Bill McKee talks Tennessee history at Rotary Club

Jacob Smith • Mar 6, 2018 at 5:03 PM

Cumberland University vice president of academic affairs and professor of education and public service management Bill McKee spoke to the Lebanon Noon Rotary Club at its weekly meeting Tuesday.

McKee mainly shared some of the lesser-known stories that involved past Tennessee governors.

A story he shared was about two brothers who ran against each other for governor. Both eventually served and were well loved by Tennessee residents.

“In 1866, there were two brothers, biological brothers, same momma, same daddy, raised in the same household in Happy Valley, Tennessee,” said McKee. “One was an ardent Democrat, and the other was an ardent Republican. By age 9, they were debating issues against each other.”

In 1886, the two ran against each other for governor. Robert Love Taylor ran on the Democratic ticket, and Alfred Alexander Taylor ran on the Republican ticket.

“They were down in Athens, and a reporter said to them, they were standing there, they’d just given some speeches, and they said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen next week when there’s an election and one of you wins and one of you loses?’” said McKee. “Alf, the Republican, turned to the reported and said, ‘well, I’m going to wake up in the morning after the election, and I’ll either be the governor, or I’ll love the man who is.’”

Robert Love Taylor was elected governor in 1897 and was so well liked, when he died, they held a funeral service in five different cities in Tennessee. According to McKee, it’s estimated about one-third of the population of Tennessee signed the funeral book.

In 1921, Alfred Alexander Taylor was elected governor of Tennessee and, at 71 years old, was the oldest person to be elected governor.

In the state capitol building in Nashville, there is a bust of each brother, and they’re looking at each other.

“I think it’s so really symbolic of what the positivity of those two men were,” said McKee.

McKee said he feels it’s important to recognize some of the historical figures not often heard about.

“Sometimes, the people who make history are not the people who make the newspaper,” said McKee.

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