Marilyn Lloyd, the first woman ever elected to Congress in Tennessee for a full term, died Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at the age of 89.
Congresswoman Lloyd preferred to be called “Marilyn” and to honor her wishes, we will call her Marilyn in this obituary tribute. Marilyn, who represented the Third District in Congress for 10 terms, beginning in 1975 and retiring in 1994 with a perfect record of never being defeated-ten election cycles, ten wins, twenty years in the US House of Representatives.
She was born in Fort Smith, Ar., in 1929, and later spent much of her youth in St,. Louis, Mo., and Bowling Green, Ky.
According to David Carroll, a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster at WRCB TV and a close friend of Marilyn who interviewed her extensively over the past four decades. Marilyn did many jobs during her life, beginning with her interest in broadcasting while in high school in Kentucky. Later, during her marriage to Mort Lloyd, she returned to radio and ran WTTI in Dalton. While raising a young family, Mort and Marilyn expanded into other businesses, mostly managed by Marilyn, while Mort was in the public eye.
By August 1974, when Marilyn was in her mid 40’s, Mort’s path had taken him into politics. He won the Congressional primary and was the favorite to win the general election. When he died in a plane crash, his family and friends were devastated. Marilyn agreed to succeed her late husband in the Democratic congressional race. Although some may have considered her the widow seeking the sympathy vote and even if elected she might serve briefly before giving way to a seasoned politician, these critics did not know Marilyn. During Marilyn’s time in Congress, when she was herself a breast cancer survivor, she sponsored bills, including one designating October, 1984 as “National Mammography Day,” as well as the Hydrogen Fusion and High Energy Physics Research Act of 1994.” Marilyn was very smart and very savvy.
During Marilyn’s 20-year career in Congress, she stood up to presidents and Congressional leaders of both parties. When David Carroll interviewed her at her home in 1995 for what he thought was an exit interview and just days after her retirement, she told him that the president for whom she had the most admiration was George H.W. Bush. That may have been surprising because they were of different political parties. As Carroll noted, “that was the beauty of it. They disagreed on many issues, but she had learned that politics was all about relationships. In President Bush, Marilyn had found a kindred spirit and their friendship continued long after the both retired.” As Marilyn told many of her friends, “If you want to get anything done, you’d better have friends on both sides of the aisle.” Her friendship with President Bush continued long after they retired.
Marilyn had no regrets after stepping down after 20 years in Washington. She was able to take care of her mother, who was then 99 and spent time with her children, grandchildren and friends. In retirement, she donated her Congressional papers to UTC, part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory was named in her honor, and she supported many charities in her adopted hometown of Chattanooga. Marilyn was named Tennessee’s Woman of Distinction in 1992.
As Carroll said, “I have no idea how she wanted to be remembered. That’s one question I never asked. But I will remember her as an ordinary person, thrust without warning into an extraordinary position, who then responded with extraordinary service and leadership.”
Marilyn is survived by her three children, Nancy (Billy), Mari (Jay) and Morty (Joyce) and her adored grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She also leaves behind many dear friends who mourn her, yet are so grateful for her friendship. Marilyn was predeceased by her daughter Debbie and her parents James E. Laird and Iva A. Laird.
The family is grateful in gratitude to David Carroll for his contributions to this obituary.
A celebration of Marilyn’s life will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, at Chattanooga Church, 6188 Adamson Circle, Chattanooga, Tn. 37416.
The family will receive friends for visitation on Saturday, September 22, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Chattanooga Church, 6188 Adamson Circle, Chattanooga, Tn. 37416.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Marilyn’s beloved church: Chattanooga Church, 6188 Adamson Circle, Chattanooga, Tn. 37416.
Arrangements are held by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, Tn. 37343.
Please share your thoughts and memories at www.chattanooganorthchapel.com.