Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed newly appointed sr. advisor to Governor Bill Lee and former Tennessee State Democratic Representative John DeBerry to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, DeBerry discussed his new role as an advisor to Governor Bill Lee and how he was unfairly dismissed by the Democratic Party for being a pro-life and pro-school choice advocate. He later discussed his history, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, and how the Democratic Party has now turned far-left from the party it was in the 60s.
Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by former state representative John DeBerry from Memphis who’s now a senior advisor to Governor Bill Lee. Welcome, Mr. DeBerry. Thanks for joining us.
DeBerry: Thank you for having me this morning. I appreciate the opportunity.
Leahy: So tell us what you’re doing as a senior advisor to Governor Lee.
DeBerry: Well, you know, I’ve been in the legislature for 26 years. I served as a chair of children and family for over 12 years. I’ve served on several committees. So I bring legislative experience. I bring experience working with my former colleagues there in the House and in the Senate. And I bring that dimension of experience with the legislature to the governor’s cabinet. He has some very fine young men and women there who are very good at policy. Very good at their jobs. And I bring an added dimension of experience to the cabinet.
Leahy: Do you work with a good friend of mine Butch Eley who heads of finance and administration?
DeBerry: Oh, yes. He’s a very smart guy. I admire him for his ability to deal with the numbers with an enormous budget to make it seem simple so that even someone like me can understand the normal budget of the state of Tennessee. And Butch is a great asset to the governor.
Leahy: And Butch is a very solid and steady guy, which I think is often needed in state government. Now former Representative DeBerry we certainly have to talk about how the Democratic Party threw you out of the party because you’re pro-life and because you support education savings accounts. How did that all come about?
DeBerry: Well, I had run 13 times in District 90 in Memphis, Tennessee. I have always been a conservative. Everybody has always known that from my first election in 1994, everybody knew that I was pro-life. That I was for the first constitutional right of an American is the right to life. And that I’ve always stood on that. And that I’ve always stood on parental choice and that a parent, not the state has the responsibility and the right to choose how their children are educated and where their children are educated.
And as taxpayers of how their children are educated. So this was no surprise to anybody in my district. Because they could not beat me at the ballot box because somehow over the years the party had evolved or the executive committee, those in charge of the party, had evolved to the point that my values and the values that I espouse and stand for obviously were no more a part of what they wanted to push as the values and the platform of the party. So since they could not beat me at the ballot box, they took me off the ballot. And I was forced to run as an independent in a very contentious presidential year. And they were able to remove me from the House of Representatives.
Leahy: The vote of the Democratic State Committee, I guess was 41 to 18 to kick you out of the party but most of those that were a majority were White Democratic committee members I think. And you are a Black conservative. Was that a violation of your civil rights?
DeBerry: Oh, I think it was a violation of my civil rights, of my constitutional rights, and my right as a Tennessean to have my opinion and stand on what I believe my faith and my values were violated by that executive committee. The majority of whom had never set foot in District 90 in their lives. And they made a statement during the course of the proceedings that since the people of District 90 could not make the proper decision it was their responsibility to choose the representative for the people of District 90.
And which I think within itself is one of the most biased and if you please prejudice statements that I have ever heard. And I’m a child of the civil rights movement. I was there and marched with Dr. King and heard his last speech. And so to hear the executive committee of the so-called party of inclusion throw me out because of those values I think violates everything they claim to stand for.
Leahy: Did you ever consider filing a lawsuit in federal court charging them with violation of your civil rights?
DeBerry: Well, it was considered and I had lawyers. I had a lot of people calling me and saying that I should do so. I eventually decided that this is a democracy. Each person has a vote. And people themselves have to make a decision on who they want to represent them. The tragedy of this is that folks can be manipulated by the popular media. They can be manipulated by propaganda and by false news and fake news and fake information.
And this is exactly what happened in a Black district where they made the issue, not John DeBerry, but they made the issue President Trump. And because they had drummed up so much hatred and so much malice with Republicans and President Trump, all they had to do once they had that pot boiling was throw me over in the pot. And the tragedy of it is that in a society in a nation like our nation that there can be those who can manipulate the populace and the voting population the way they did. So I decided to let the people simply vote. I’ve been there 26 years and I was ready to accept whatever came.
Leahy: What has happened to the Democratic Party over your lifetime and from the time that you were marching with Martin Luther King? You heard his last speech back in 1968 before he was assassinated in Memphis. What has happened to make the Democratic Party a party of leftists who hate America?
DeBerry: Well, I don’t know what has contributed to this evolution of that party. The Democratic and Republican parties back in the 50s and the 60s and the early 70s and early 80s, we were separated by a form of government. Big governments, small governments, and entitlements or no entitlements.
These are the things that we argued about back then and that was just rightly so. In a democracy, everybody has a right. Everybody has a vote. Everybody has an opinion. And you work through it and you come out with the type of compromises that President Eisenhower and other presidents have made throughout the years.
But all of a sudden it’s not about the size of government. It’s not about policy. It’s about my moral values. It’s about what I believe as a human being. What I believe as far as my faith is concerned. And when they became anti-faith, anti-life, anti parental choice, anti-family, anti-bible, anti-church, and anti-Christianity.
Not a religion because religion is fine as long as it’s not Christianity. What they have done is they have evolved into something that a lot of people need to take a second look at who has been very comfortable with putting a D behind their name. Because a D doesn’t mean the same thing it did 30 years ago.
Leahy: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right and I think people are shocked at the pace at which the Democratic party has gone so far left. When you look at the Democratic Party around the country do you see anybody in that Democratic party who is pursuing policies that are consistent with the Democratic Party of the 1960s?
DeBerry: I think that a lot of folks are having dissidents at the moment and are doing an evaluation. They are doing an introspective examination of themselves as to where they stand. And I think that African Americans, middle-class Americans as you just got finished talking about, middle-class Americans have always been conservative. We’ve always been pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We have always been the people that took care of our own. That raised our children and that went to church. Martin Luther King was not a corporate giant.
He was not a giant of academia or a giant of the medical field. He was a preacher. Martin Luther King was a preacher and the majority of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement including my own father who held my hand as we marched behind, Dr. King. They were gospel preachers who stood for the values and the precepts and the integrity that came from what we learned in the scripture. And obviously, there are those who say that is no longer acceptable, especially the words of the executive committee of the Democratic Party in Tennessee.
Leahy: Former State Representative John DeBerry now advisor to Governor Bill Lee. Thanks for joining us. Please come in the studio sometime and we’ll get to know each other a little bit more in person. Thanks for joining us today.
DeBerry: Thanks for having me. It was a privilege.
Listen to the full third hour:
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