Portrait of Rep. Don Sundquist, R-Tenn., on August 14, 1990. (Photo by Marc Siegal/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Don Sundquist’s Legacy

Born in Moline, Illinois, and spending the first half of his life in the state, Sundquist was a U.S. Navy veteran and a graduate of Augustana College. A job transfer in 1962 brought him to Tennessee, the state where he spent most of his political career. Sundquist became involved in politics, assisting with Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, serving as chair of the Shelby County Republican Party, and acting as a delegate to the 1976 and 1980 Republican National Conventions.

In 1982, Sundquist decided to run on his own, aiming for the U.S. House of Representatives. He narrowly defeated Bob Clement, son of four-time governor Frank Clement, and began a 12-year run in Congress. Sundquist easily won follow-up elections and established a conservative voting record while in office.

In 1994, Sundquist set his sights on the governor’s seat. He easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen, and won his first of two terms. He served until 2003, signing laws to make criminal sentencing tougher, to reform welfare, and others. Following his tenure, Sundquist became a lobbyist. He also served as state vice chair of the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign.

Tributes to Don Sundquist