Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade has a unique connection to the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s a picture Wade’s grandmother took when the president drove by her house in Sevierville en route to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The president picked up Sevierville’s postmaster - the only Democratic office holder - and then drove down the street where Wade’s grandmother lived, posing for a picture she took from her porch. He smiled and waved from the back of the convertible before being sped off to the mountains.
Wade shared that special memory at the annual Blount County Democrats’ Roosevelt Dinner Saturday, May 1, at the Clayton Center for the Arts. He also explained how hard times such as those Roosevelt saw bring opportunities to serve and to lead.
Wade, a former mayor of Sevierville, shared some of the historical dates relating to Roosevelt’s life and how he led in times of crisis. “Many of you have taken strong roles. You believe in government, you believe we can work to make this the nation it can be,” he said. “Hard times bring opportunity, and opportunity shows leadership.”
Brandon Cook, former chair of the Blount County Democratic Party and candidate for Blount County Commission District 1, Seat A, shared facts about Franklin Roosevelt and his importance to this region’s people and to the country.
Cook compared the circumstances of Roosevelt to President Barrack Obama. Both found themselves in similar, severe economic distress in the country and both acted in much the same way by creating government work programs and stimulus packages, Cook said. “People are screaming at President Obama that he hasn’t done anything, and people are saying he isn’t doing anything,” Cook said. “They did that in 1932 and 1933 to Roosevelt.”
Cook said when Roosevelt took office unemployment was at 20 percent, and it took him 10 years to get the country out of depression. The president created the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Manhattan Project in part to put people to work. He also improved work conditions for Americans, Cook said.
“Do you enjoy the 40-hour work week? Do you like the minimum wage? Then thank FDR,” he said. “Social Security? You can credit that to FDR.”
Cook said Roosevelt’s decision to put Truman in as vice president put a good man in the vice presidency, one who wasn’t afraid to use the atomic bomb to save lives. “If it wasn’t for FDR, we would not have had Truman. Read your history books -- every single time the U.S. of A. has needed leadership, who has come through? A Democrat,” he said.
Cook criticized the Bush administration and said, “It took them eight years to run everything into the ground. It’s going to take more than eight days to turn it around,” Cook said.
Blount County Democratic Party chair Tony Webb said the Democratic party is growing in Blount County. “We have picked up so many new people. I thank all of you who have joined to make Blount County a stronger place,” he said.
A number of the 72 people attending shared their thoughts on how the party is growing.
Brad Hansley of Blount County said that the county’s population has been growing for 10 to 15 years and many are ready for change. “We’ve had enough of politics as usual. Democrats and Independents are pulling together, and we hope to see the good old boy system go out the door,” he said.
Oliver “Buzz” Thomas said it is important for the Democratic Party in Blount County to be strong. “Every community needs two healthy political parities,” he said. “It keeps all of us honest. I’m encouraged by the turnout.”
Marvin Pratt, 62, of Gatlinburg, came to the dinner to meet the faithful. Pratt, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired body shop owner, is the Democratic candidate for State House of Representatives 8th District. He said he moved to Sevier County five years ago and has never been involved in politics. “I thought it was time to pitch in and help,” he said. “This country needs help.”