Claude Thomas Ramsey – April 4, 1943 ~ June 18, 2018

            Claude Thomas Ramsey – April 4, 1943 ~ June 18, 2018

Claude Thomas Ramsey passed away peacefully on Monday, June 17, 2018, after a brief illness, surrounded by his loving family.

            Claude won his first elected position 47 years ago as a third-generation strawberry farmer. His humility and dry but effective humor became his hallmark over the years. In recounting his first election as a state representative, he said, “People were voting more against my opponent than they were for me.”

            The approach he took in public life, which he termed as “easing along,” defined his many successes in getting things done, knowing how to count to five (the votes required for a county commission win but he usually kept a sixth vote in his pocket) and a common-sense approach.

            When President George W. Bush visited Chattanooga in 2007, he remarked that in Texas, county mayors are called county judges and “I just might call you “Judge.” Claude’s response was, “Mr. President, you can call me whatever you want to call me.”

            Hamilton County voters elected him to the county commission, Assessor of Property, delegate to the State Constitutional Convention and County Mayor, where he served for 16 years. He was proud of the county’s bond rating that signaled great fiscal management of taxpayer dollars. His support for public education led to an education summit that included early education programs, laptop computers in classrooms and new schools. Read 20, the program designed to have parents read to their children 20 minutes every day, came from his education initiatives and time spent with his granddaughter so she and other children would have a greater path for success.

            As County Mayor, economic development was a priority. He secured funds for the Hamilton County incubator that has launched a number of start-up businesses. Working with both Chattanooga Mayors Bob Corker and Ron Littlefield, he was a catalyst in securing and making siteready the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant facility that led to Volkswagen “choosing Chattanooga” for its North American production.

            In 2011 Gov. Bill Haslam asked Claude to be Deputy Governor and he decided it was time for a new challenge. “Claude is a smart, wise counselor, who is great at working out problems either huge and visible or little things,” Gov. Haslam said.

            And there is another important part of Claude’s life – his wife, Jan; being a proud father to his son, Rich, and his daughter, Stacy, and a doting grandfather to his grandchildren Maddi, Meredith, Macy, John Ross and Claudia. In his office in the State Capitol, he had three photos – an aerial had three photos – an aerial view of Enterprise South and pictures of Jan, his son, his daughter and five grandchildren.

            Claude was comfortable in his own skin. Even after he entered public service, he still grew millions of strawberry plants each year as well as a few tomato plants. Just a few weeks ago, he mentioned going up the road in Harrison and buying a few strawberries because “that is what you do at this time of year.”

            He was preceded in death by his parents, Tom and Irene Ramsey; sisters, Betty Cofer, and Emma Lee Johnson.

            He is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Jan Ramsey; children, Stacy (John) Schorr, Rich (Cara) Balthrop; sister, Dixie (Mike) Eiseman; grandchildren, Maddi, Meredith, Macy, John Ross, and Claudia.

            A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. at Bayside Baptist on Thursday, June 21, with Pastor Rheubin Tayor officiating. The family will receive friends prior to service from noon to 2 p.m. A private family graveside will be held at Hamilton Memorial Gardens.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the American Alzheimer’s Association at or the Erlanger Children’s Hospital at 910 Blackford St, Chattanooga, TN 37403.

            Please visit to share words of comfort to the family.

            The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20, at Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Rd.



Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff Report


Claude Ramsey, who rose from third-generation Hamilton County strawberry farmer to deputy governor of Tennessee, died Monday at the age of 75.

In more than 40 years of public service, he was elected five times as county mayor, four times as assessor of property, twice to the Tennessee General Assembly and once as county commissioner.

Ramsey never lost an election.

As county mayor, the Republican was credited as playing key roles in acquiring the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant for redevelopment as Enterprise South, landing Volkswagen at the site and in developing the Tennessee Riverpark.

Months after Ramsey won his fifth term as county mayor in 2010 with 77 percent of the vote, new Gov. Bill Haslam tapped him for the post of deputy to the governor.

When he retired in August 2013, after serving longer than the two years he’d agreed to, the governor said the Harrison native had played an integral role in civil service reform, economic development and workforce development training. He called him a “smart, wise counselor who is great at working out problems.”

After he retired, he opened River Branch Strategies, a government relations firm, in 2015.

Ramsey began his 40-plusyear public service career in 1972, when he scored an upset win for a state House seat over incumbent Laban DeFriese.

After two terms, he ran for and won a seat as a delegate on the state’s last constitutional convention in 1977, which revamped Tennessee’s county government structure from a county court system to the current commission system.

In 1978, a very down year for his party, Ramsey was the only Republican elected to the nine-member Hamilton County Council (now commission). He resigned after being elected assessor of property in 1980, where he served until being elected county executive, now mayor, in 1994.

He also had been a charter member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, president of the County Officials Association of Tennessee, a member of the State Board of Equalization and the Local Government Planning Advisory Committee (both under then-Gov. Lamar Alexander), charter president of the Harrison Jaycees and chairman of the Harrison Community Council.

Through the years, Ramsey was given numerous honors, including Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year, Outstanding Legislator by the Southern Health Association, Outstanding Man of the Year by the Signal Mountain and Harrison Jaycees, and Hamilton County Young Farmer of the Year by the Chattanooga Jaycees.

As word of Ramsey’s death spread Monday, lawmakers and community leaders expressed their condolences and shared memories of Ramsey’s impact.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., described Ramsey as “dedicated, prudent, humble and wise.”

“These are the leadership qualities with which Claude Ramsey led our county,” Corker said in a statement. “When I was elected mayor of Chattanooga, I had the privilege of becoming his partner, particularly as it related to economic development. During that time, I especially loved our early morning phone calls to discuss how to execute our community’s shared vision. I spoke with him again by phone last Thursday and shared with him not only what an honor it was to work with him over the years but also how grateful I have been to call him a true friend. My heart goes out to Jan and the entire Ramsey family during this difficult time.”

State Sen. Bo Watson, of Hixson, called Ramsey “a giant in the community.”

“Dating all the way back to the early ’70s he has been a part of the political and governmental fabric of this county, and much of the progress that we have made in Hamilton County is due to the unselfish work of Claude Ramsey,” he told the Times Free Press on Monday. “His contributions to our community are just immeasurable.

“He once told me, ‘Never forget to ask someone for their vote.’ Even though Claude was an incredible political force, he never took any election for granted. If people ran against him, he ran to win.”

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger also mourned Ramsey’s death, saying, “Today is a sad day for Hamilton County.”

“We lost one of our iconic figures — an individual that contributed not only to Hamilton County’s success, but also the state of Tennessee with his service,” he added. “I think of Claude Ramsey as a person that exemplifies what public service is about. He always made it about the people.

“There was never a controversy about him because he lived his life with the expectations of elevating what public service should be,” Coppinger said. “He did it with such class. He brought to his public service that particular style that resonated with the public, so people therefore were very receptive of the decisions that he would make.”

The family will receive friends Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Bayside Baptist Church, and the family will receive friends before the service from noon until 2 p.m.

A private graveside service will take place in Hamilton Memorial Gardens.


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