Former Lt. Gov. Wilder Hospitalized With Pneumonia

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE (AP) - Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder has been hospitalized since last week with pneumonia but his family says he's doing better and should be home soon.

The 86-year-old Mason Democrat was admitted to a local hospital last Wednesday, Senate Democratic Caucus spokesman Mark Brown said Monday.

Family members told Brown that Wilder has been on antibiotics and that he's able to walk around. They hope he'll be able to return to his West Tennessee home as early as Tuesday, but doctors have not said exactly when.

Wilder, known for his rambling storytelling during his 36 years as Senate speaker, lost the job last January to Sen. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. Wilder confirmed in December that he plans to seek re-election.

At the time, Wilder, a pilot, told The Associated Press that he rides a bicycle daily and still regularly flies his small airplane.

"I'm in good shape physically," Wilder said. "I don't smoke, don't drink, don't gamble, don't lie, don't cheat."

Ramsey said Monday that he's glad to know Wilder is getting better and that he's looking forward to him rejoining the Senate.

"We hope he gets well soon," Ramsey said.

Other legislative colleagues of Wilder said they're confident he'll make a speedy recovery because of his conditioning.

"John Wilder has always taken care of his health," said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis. "He has always been one of the healthiest members here in the Senate."

Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Haynes agreed.

"Gov. Wilder is an extremely strong man and he'll be back on his feet very soon," said the Goodlettsville senator.

Wilder becomes the second Democrat in the Senate to be sidelined by illness. Sen. Ophelia Ford of Memphis has missed all the current session and much of last year's with a prolonged illness.

"We'd like to have all our players on the field, but these things happen," Brown said. "They're not the first senators to have health problems and they won't be the last. We'll work through it."

Last month Senate Democrats withdrew a bill that would have allowed temporary replacements for sick lawmakers.

Kyle said an attorney general's opinion indicated that the law would have been unconstitutional.

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