John Ryder ’74, former RNC general counsel and partner at Harris Shelton, dies

John L. Ryder ’74 of Memphis, Tennessee, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 72.

John Ryder, Class of 1974

Ryder was a partner at Harris Shelton in Memphis, where his practice focused on bankruptcy and election law. His public service, most recently, included serving on the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to which he was appointed in 2019 by President Donald Trump.

Read John Ryder’s obituary in The Tennessean.

Ryder was involved with Republican politics in Tennessee and nationally for nearly five decades.

Before his appointment to the TVA board, he served as the general counsel for the Republican National Committee, a volunteer position, from 2013 to 2017 while maintaining his role at Harris Shelton. He began his work for the RNC in 1996 and served on its board for 16 years. He was director of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in Memphis in 2006.

He was chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association from 2017 to 2018. In 2016, he was selected as the RNLA Lawyer of the Year.

“With deft legal skills and an easy manner, John Ryder helped build the Tennessee Republican Party over nearly a half century,” said former Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (BA’62) in a statement. “He effectively served the Republican National Committee as its counsel and the people of this region as a TVA board member. I admired John and counted him as a friend.”

In Memphis, his community service included serving as the Shelby County delinquent tax attorney, on the Shelby County Home Rule Charter Commission and as litigation counsel for the Shelby County Election Commission. He served as chair of the board of trustees for Opera Memphis, secretary of the Memphis Rotary, and on the board of the local YMCA.

Ryder taught a short course in Election Law as a member of Vanderbilt’s adjunct law faculty and taught election law at the Belmont College of Law.

He was a member of the Memphis and Tennessee bar associations and of the American Bankruptcy Institute and the Mid-South Commercial Law Institute. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Memphis Business Journal.

He earned his undergraduate degree at Wabash College in 1971.

Ryder is survived by his wife, Lain, and their two daughters, Reagan and Nancy-Kate Ryder.



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