John Jay Hooker ’57 named “Tennessean of the Year”

Jan 7, 2016

John Jay Hooker ’57, an attorney, political figure and entrepreneur, has been honored as “Tennessean of the Year” for 2015 by The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper.

Read The Tennessean’s profile of John Jay Hooker ‘57.

The Tennessean honored Hooker for his “quixotic career” and his recent campaign for laws allowing assisted suicideJohn Jay Hooker student photo, class of 1957 in Tennessee. Hooker begin his campaign for laws that ensure physicians would not face criminal charges if they prescribed lethal medications to patients with terminal conditions after he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma and told he had only months to live. He immediately began working with two members of the Tennessee State Legislature—Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley and Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis—to sponsor “death with dignity” legislation. He also sued the state over the issue of whether physicians could be arrested for prescribing lethal medication to patients with terminal conditions who wished to facilitate their own deaths.

Hooker’s current battle for death with dignity is one of many battles over political and social issues the colorful attorney has fought over his career. Most recently, Hooker was a candidate in Tennessee’s 2014 gubernatorial election. Early in his career, Hooker served as a special assistant for U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He ran several unsuccessful races for governor of Tennessee and for the U.S. Senate, both as a Democrat and an independent.

After law school, Hooker initially joined his father’s firm, but left in 1958 to form Hooker Hooker and Willis with his brother. In 1962, he became general counsel for the Tennessean. He founded Minnie Pearl Fried Chicken as its CEO in 1967 and was one of five founders of Hospital Corporation of America in 1968.


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