Wilder ruled the state Senate for 36 years as Speaker and, ipso facto, the state's lieutenant governor, surviving two serious coups along the way. He was finally deposed in January 2007 when a fellow Democrat, then Sen. Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, cast a surprise vote for Wilder's Republican challenger, Ron Ramsey of Blountville, ensuring Ramsey's victory.
The former Speaker served out that term in the Senate but did not run for reelection in 2008.
A statement released from the state Senate Democratic Caucus office in Nashville on Monday had contained the first information that Wilder had suffered a stroke:
The leadership of the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement upon learning news that former Lt. Gov. John Wilder had suffered a stroke:
Our thoughts and prayers are with Gov. Wilder and the Wilder family tonight, Senator Jim Kyle, the Senate Democratic Leader, said from Memphis.
Senator Lowe Finney, Caucus Chairman, said from Jackson: Governor John Wilder is known for his toughness. We hope for a full and speedy recovery.
Preliminary reports had been that Wilder was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital East, but spokespersons at the hospital said no one had been admitted there under the name of John Wilder.