Davis gets apology

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The state's lieutenant governor has reportedly made a verbal apology to a Carter County Commissioner for remarks made regarding affirmative action programs during a civic class meeting in Nashville last month.
   Carter County Commissioner Robert Davis said Lt. Gov. John Wilder called him Thursday afternoon to apologize for offending him with his remarks criticizing affirmative action, but the lieutenant governor did not apologize for making the remarks.
   "He did apologize to me for me feeling bad, but he did not apologize for the comments made," said Davis who spoke with the Star on Thursday.
   Davis sent a letter to Wilder on April 20 demanding an apology for comments the lieutenant governor made regarding the role of affirmative action while he was speaking to a Carter County Leadership Tomorrow Class during a meeting in Nashville on March 9.
   During his remarks to the class, Wilder indicated that white men were losing good-paying jobs because of blacks, women, and affirmative action. Wilder also reportedly made remarks about environmental regulations and the ACLU. Other class members attending the meeting who spoke to the Star on Wednesday said they were shocked by the context of Wilder's remarks.
   Class leadership coordinator Kathy Pierce asked Wilder to clarify his remarks at the request of several class members in a letter sent to his office on March 17. Wilder issued the apology during a conference call Thursday afternoon with Davis and Pierce.
   Pierce said Thursday evening she was satisfied with Wilder's letter clarifying his remarks and felt the issue was a "misunderstanding". She also said Wilder's comments were more personal in nature to Davis, but she felt the lieutenant governor did not intend to insult him or any class member.
   "I truly think it is taken care of," said Pierce. "I understand Mr. Davis' feelings."
   Pierce said Wilder had spoken to the Leadership Tomorrow members during previous class visits to Nashville. The Leadership Tomorrow program is a year long civic class that offers members the opportunity to discuss topics of heritage, history, and economics affecting the local community.
   Wilder's office issued Pierce a written response to her letter that was signed by the lieutenant governor Wednesday. The response stated that Wilder felt the U.S. Supreme Court was "not in tune with what is fundamentally right and wrong." Referring to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Wilder wrote that it took the Supreme Court over 100 years to rule the "separate but equal" law was not equal.
   Wilder wrote in his response to Pierce that since the Brown decision, the Supreme Court has subsequently issued rulings granting preferential treatment to certain groups. He wrote: "By granting preferential treatment, the court is violating the fundamental law that all people are created equal."
   Wilder's chief of staff, Russell Humphrey, said Wednesday the remarks highlighted Wilder's opposition to affirmative action, but that he did not intend to insult anyone with his comments on the issue.
   Humphrey said Wilder had "a long, rich history of civil rights protections" involving the voting rights of black Americans during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Wilder, a West Tennessee Democrat, has served as state senator for more than 30 years and Speaker of the Senate since 1971.
   Davis said he would continue to seek a written public apology about the comments from Wilder. "I still believe I deserve a letter of response," he said.