Frank Cagle’s sudden death last week rocked our already thin writing team at KnoxTNToday.com. We kept up with Frank through his wife, Tracy, on Facebook, learning on Wednesday that he had his first chemo treatment Tuesday and was heading for his second one on Friday. But on Thursday, Tracy wrote that several things apparently cascaded at once and overwhelmed his system. According to this well-done story by Travis Dorman in Knox News, she had him in their car, racing toward the hospital, when he died.
Tracy wrote on Facebook: Don’t know how else to say it. I lost Frank on Feb. 25th. I lost my anchor. I lost my friend. I lost my cheerleader. I lost my heart. There is nothing else to say.
They had been married over 50 years.
Cagle worked up to managing editor at the News Sentinel before leaving to become deputy to Mayor Victor Ashe. He next surfaced helping Van Hilleary run for governor. (Phil Bredesen won.) And Cagle retired to his Strawberry Plains farm, writing columns on state government for MetroPulse and the News Sentinel. I recruited Frank to write for KnoxTNToday at lunch at Aubrey’s (Strawberry Plains, of course). I came away liking Frank much better than before and liking Tracy a lot.
He told of starting a weekly paper. (It’s harder than you think.) Frank said he was doing so well he decided to go twice weekly. “We doubled our expenses and divided our revenue by two.”
Tom King worked with Frank at the News Sentinel. Tom ran the city desk and Frank ran the state desk. Tom recalls: Frank was usually on the phone. We were an afternoon paper then. One day we wrapped up and (the UPI guy and I) were putting on our coats to head for a late lunch. We looked over and Frank was scribbling fast on a notepad. We paused and when he hung up, we yelled what’s going on? Oh, not much he said. Plane crash in the Smokies. Nobody died. Just some couple from Nashville. Who? What couple? asked the UPI guy. Frank shuffled through his notes. A Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cannon, he said. Why that’s Minnie Pearl, said the UPI guy, racing to his teletype and yelling over his shoulder. Don’t you-all tell AP.
Frank wrote his final column for KnoxTNToday on Feb. 2, 2021. He predicted a battle at the Tennessee legislature between Amazon and FedEx – “When Elephants Fight.” His final paragraph:
Catch you later: I’ve been having a lot of pain lately so I’m cutting it short this week. My apologies. Having a PET test today. I’ve got a family doctor, a heart specialist, a gastroenterologist and an oncologist. I’ve tried the Yellow Pages but I can’t find a doctor whose specialty is one who can make you stop feeling like @!#$.
Words from friends
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett sent a text: “Frank was a true libertarian conservative who was focused on making our community better. He was a dear friend of mine, and I’m saddened by his passing.”
Knox County Commission chair Larsen Jay: “Sorry to hear about Frank Cagle. He was a good man. We had lunch not too long ago and talked about politics, life and East Tennessee. A quality person who would always shoot you straight. He will be missed.”
D. H. “Andy” Andrew: “Sandra, thank you for providing the palette for Frank’s editorials these last few years. He was a significant part of the Knox political scene as I became acquainted. I/we will miss him. He provided a genuine and meaningful contribution to Knox area civic discourse.”
Lola Potter worked with Frank in Nashville: “A person could disagree with Frank but still admire and respect his thinking and humor. That’s a great thing when you can disagree but still have a super working relationship. He didn’t take any prisoners, as they say, but he would also be the first to say he was in error if indeed he was.
Edward Frank Cagle was born Aug. 10, 1948, and died Feb. 25, 2021. He leaves his wife, Tracy, their adult children: Kate, Adam and Josh and their families.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.