Franklin businessman Bill Lee was sworn in as Tennessee’s new Governor on a rainy Saturday in War Memorial Auditorium and delivered a brief inaugural address that reflected his modest, down-to-earth gubernatorial campaIgn.
After thanking his predecessor, Bill Haslam, for leaving him “a foundation to build on,” Lee said Tennessee was “the envy of many states” for the progress of its institutions. He then paid homage to family relations ranging from his wife, Maria, to an ancestor, Charles Braxton Lee, one of Tennessee’s earliest settlers, and vowed to meet the state’s challenges and further its goals.
And he offered a dutiful tribute to “the favor of God Himself.” (One of the hallmarks of his address was the aforesaid brevity; all things considered, it was not much longer than the official prayers: the invocation, offered by Pastor Steve Berger, and the benediction, which included an authentic chant in Hebrew from Dr. Don Finto.)
Lee provided summary once-overs rather than detailed positions, as he set forth a minimalist concept of state government, the purpose of which, he said, was “to protect our rights, our safety, and our freedom.”
He promised to lift Tennessee to “the top tier of states” in education and to combat such social ills as the currently raging opioid epidemic and the rising rate of violent crime. (As for non-violent crime, Lee endorsed the currently modish view that advocates preparing nonviolent offenders for re-entry into society rather than imprisoning them.)
The new governor concluded his address with the words “Thank you for this honor. God bless each one of you, and God bless the great state of Tennessee.”
The inaugural ceremonies were followed by numerous receptions around the capital, including one at B.B. King’s of Nashville sponsored by “the Memphis and Shelby County legislative delegation, cabinet members, deputy to the governor Lang Wiseman, and Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols.
Sponsors of the reception included Memphis City Council chair Kemp Conrad, state Senator Brian Kelsey, state Reps. Mark White and Joe Towns, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, FedEx president and CEO Richard Smith, and David Upton.