“He’s changed the course of Tennessee politics for generations,” former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis said of Ramsey. “The heart and soul and legacy of our party is better because of Ron Ramsey.”
Republican lawmakers and operatives paid tribute to Ramsey’s 10 years as state Senate speaker — a time when taxes and government debt went down while Tennessee was perceived as a more business-friendly state.
Ramsey, R-Blountville, announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election to his state Senate seat to spend more time with family and grandchildren. He turned 60 years old last year.
“This man has a compass. It’s pointed north. ... This is our Ronald Reagan,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said of Ramsey to a room full of about 500 Republicans at the MeadowView Marriott.
Said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., “Ron Ramsey is probably the most powerful politician in the state. We have the lowest debt ... all because of conservative leadership.”
State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, noted the state is losing a great leader.
Ramsey, said Lundberg, helped flip the Democrat-controlled legislature to Republicans, as well as the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“You have upheld our values so, so well,” Lundberg told Ramsey.
State Rep. Timothy Hill, the House majority whip, disclosed he takes a number of rides with Ramsey to Johnson County to meet with common constituents.
“It hit me yesterday that I only have a few of those rides left,” said Hill, R-Blountville.
Davis recalled his first meeting with Ramsey in 1992, when Ramsey decided to run for the state House.
“We thought without hesitation or reservation that Ron Ramsey was going to lose that race,” Davis said.
In a video message, Gov. Bill Haslam said if he could have been at the event, he would have reminded Ramsey that he has six grandchildren while Ramsey has five.
“I told him the other day ‘You’re leaving on top. ... We will miss you,’ ” Haslam said.
After the tributes, the crowd watched a video montage of Ramsey’s legislative career, and a teary-eyed Ramsey stepped to the podium greeted by a standing ovation.
“I’m supposed to say something after that?” Ramsey joked. “Thank you. ... Sindy wanted me to be sure to tell you that picture at the back of the program (which showed a much younger Ron and Sindy Ramsey with their children) that was actually my first wife. ... Technically it’s true. Sindy was my first wife.”