Lloyd Daugherty would have been 60 this year. Well known as a political strategist and for his syndicated “Dixie Angler” radio show, the affable, articulate Knoxvillian was a go-to interview for national media outlets looking for a Southern point of view. When he died nearly three years ago from the ravages of diabetes, he left a trove of archival material stacked up in a closet at the office of the Tennessee Conservative Union, which he chaired for many years.
His fiancée, Keitha Kelley (whom he called his chief of staff), ran the office, and after his death, it took awhile before she felt up to cataloguing the stacks of notebooks, binders and clippings that memorialized his work from 1990-2006.
Soon as she was able, she gritted her teeth and got to it. She has completed the job and handed the material over to Daugherty’s successor as TCU chair, Gary Loe, who plans to digitize it and make it available to future researchers, or anyone who is interested.
“I would have to say there are thousands of clips,” Kelley said. “Every notebook had several hundred entries, from ‘Ear to the Ground’ (a gossip column in the now-defunct Metro Pulse) mentions to full-page USA Today articles. He saved everything, and he’d send me out to buy multiple copies. I’m glad he did, or we would have lost all this history.”
One example is TCU’s long battle with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, which tried to force the organization to hand over its donor list. This came on the heels of TCU’s successful campaign to unseat Supreme Court Justice Penny White, whom Daugherty believed was insufficiently supportive of the death penalty. TCU prevailed despite accusations that Daugherty and TCU president John Davies were nothing more than two guys and a fax machine.
Daugherty relished the insults and was tickled when then-Gov. Don Sundquist called TCU a bunch of Neanderthals and Al Gore branded them “powerful and dangerous.”
He took on plenty of other fights over the years, even as his health started to fail him, and soldiered on after he lost a leg in 1997.
“Lloyd did so great with his prosthesis. He wore shorts so much of the time and when we went out to eat, he’d ask, ‘Hey, do you give a one-legged discount?’ He’d tell kids a gator bit his leg off. He was just so grateful to have lived through it.”
Diabetes took its toll as the years passed, and by early 2014, he was desperately ill, but still unbowed. He bucked the Tennessee Republican Party by making a video opposing mountaintop removal coal mining. Months later, just before he was transferred to Vanderbilt for a risky heart procedure, he dictated a press release from his hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Parkwest Hospital. He died a few weeks later in a Nashville rehabilitation facility.
In addition to a metric ton of clippings, Daugherty left speech outlines, letters, cards, and clippings. It’ll take awhile to work through, but could become a significant source of research material from the archives of a one-of-a-kind Southern maverick.