John G. Stewart was a strong advocate for civil rights and justice in the Knoxville community for the past 40 years with a soul that cried when a granddaughter died of a brain tumor at the age of 3 and 4 months.
He was also a great storyteller, especially before his heart started giving him trouble a few years ago, and it was fun to listen to him talk about his work for Hubert Humphrey, the progressive Minnesota liberal and vice -President, after a glass of wine. or two with friends on a Friday night in West Hills.
Stewart, 86, died at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio on Wednesday following open heart surgery on August 2. His wife, Nancy; son, State Rep. Mike stewart from Nashville, and her daughter, Cara Stewart Schaffer of Indianapolis, were with him at the time of his death.
John Gilman Stewart was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, where he met his wife Nancy in high school. “He remembered me because I was the tallest person in fifth grade,” she said Thursday. They started dating in high school and got married 64 years ago. John Stewart, meanwhile, earned an undergraduate degree from Colgate University and a doctorate. degree in political science from the University of Chicago.
“He was a lively guy, with many interests,” said Nancy Stewart. This included writing columns for the News Sentinel.
Early in his career, John Stewart worked for Humphrey when he was a United States Senator, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being an iconic achievement in which Stewart was involved.
“From that day forward, my father has always been involved in government, to serve better or, outside, to push government to be better. Throughout his life he looked for an opportunity to promote social justice, to look for places to try to step in and help. The latest effort was to create this fund to help those injured in the coal ash spill, ”said Mike Stewart.
Last December, John and Nancy Stewart announced the creation of a medical care fund for sick rescuers in Kingston who do not have adequate health insurance. They started the fund with the money the couple received from the sale of a family home. The Kingston Workers Project is funded by the East Tennessee Foundation with the University of Tennessee Medical Center providing free assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning to workers who were involved in the 2008 spill cleanup.
Schaffer said she hopes people will remember her father’s legacy as being stubborn in keeping people motivated, and even with all that has been done in the area of civil rights, it still remains work to do.
“He has never lived a day in his life without thinking of others,” she said.
Stewart took over as the head of TVA’s new Planning and Budget Office in 1979. He knew S. David Freeman, then president of TVA, from their days working on congressional committees together, his wife said. In 1982, the CEO of TVA Bill Willis appointed Stewart deputy chief executive along with two other people, setting up the agency to look more like a corporation than a government bureaucracy, according to a News Sentinel article at the time. It was a change recommended by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by the Senator from Tennessee Howard H. Baker Jr.
Stewart retired from TVA in 1994 and became a consultant for NASA. In 2001, he was forced to quit a NASA advisory board along with six other people after raising concerns about the safety of the space shuttle program, although this was not reported until 2003 after the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegration in the atmosphere, killing all 7 crew members. a board.
It was in John Stewart’s office that burglars were discovered in 1972 at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in what became the Watergate scandal. Stewart was director of communications.
The death of Sylvie Stewart, daughter of the state representative, led John and Nancy Stewart to become active with pediatric cancer organizations and family foundations. John became president of the Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy and, along with others, worked to pass a bipartisan agreement, the Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children (RACE) Act in 2017. This law allows the Food and Drug Administration to require pharmaceutical companies to test adult cancer drugs in children as long as the molecular targets were relevant to pediatric cancer. Cancer advocates would work to make sure urgently needed new therapies come true, the Stewarts wrote in a News Sentinel column. “Stay tuned,” they said.
The Stewarts were part of a group, including this columnist, who met at the home of Annette anderson and Robert wilson in West Hills since the mid-1990s. John Stewart hasn’t dominated the conversation, although he could have, but we’ve heard stories about working on civil rights legislation. He has also written a book on the subject, “When Democracy Worked: Reflections on the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”.
Anderson described Stewart as an eternal optimist. “He got us all involved in his love of politics and social justice. … He was a wonderful man, ”she said.
The last time the group met was before Stewart went to the Cleveland Clinic in early July for assessments that led to heart surgery. He spoke of his namesake, Nicolas gilman, who signed the US Constitution. Nancy Stewart recalled Thursday that her husband had said, indeed, “He was the last to arrive for the Constitutional Convention (as a delegate from Vermont). But he didn’t bring anything.
Stewart was active at the Church of Our Savior United Church of Christ, where a memorial service is expected to take place later.
HOW THEY VOTED: Meaning of the United States. Marsha blackburn and Bill hagerty of Tennessee, and US Rep. Tim burchett of Knoxville, all Republicans, voted against a government funding measure in early December. The measure was adopted by both chambers and the president Joe biden signed the bill Thursday night, avoiding a shutdown scheduled after midnight.
Interim funding supports existing spending by federal agencies until Dec. 3, when Congress must pass another short-term solution or pass a dozen appropriation bills that fund federal agencies throughout the year. fiscal year 2022.
The new measure included billions of dollars to help respond to two deadly hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast and the East Coast, and money to help resettle refugees from Afghanistan.
“Our government is strapped for cash because Joe Biden has been busy spending it all,” Blackburn said Wednesday.
Hagerty released a statement, which read in part: “With an immigration and border security crisis raging on our southern border threatening our national security, Democrats have hijacked this funding bill and slipped a provision which would allow unlimited resettlement of refugees in the United States. with the thinnest ties to Afghanistan, with inadequate control, no time constraints and granting social benefits indefinitely, which I cannot support. ”
REMINDER ON THE RACES OF THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF KNOXVILLE: Monday October 4 is the last day to register with the Knox County Election Commission for the November 2 general election. City council districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 are on the ballot. Early voting begins on October 13 and ends on October 28. October 26 is the last day to request a postal vote.
Georgiana Vines is a retired Associate Editor of News Sentinel. She can be reached at [email protected]