Herbert Slatery sworn in as Tennessee's 27th AG

Friday, September 26, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 39

NASHVILLE (AP) - Herbert Slatery was sworn in Wednesday as Tennessee's 27th attorney general, the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction.

Slatery, who previously served as Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's chief legal counsel, thanked the members of the Supreme Court for selecting him for an eight-year term as the state's top attorney.

"I appreciate the gravity of the office and the responsibility that I have to those working in it and to the citizens of the state of Tennessee," he said.

Chief Justice Sharon Lee and the governor administered the oath to Slatery in the Old Supreme Court chamber in the state Capitol.

"I can assure you that Herbert will do a great job," Haslam said after the ceremony. "He truly is a man of integrity. I'm not just saying that because he's my friend."

Greg Adams, the state's chief operating offer, spoke of how he, Haslam and Slatery were among a group of five men who began holding weekly meetings 28 years ago.

"The idea was to invest in the lives of one another, to be more concerned with each other's needs than their own," Adams said. "To understand their families, their businesses, their hobbies and then to encourage, counsel and pray for each other."

Adams called Slatery, then 33, the "senior statesman" of the group. Slatery, now 62, became Haslam's first Cabinet appointment upon his election in 2010.

Adams, Haslam and Slatery each became choked up during their remarks.

"It could make some people nervous that friendship matters a lot to Herbert, because it begins to sound like cronyism," said David Bowen, an assistant pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, and a lifelong friend of Slatery's. "Well, let's not have cronyism, but let's do talk about the value of trusting relationships.

"What's the difference between cronyism and trusting relationships? It's integrity," he said. "Trusting relationships among f riends cause them ... not to bend the law, but to hold one another accountable to be under the law together."

As Haslam's chief legal counsel, Slatery has played a lead role in advocating for key administrative initiatives, including new laws capping payouts in successful civil lawsuits and changing the way injured employees can pursue workers' compensation claims.

Slatery is a former chairman of the Knoxville law firm Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, where he specialized in private business transactions and local government organizations.

Slatery said Wednesday that he has no plans to drop his membership in Knoxville's Cherokee Country Club over its past exclusion of minority and female members.

"I don't think it's an issue, to be honest with you. I think it was an issue maybe 20 years ago or so ago," Slatery said, adding that since then, the club has had several members who are minorities or women.

Slatery had listed his membership at th e Cherokee club on his application for the job, but had answered "not applicable" to a question about whether he had ever belonged to an organization that had limited membership based on race or gender.

The club's membership rules became the subject of intense scrutiny in 1989, when the University of Tennessee feared that its first African-American basketball coach would be rejected for the traditional perk based on race.

Club officials at the time acknowledged that bylaws blocked women from joining, but said no written policy blocked African-Americans - though there had never been any black members in what was then Cherokee's 95-year history.

The Cherokee Country Club accepted its first black member 13 years later.

Slatery said he couldn't remember exactly when he joined the club, other than that it was "back in the '80s."

Tennessee's last previous Republican attorney general, Thomas M. Coldwell, served from 1865 to 1870.