Harlan Mathews (Harlan Mathews)

Harlan Mathews

Harlan Mathews served as deputy to the governor until January 1993. Al Gore, who had been Tennessee’s junior Senator since 1985, was elected Vice President of the United States as Bill Clinton’s running mate in November 1992, and resigned his position as Senator in preparation for his inauguration as Vice President on January 20, 1993. McWherter then appointed his deputy as Gore’s successor in the Senate. From the beginning, it was understood that Mathews’ role in the Senate would be one of caretaker; he had no ambition of running for election to the Senate. The appointment served two purposes; firstly, to reward a longtime government insider who had served his state and his party faithfully for many years, largely out of view of the general public, and secondly, to allow McWherter to remain above the fray in the scramble to succeed Gore in the Senate and not identify himself with any particular party faction. Harlan Mathews’ service in the Senate was of a decidedly low-key nature; he largely supported the Democratic agenda of President Clinton and the then-majority in the Senate. The passion for the contest for the Democratic senatorial nomination to succeed him was quelled somewhat when it became apparent that the Republican nominee would be attorney and prominent actor Fred Thompson. The highest-profile Democrat to enter the primary was Representative Jim Cooper, who was the eventual nominee and lost to Thompson in a landslide.

Thompson was sworn into office in December 1994 in order to give him a slight advantage in seniority over other Senators elected in that year, as is traditionally done when someone is elected to the balance of an unexpired term. Harlan Mathews left office as quietly as he had served in it and then practiced law in Nashville, Tennessee. Harlan Mathews died of brain cancer on May 9, 2014 at a hospice in Nashville. He is survived by his wife, Pat Mathews and two sons. A third son, Richard Mathews, had preceded him in death.

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  • January, 17, 1927
  • USA
  • Sumiton, Alabama


  • May, 09, 2014
  • USA
  • Nashville, Tennessee

Cause of Death

  • brain cancer


  • Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • USA

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