Bob, Alf Taylor: A Delightful Mixture of Brothers, Politicians and Entertainers

Most politicians show little compassion for their opponents. Often a debate gets ugly with harsh and sometimes angry words emitting from both sides of a debate with each trying to outdo the other. It is rare when two people can disagree on issues while showing respect for the other.

Such was the case in 1886 when Democrat Bob Taylor and Republican Alf Taylor stumped the State of Tennessee campaigning against each other as nominees of their respective party for governor. The fact that they were brothers did not prevent them from waging political warfare against each other throughout the Volunteer State in joint debate.

In that memorable campaign when they met at Chattanooga, they stayed at the same hotel and shared a room. When the supper hour had faded away, a band appeared below their room balcony. A chant commenced from the crowd below calling out in unison: “Alf Taylor, Bob Taylor, Taylor brothers.” The brothers responded by coming out on the balcony. 

Alf Taylor spoke first. He gave a brief speech that included thanking the crowd for their interest in the gubernatorial campaign and for coming to the hotel. Then he took his brother by his arm and humorously proclaimed, “And now fellow citizens, I have the pleasure of introducing to you the brother of the next governor of Tennessee.”

Bob Taylor, not to be outdone by his younger sibling, thanked Alf for his kind words and then invited everyone to the inauguration ball at Nashville. Bob said he would be installed as governor and where he graciously said, “You will again meet my distinguished brother, sitting at my right hand, the chief and honored guest of that occasion.”

When they appeared at Lebanon, Tennessee in Wilson County several years prior, 8,000 people greeted them. The county was once the stronghold of the old Whig party. When Alf began his speech, he offered a eulogy on the party and its leaders: “Fellow citizens, if the Whig party were in existence today, I would not stand before you as a Republican. (My brother) is a more graceful speaker than his brother and he touched a tender chord in the affection of his audience.

But Bob Taylor unmercifully tore away the Whig mask from the brow of the Republican candidate. Yes, fellow citizens, every Republican speaker nowadays begins his speech with a eulogy on the Whig party and its great leaders. He tells you in feeling tones, ‘(Henry) Clay is dead, (Daniel) Webster is dead and I don't feel very well myself.’”

The two unique characters toured the country providing entertainment in a most novel way, something not seen before. It was very popular as noted by the huge crowds that attended their lectures. They were secured for an engagement in St. Paul, Minnesota and then appeared at the People's Church.

Later, the Taylor brothers appeared at Sweeney and Coombs Opera House in Houston, Texas. Their entertainment was not billed as a lecture or two lectures. Instead, it was described as entertainment in which the two men were brought out as in a beautiful drama of fraternity.

In the presentation of the first half of the theme, the Honorable Alf Taylor typified and set forth the spirit and resolve of the Yankee nation. Bob Taylor, with the assistance of a splendid male quartette in which he participated by singing second tenor, portrayed the beauties of the Southland, the peculiarities and oddities of all his people. He provided illustrations of their music and dwelt with humor and pathos upon the rare customs of her rural people.

The other members of the quartette assisting the ex-governor were Robert W. Nichol, Robert I. De Armon and T.A. Davis. The production was proclaimed as “something new under the sun.”