Op-Ed: Kudos to Tre Hargett and the new Tennessee Blue Book Honoring Women’s Suffrage


by Mike Sparks

“I want one of the new blue books, ” were the words written in a text I received from Tori Venable, Tennessee State Director for Americans for Prosperity early this week.

Rep. Harry T. Burns, the 24-year-old state representative who broke the tie vote and helped to pass the 19th Amendment.

I was proud to learn that this 2019-2020 111th Session of the Tennessee General Assembly’s version of the Tennessee Blue Book honors the 100th anniversary of the state’s ratification of 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. The blue book’s cover is yellow in color. The yellow is the pay tribute to the women’s suffrage movement.

This is the first time the Blue Book’s bianniel volume has been displayed in a non-blue cover since the 2013-2014 edition, which was an orange color to honor Pat Summit, the Lady Vols basketball coach. About half of that year’s edition appeared with the orange cover, while almost all of the newest version will appear in yellow.

The Mother Who Saved Suffrage:

The passage of the 19th Amendment enabled women of America the right to vote on August 18, 1920, many thanks to a Tennessee state representative who had a very influential mother. The story, in my opinion, is one of the most inspiring stories of a lawmaker who valued his mother’s thoughts and took her advice to heart. 

Just two weeks ago I had attended a Rutherford County Commission’s annual Steering Committee meeting and asked my mother before the meeting, “Mom, the county commission is facing a difficult future with a possible tax increase  due to all the growth and school construction. What are your thoughts?” My 88-year-old Scotch-Irish mother responded, “We are taxed way too much – they need to look at cutting cost and being responsible with our tax dollars – No more tax increases! Seniors cannot afford to keep paying more!” As a former county commissioner and current state lawmaker, I, like Harry T. Burn listen to my mother’s advice and have often asked for her opinion on matters. I think most representatives listen to their mother’s advice as well.

Within a few minutes after the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, which ended the United States women’s decades-long efforts to obtain the right to vote. A young 24-year-old state legislator from McMinn County, Harry T. Burn had broken the previously tied vote. There are varying accounts of what transpired to the young lawmaker who had a red rose pinned to his lapel fate the controversial vote. Some stories state that he made a hefty retreat to the attic of the state capitol and camped out there until the angry crowds downstairs disbanded. Another is said that Harry had crept out onto a third-floor ledge to escape an angry mob of anti-suffragist lawmakers who threatened to beat him up.

Harry T. Burn from east Tennessee who two years earlier had become the youngest member of the state legislature. The red rose signified his opposition to the proposed 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which stated that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Thirty-five states by the summer of 1920, had ratified the measure, thus having one vote short of the required total of 36 states. In the  Tennessee State Legislature the measure had easily passed through the Senate but was held up in the state house of representatives. The legislation encouraged thousands of pro- and anti-suffrage activists to descend upon the state capitol. If Burn and his colleagues voted in its favor. The 19th Amendment passed the final round, thus allowing women nationwide to vote.

Tennessee Blue Book History

The Tennessee Blue Book and Official Directory was first published in 1929. The Blue Book serves as a manual of useful information on our state and government, both past and present. The book contains valuable information on the makeup of Tennessee state government, state history, national and state constitutions, most recent election results, and census data. 

The Blue Book is divided into eight sections. The first three sections are devoted to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, also referred to as departments in the Tennessee Constitution. They appear in the order set forth by the state constitution. The book’s organization is based on the organizational chart of state government, which appears on the following pages.

Section I focuses on the 111th General Assembly, listing the membership of the Senate and House of Representatives and their committees. The General Assembly examines issues affecting Tennesseans and gives guidance necessary for the smooth operation of state government. The General Assembly elects three constitutional officers: the secretary of state, the comptroller of the treasury, and the treasurer. These officials and their departments are featured in this section.

Section II is devoted to the executive branch of government and explains the function of the departments administered by the governor through his appointed commissioners. This section also describes the governor’s responsibilities and explores the history and duties of the agencies under his authority. 

Section III examines the judicial branch of state government and provides information on the judicial system, courts, and those involved in interpreting state law. The attorney general and reporter is a constitutional officer appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Section IV features the Tennessee Public Utility Commission and explains its role in advancing the public interest through telecommunications and utilities throughout the state.

Section V presents the Tennessee congressional delegation in the federal government and the United States Constitution.

Section VI contains a cumulative state history, biographies of Tennessee’s former governors, state historic sites, state symbols and honors, and the Tennessee Constitution. 

Section VII details the results of elections held across the state in 2016 and provides statistical information regarding Tennessee cities and counties. Section VIII consists of a topical index and a listing of key illustrations, along with credit and/ or source. The term “blue book” dates from the 15th century, when the English Parliament began keeping its records in large volumes covered with blue velvet. Since that time, the name “Blue Book” has been used to describe many forms of government manuals. Its predecessor, The Official and Political Manual of the State of Tennessee, was first published by the Office of the Secretary of State in 1890. 

The book is published by the Secretary of State of Tennessee every two years. The book’s contents include details regarding the organization of the government of the state of Tennessee. It includes maps of Congressional districts, state Senate districts, state House districts, and listings of other facts, such as which counties are joined together in judicial districts, and the composition of certain governmental boards and how their members are appointed.

Historically the Tennessee Blue Books were had white covers for most of the 1960s and early 1970s. The color was changed to the familiar blue covers for in 1975.

Many thanks to Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and his staff for their efforts to honor the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Below is the release from the Secretary of State’s office.

Nashville, Tenn. – The 2019-2020 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book, released this week, honors the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.


Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment was not submitted to the states for ratification for 41 years. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th (and final) state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, thereby making women’s suffrage legal in the United States.

“This commemorative edition honors the steadfast efforts of Tennessee suffragists and the pivotal role Tennessee played in ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “It is fitting to dedicate our state’s official historical reference, the Tennessee Blue Book, to this significant milestone.”

The cover of the 2019-2020 Tennessee Blue Book is yellow, honoring the symbolic color of the national women’s suffrage movement.

Published every two years, the Tennessee Blue Book is the definitive manual on Tennessee state government. It features detailed information about all three branches of government, Tennessee state history, biographies of elected and appointed state officials, census data, election statistics, and more.

The 2019-2020 Blue Book, published by the Secretary of State’s office, is available free of charge to any Tennessee resident through members of the General Assembly or the Division of Publications at (615) 741-2650 or publications.information@tn.gov.

Previous editions of the Tennessee Blue Book can be viewed at sos.tn.gov.

(Sources: Tn.gov, Wikipedia,History.com)