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John S. Tanner

John Tanner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Ed Jones
Succeeded by Stephen Fincher
President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
In office
Preceded by Jose Lello
Succeeded by Karl A. Lamers
Member of the
Tennessee House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born John Sumners Tanner
(1944-09-22) September 22, 1944
Halls, Tennessee
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Betty Ann Tanner
Residence Union City, Tennessee
Alma mater University of Tennessee
Occupation attorney
Religion Disciples of Christ
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
United States Army National Guard
Years of service 1968-1972
Rank Colonel

John Sumners Tanner (born September 22, 1944) is the former U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 8th congressional district, serving from 1989 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Since retirement, Mr. Tanner serves as the Vice Chairman of Prime Policy Group.


  • Early life, education, and early political career 1
  • U.S. House of Representatives 2
    • Elections 2.1
    • Tenure 2.2
      • LGBT issues 2.2.1
    • Committee assignments 2.3
  • Post-congressional career 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life, education, and early political career

Tanner was born in Halls, Tennessee, the son of Edith Adell (Sumners) and Emerson Beck “Buzz” Tanner.[1] He grew up in Union City, Tennessee. Following graduation from the University of Tennessee, he served in the United States Navy from 1968 to 1972. He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1976, replacing Larry Bates, who mounted an unsuccessful primary challenge against U.S. Congressman Ed Jones.

U.S. House of Representatives


When Jones retired in 1988, Tanner won the Democratic nomination for the seat and handily defeated Republican nominee Ed Bryant, who went on to represent the neighboring 7th District from 1995 to 2003. Tanner was reelected in 1990 with no major-party opposition, a feat he repeated in 1992. In 1998, he was completely unopposed. He handily defeated Republican opponents in 1994 (the only time besides his initial election that he faced a serious or well-funded challenger), 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. In 2004 and 2008, he faced James L. Hart, an avowed eugenicist. On both occasions, Hart was disavowed by the state Republican Party.

Tanner announced on December 1, 2009 that he would not seek re-election in 2010 and would retire after 11 terms in Congress.[2]


As a Congressman, Tanner has sponsored a bill to repeal the inheritance tax (which was vetoed by President Clinton) and he is in favor of a balanced budget. It is reported that Tanner could have been appointed to the United States Senate by governor of Tennessee Ned McWherter in 1992 to replace Al Gore but he declined the offer, and Harlan Mathews was appointed as a caretaker instead. Tanner became nationally known briefly when it was alleged that President Clinton was on the telephone with him in 1995 during one of Clinton's sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky. Tanner was a founder of the Blue Dog Democrats and has denied rumors that he might switch parties, and has an earned reputation as a moderate.

Tanner is strongly in favor of balancing the budget and paying down the national debt. He has been a strong opponent of the fiscal policies of President stem cell research and against renewing the controversial portions of the Patriot Act. He also supports affirmative action and public education. Tanner was firmly opposed to Bush's attempt to reform Social Security.

Tanner received much of his knowledge of politics as a youth from his father E.B. "Buzz" Tanner who was successful in the financial and insurance business. He became a member of a highly political and influential law firm out of law school in his home town community and soon ran for office as a state legislator in the House of Representatives. He was also a relative of then House Speaker Ned McWherter, who later was elected governor twice and was an extremely powerful political force in the state, having friends on both sides of the political aisle.

In 2004, Congressman Tanner made a brief but unintended cameo appearance alongside Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11, where Moore was trying to get Congressmen to have their children enlist in the Military to go to Iraq.

He recently drafted a bill that would require special bipartisan commissions rather than state legislatures to redraw congressional districts when necessary due to U.S. Census count changes. It is generally believed that this bill is a response to Republican-inspired mid-decade redistricting in Georgia.

After both his district and state chose the former first lady,[3] Congressman Tanner endorsed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign in April 2008.[4]

LGBT issues

In April 2009, Tanner voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.[5]

Committee assignments

Post-congressional career

He currently works for Nashville law firm Miller & Martin and the Prime Policy Group, a lobbying firm.[6] He became chairman of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, a non-profit group that advocates U.S. leadership in conservation programs globally, in fall of 2011.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Baker, Jackson (December 1, 2009). "Rep. Tanner Makes Stunning Announcement: He Won't Run for Reelection".  
  3. ^ Welna, David (April 25, 2008). "Hundreds of Superdelegates Remain Undecided".  
  4. ^ Espo, David (April 24, 2008). "Clinton’s donations surge after Pennsylvania victory".  
  5. ^ [2]. Retrieved February 21,2014.
  6. ^ (2011). Tanner joins Nashville law firm. Retrieved May 16, 2011.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ed Jones
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 8th congressional district

1989 - 2011
Succeeded by
Stephen Fincher
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