent further damage to the state's reputation. They found it in the state constitution, which is somewhat vague on when a newly elected governor must be sworn in. It was eventually decided to swear in Alexander three days before the traditional inauguration day. Wilder later referred to Blanton's ouster as "impeachment Tennessee-style."
  • 1978
    Age 47
    On December 15, 1978, the FBI raided the state capitol, and seized documents from the office of Blanton's legal advisor, T. Edward Sisk.
    More Details Hide Details Sisk and two others were arrested, and Blanton appeared before a federal grand jury on December 23, where he denied any wrongdoing.
  • 1977
    Age 46
    In 1977, Blanton fired Marie Ragghianti, chairwoman of the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles, when she refused to release prisoners who, as was later determined, had bribed state officials in exchange for obtaining pardons (Ragghianti later sued and won a $38,000 judgment against the state).
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    In 1977, the "surplus car scandal" erupted when state officials were accused of selling surplus state-owned cars to political allies.
    More Details Hide Details Charles Bell, Commissioner of General Services, resigned, and Sonny McCarter, director of the state's Surplus Property Division, pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement. Transportation Commissioner Eddie Shaw was indicted for his role in the scandal, but was acquitted.
  • 1974
    Age 43
    His Republican opponent in 1974, Lamar Alexander, won in November.
    More Details Hide Details Blanton's administration was frequently accused of extravagant spending. He accepted a controversial $20,000 pay raise, and often took friends on trips at state expense. He and his aides charged $21,000 to state accounts for bar tabs, limousine rentals, and personal phone calls, though they eventually paid the money back. Blanton was criticized for setting up a large network of county patronage officials, stating they were his political advisers. His family's company was awarded a paving contract at a state park, though Blanton had assured the company would not do business with the state during his governorship.
    In 1974, Blanton won a twelve-person Democratic primary for governor.
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  • 1972
    Age 41
    Rather than run against Jones in 1972, Blanton decided to run for the U.S. Senate.
    More Details Hide Details He easily won the Democratic primary, and faced the Republican incumbent, Howard Baker, in the general election. Unlike Blanton, Baker had supported the Voting Rights Act and the lowering of the voting age, helping him make inroads among two key constituencies, black voters and young voters. Baker also tied Blanton to the more liberal Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern. On election day, Baker won in a landslide, 716,534 votes to 440,599.
  • 1970
    Age 39
    Though Dunn and Republicans had broken the Democrats' dominance of state politics in 1970, the Republican Party was tarnished by the Watergate scandal.
    More Details Hide Details On election day, Blanton defeated Alexander, 576,833 votes to 455,467. Following his inauguration, Blanton called for a state income tax, but the state legislature, fearing a revolt from voters, refused to consider it, and instead raised the state sales tax. Blanton overhauled the state's excise and franchise tax laws, and revised the state's Hall income tax to provide relief for the state's elderly residents. He also elevated the state's Office of Tourism to a cabinet-level department, making Tennessee the first state in the nation to do so, and upgraded the state's retirement system. Blanton's administration was noted for extensive recruiting of foreign industrial and trade opportunities. He made several trips to Africa, the Middle East, Japan, and Europe, in an effort to form economic partnerships with foreign investors. He was criticized for the costs of these trips, but was instrumental in bringing British, West German, and Japanese investment to the state. In 1976, he hosted a meeting with several United Nations representatives in Nashville.
    Tennessee lost a congressional district after the 1970 census, and the legislature merged most of Blanton's territory with the neighboring 8th District of popular fellow Democrat, Ed Jones.
    More Details Hide Details The merged district retained Blanton's district number, but was geographically more Jones' district.
  • 1966
    Age 35
    In 1966, Blanton ran for Congress, challenging 12-term incumbent and former Crump machine ally Tom J. Murray in the Democratic primary for the 7th congressional district, which was based in Jackson and included Adamsville.
    More Details Hide Details In a major upset, Blanton edged Murray for the nomination, winning by just 384 votes out of the nearly 70,000 votes cast. He went on to win the general election, and was twice reelected. As a congressman, Blanton had relatively poor attendance, sponsored few bills of significance, and served on just two committees: the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, and the District of Columbia committee. He instead focused on his constituents, namely by trying to acquire funding for projects in Tennessee, including the state's first Head Start Program. He spent a great deal of time at his district office responding to voter concerns, and frequently spoke to groups of students. Blanton criticized the anti-war movement, voted against extending the Voting Rights Act, and opposed lowering the voting age to 18.
  • 1964
    Age 33
    In 1964, Blanton was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing McNairy County.
    More Details Hide Details He often sat in the back of the House chamber wearing sunglasses during House proceedings.
  • 1951
    Age 20
    He taught school in Mooresville, Indiana, from 1951 to 1953, when he returned to Adamsville to work in the family construction business, B&B Construction.
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  • 1949
    Age 18
    Blanton married Betty Littlefield in 1949. They had three children before they divorced in 1979.
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  • 1948
    Age 17
    Blanton graduated from Shiloh High School in 1948, and obtained a bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee in 1951.
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  • 1930
    Born on April 10, 1930.
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