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VOL. 39 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 10, 2015

Traci Peel looks back on moment in spotlight

By Tim Ghianni

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Mayor Bill Boner and his fiancé, Traci Peel, share the details of their relationship with Phil Donahue and his national TV audience in October of 1990. Nashvillians were, for the most part, not amused.

-- Ap Photograph Reproduction Courtesy Of The Nashville Public Library, Special Collections

During the course of research for this package, I spent a couple of hours with Traci Peel, talking about her well-publicized, tabloid-grabbing romance with Mayor Bill Boner as well as where she is today and her views on other issues about Nashville.

The city’s former first lady (remember Boner did marry her) requested at the end of the “off-the-record” meeting and conversation that I send her some e-mail questions she would answer for publication. She responded to most of them. Remember, these are the events as she saw them, so opinions of people and recollections are her own.

Q: What do you do now for a living?

A: “I own a small boutique marketing advertising agency with a few select clients. I gave up my professional music career in 2000 because my mother suffered a massive stroke that left her permanently disabled.’’

Q: Did you know Fate Thomas? Thoughts on him?

A: “I did not know Fate Thomas well enough to comment but he has become a colorful character figure in our city’s history.’’

Q: What role do you think your phone conversation with (Banner reporter) Katherine Bouma and Bill played in the desire for change that people had in Nashville when Bill left office? What do you say were the main inaccuracies in the Banner report? (She kind of sidestepped this one, and expressed her take on the journalistic events.)

A: “What people should know about the “Bill and Traci” story is that the so-called scandal was perpetuated by The Tennessean’s long-time publisher, editor and chairman John Seigenthaler Sr. due to a long-standing feud between himself and Bill. This is key to the entire historical event.’’

(Seigenthaler, a long-time friend and mentor of this writer died last July, so I couldn’t ask him for his response to this claim, although I can imagine it.)

Early on in the relationship a call came into my house by a Banner reporter Katherine Bouma which yielded a story that included a paraphrased comment by the reporter that was later attributed to me in The Tennessean as a direct quote. The (seven hours of passion) statement was never uttered from my lips but the story took on a life of its own from that day forward….

Q: Do you have regrets for the phone call and the Donahue thing? What are they?

A: “Bill and I shared in a common mistake, but mistakes shape our lives and through adversity we grow. No regrets.’’

Q: What do you think of the way Nashville has been governed since Bredesen took office?

A: “I believe each mayor since my arrival to Nashville in 1980 has done a superb job in governing and managing the growth of our city. Some were left with sufficient reserves, some were not. Some faced certain challenges more difficult than others.

“Many cite Bredesen’s legacy as bringing the NFL to Nashville. Bill had already broached that subject but Vanderbilt declined to allow a team to use the stadium. Subject closed.

“I give Bredesen credit for the follow-through.’’

Q: You and Bill were married two years, correct?

A: “Bill and I were married for 2 years and 13 days. I am single with no children. I’ve had an interesting and blessed life. I am also proud to call Nashville home for the last 35 years. End of interview.’’

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