Former Lt. Gov. Wilder in 'serious' condition after stroke
John Wilder, 1978
John Wilder, 1998
John Wilder, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The state's former lieutenant governor remains in serious condition at a Memphis hospital after suffering a stroke Monday.
John Wilder, 88, was found unconscious in his west Tennessee home Monday afternoon and airlifted to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he remains in the intensive care unit.
"It obviously happened sometime [Monday] morning and they didn't find him until the afternoon, about 1:30 p.m.," said Steve Butler, chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Party.
Sam McKnight, director of Fayette County's Emergency Medical Service, said Wilder's son, Shelton Wilder, found his father unconscious and called the ambulance.
Wilder, a Democrat, served for 44 years in the Tennessee legislature, retiring in 2008 after Republicans took control of the Senate.
He was Senate speaker for 36 years, making him the longest-serving presiding officer of a legislative chamber in modern U.S. history.
As lieutenant governor from 1971 to 2007, he was also the second-ranking official in the state.
Butler said many people are praying for Wilder's recovery.
"Of course, we all love Gov. Wilder," Butler said. ... "He's still referred to as 'Governor' and I guess he always will be."
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey spoke highly of his predecessor and said the two remain close friends.
"He reached across the aisle, a committee chairman for the Republicans and the Democrats. When I came over from the state House I was surprised how bipartisan the Senate was and you're right, he reached across the aisle, tried to be fair to everyone and obviously the time came, there was a time for change, the Republican became the majority and I became speaker, but even after that, we became and we're still very close friends," said Ramsey.
In a statement on behalf of the Tennessee Democratic Caucus, Senator Jim Kyle said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Governor Wilder and the Wilder family tonight. Governor John Wilder is known for his toughness. We hope for a full and speedy recovery."
John Deberry, a Memphis Democrat and chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus, called Wilder "one of those people who has made history in Tennessee and is known all over the country."
He continued, "I think that all of the people of the state of Tennessee wish him well ... and hope that he recovers."