Tank Strickland: Simply the best

Betty BeanKnox Scene

Remember when Knox County Commission behaved so badly that it got written up in the New York Times? Here’s a reminder of the Bad Old Days.

I never really understood the mechanics of how Tank Strickland became the chair of Knox County Commission beyond the obvious fact he was well-liked by his colleagues and was already in the No, 2 spot due to a long-gone tradition of naming a member of the minority party to the second spot.

I’d always kind of thought of him as a wingman for Joe Armstrong, who was moving on up a steeper, flashier political arc. I probably wrote him off as a sidekick. A jock, given his history with football and boxing.

But I was wrong.

Back when the courthouse crowd showed their butts after a court decision forced them to abide by the referendum vote that overwhelmingly favored limiting them to two terms, Thomas “Tank” Strickland was left standing.

He would later tell me that “Tank” was an old football nickname, earned by his relentless playing style; I’d assumed it was from his boxing career – another thing I was wrong about.

I was shocked when his colleagues handed him the gavel, and figured he was an “accidental” chair. Probably a lot of people did. But he repeatedly surprised me with his fairness, his common sense and his grace. I doubt that anyone who voted for him ever had reason to regret it, although I recall that conservative Republican Greg “Lumpy” Lambert took quite a beating for crossing political boundaries to vote for him.

I caught up with Tank during the city political season four years ago. He talked about his life in retirement and his health struggles. I came across it when I decided to write an obituary column this week.

And I don’t believe I can improve on Tank Strickland telling his own story, except to say that he was the best. And I will miss him.

Funeral services for Thomas Strickland Jr. will be Friday, July 28, 2023, at noon at Overcoming Believers Church, 211 Harriet Tubman St. The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. until noon. His full obituary is here.

That earlier interview is here.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.


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