“Many Stories Are Told of Bob Taylor As Were of Lincoln”

An undated Johnson City Staff newspaper article, dealing with Tennessee’s highly popular “War of the Roses” governor Bob Taylor, is titled “Spotlights on Senator Taylor – Many Stories Are Told of Bob Taylor as Were of Lincoln.”

One man recalled when Taylor introduced president William McKinley at a political function. He spoke very softly and eloquently to an immense audience. After a few minutes, a mildly agitated gentleman in the gallery leaned forward and uttered: “Speak louder, Bob.” Although Governor Taylor did not hear his admonition, the honored guest did and smiled approvingly. As Bob continued in his quiet, easy manner, the countryman again leaned forward and repeated his request, this time with a trifle more volume.

Again, Bob failed to take notice of the respondent and once more the president grinned appreciatively. Not to be daunted by the incident, the persistent fellow called out with more intensity and sharpness, “Speak louder Bob! Speak louder!” This time Bob heard him and spoke with increased volume. The president was highly impressed with the beautiful tribute presented to him from a beloved “volunteer state” governor known by residents as “Our Bob.” Both McKinley and Taylor were said to be “pilgrims on the same strange journey.”

Another man told this story: “I was at a political meeting when Bob was speaking for the democratic candidate. I am a republican and our candidate was speaking just across the grove from where Bob was holding forth. Our man was simply talking to empty air, but Bob had the woods full of people to hear him. As soon as I got there with a stanch republican friend and took in the situation, my friend made a break for Bob’s neck of the woods saying, ‘I’m going to vote for our man all right, but by George, I want to hear what Bob has to say.”

Another observer offered these remarks: “Perhaps greatness is a thing the world does not always understand. Some men achieve it in spite of this, but the greatness belongs in him who can best serve his fellow men. And this is surely what Bob Taylor accomplished. And more truly that of any man of his generation, may it be written of him.”

A poem from that era speaks of the governor: “Write me as one who loved his fellowman. His flowers and he hav’n vanished, yet who knows. Through white fair fields unwitnessed of the sun. He wanders among blossoms red and white. Fostered of joy where never chill blast blows. And the kind year is just begun. Nor time, nor death, immortal youth can blight.”

Bob Taylor was reported to be President William Howard Taft’s favorite storyteller. Once the president wanted to escape from his official duties for a few days of vacation and invited a dozen senators to join him. One invitee was Bob Taylor who spun one humorous yarn after another.

One anecdote involved an incident when Bob was having lunch at his home. His servitor, known as Sam, came to inform him that a delegation of important politicians was waiting for him below. “Tell them that I’ll be down in a minute, Sam,” said the governor. Mrs. Taylor abruptly corrected her husband by saying, “Sam, tell them that the governor will be down in half an hour.”

Bob, not to be outdone by his wife, further responded, “Sam, tell them I’ll be down immediately.” Mrs. Taylor countered with more words: “Tell them, Sam, that the governor will be there in half an hour.” The now irritated governor turned to Sam and asked, “Do you know who the governor of Tennessee is?” The servant, wittily understanding the implication of the governor’s question, responded with “I’ll tell ‘em you’ll be down in half an hour.”