PHOTO: From left are Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga (both retired), Nancy Sargent, Rep. Charles Sargent, Rep. Sam Whitson, Rep. Glen Casada, Rep. Ryan WIlliams, R-Cookeville, and Sen. Jack Johnson. during a ceremony marking Sargent’s retirement from the state House. // Photo courtesy of Tennessee House Republican Caucus
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Tennessee House Rep. Charles Sargent passed away on Tuesday at the age of 73.
Representing Tennessee’s District 61, Sargent had served in that seat since 1997. He continued unopposed for reelection to that seat for the first 10 years.
Sargent, who chaired the Ways and Means committee overseeing the budget, had announced in late 2017 that he did not intend on running for reelection in 2018, citing health concerns. Sargent had battled with skin cancer in previous years, and was diagnosed with a condition related to skin cancer in 2017.
Sargent leaves behind his wife of more than 40 years, Nancy, his two children and two granddaughters.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson has been a close personal friend of Sargent for more than 38 years, and said his impact on the county could not be overstated.
“This is a personal loss for me, as he and I had a brotherhood type of friendship,” Rogers said in a statement. “He has been a great friend and mentor me. There are few places in Williamson County that does not have his fingerprint on it in some way. Our hearts are with his wife, Nancy and his children during this difficult time.”
Originally from New York City, Sargent moved to Nashville in 1970 after serving in the United States Navy, later moving to the Franklin area in 1977.
Sargent moved his family to Cottonwood and began his public service there as a member of the homeowners association board. That’s where he became best friends with Mayor Anderson, who also served on that board.
“Charles and Nancy Sargent have been such faithful public servants, committed to the growth and development of Williamson County and creating a stellar quality of life for those who, like them, chose to make it their home,” said U.S. Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn in a statement. “We worked together for decades through political endeavors to achieve this goal. His positive impact on our county and state will be felt for decades to come. I will miss him.”
Sargent was a tireless advocate for education, both K-12 and higher ed. He was instrumental in getting the funding for the land, and then the buildings, to relocate the Columbia State Community College Williamson campus from near Franklin High School to the new campus on Liberty Pike in east Franklin.
“It is with great sadness I learned of Representative Charles Sargent’s death,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “As one might expect, I could speak to his love of Columbia State, which he did; his work for higher education for all citizens, which was a priority; his commitment to his state and county, which he served as a statesman; but it is the man, my friend, that I mourn the loss. Charles had a wonderful laugh, a respectful way, and a dedication to making things better. He was a servant leader with the expectation of fairness and goodness. My sympathies to Nancy and his family, my appreciation to them for sharing him with Columbia State and Tennessee.”
In 2016 Sargent carried a bill to abolish the state’s Hall Income Tax in phased reductions through 2021.
Just last month Sargent was given the American Battlefield Trust’s State Leadership Award for his work creating the first program of its kind in the nation to guarantee money for Civil War site preservation each year.
“You couldn’t ask for a better champion of historic preservation all across the Volunteer State than Charles Sargent, especially in the Franklin community, ” James Lighthizer, president of the Trust, said at the time. “To cite just one example of many, he helped the Franklin battlefield’s historic Carter House get state funding for a new visitor center.”
Beyond his governmental career, Sargent was a State Farm insurance agent for more than 40 years.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of my good friend and our former Finance Chairman, Charles Sargent,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams in a statement. “Charles was a dedicated servant for his community and a fierce advocate for Tennessee’s students and educators during his time in our General Assembly. Most importantly, Charles was a devoted husband to his wife Nancy, an incredible father to his children, and he loved his grandchildren very much.”