By Jeff Woods
on Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Now that John Wilder is retiring, it’s time to celebrate the life and times of one of the strangest creatures ever to inhabit the legislature. Over the years, the Scene has been no fan of the loogie-hocking, nose-picking octogenarian who reigned over the Senate as lieutenant governor for 35 years and gave us all reason to pray for the good health of the governor.
Here's Liz Garrigan in 2006 urging Wilder's ouster as Senate speaker:
We frankly find it troubling that, during 35 years of power, Wilder has yet to risk his hide over any meaningful principle, issue or ideology. As a speaker with nothing worthwhile to say—and, we might add, a tenuous grasp on both standard methods of communication and basic English grammar—his greatest political accomplishment is self-preservation.
Who could forget his Senate prayer after the Tennessee Waltz scandal in which he dismissed public outrage as "destructive," admonished the FBI and actually thanked legislators who took bribes?
That said, Wilder did make us laugh from time to time with his bizarre, childlike utterances. It was like having Dr. Seuss presiding over the Senate. Here are a few of the pearls that have fallen from Wilder’s lips:
“I know you all think I’m old. You think it’s about time for me to die. But I don’t mind dying. I hate to quit flying.”—Wilder just before his 2007 ouster as speaker.
“The Senate used to go,’Quack Quack.’ The Senate don’t go ‘Quack Quack’ no more. The Senate is good. The Senate is the Senate."--Wilder boasting after lawmakers stopped getting looped during sessions by drinking Donald Duck orange juice spiked with vodka.
“I thank you, and you know it. I’m glad.”—Wilder upon his return to the Senate last year after he fell outside his West Tennessee home and was hospitalized.
“Let me tell you something. We’re in the sunshine, and you’re in the shade! And you’re going to stay in the shade."--Wilder to a reporter trying to crash a secret budget meeting.