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VOL. 38 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 7, 2014
GOP fundraiser Welch dies at 80
NASHVILLE (AP) — Ted Welch, a prolific fundraiser in Tennessee Republican politics for four decades, has died. He was 80.
Welch's wife, Colleen Conway-Welch, told The Tennessean he died due to complications from a fall. Vanderbilt Medical Center Hospital in Nashville confirmed Welch died at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
Welch started raising money for candidates in 1970 for Winfield Dunn's winning run for governor. His efforts covered the modern campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam. He also worked with senators Howard Baker, Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Republicans at the state level.
His friend, U.S. Lamar Alexander, said in a written statement that Welch raised millions for candidates, symphonies and charitable causes without seeking anything in return.
"He was tireless," Alexander said. "The most feared seven words among those who knew him were, 'Ted Welch is holding on line one.'"
Welch started out as a door-to-door Bible salesman and longtime Nashville real estate investor. He grew into the political money man of the South, helping the likes of Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, Gov. Mitt Romney and others.
He's perhaps most linked to Alexander's campaigns, teaming with him during his first failed run for governor in 1974 before he won four years later during his famed "Walk Across Tennessee" sporting his trademark plaid shirt. Welch helped with Alexander's re-election, subsequent runs for U.S. Senate and served as national finance chairman during his bid at U.S. president in a crowded GOP primary in 1996.
Doctors diagnosed Welch with Alzheimer's disease in 2012. Welch wasn't available to make fundraising phone calls for Alexander's run for a third term in the Senate that year, but instead named honorary finance chairman, and in April 2013 was honored during an Alexander fundraising event called "A Salute to Ted."
"Ted lived the American Dream and his positive, can-do attitude, was contagious," said Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney. "When I took over as the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Ted was the first person I sought out for advice in how to get our Party prepared financially for the upcoming election. His advice was crucial to our success."
Welch lived in Belle Meade with his wife, the longtime dean of Vanderbilt University's School of Nursing and a powerhouse in her own field, who retired last spring after 29 years in that role.
In real estate, Welch was instrumental in the redevelopment of downtown Nashville, including the 1987 construction of the Nashville Convention Center. His office was atop the adjacent Renaissance Hotel.
The son of teachers at a one-room schoolhouse, Welch grew up on a farm near tiny Parsons, Tenn., in Decatur County. He attended the University of Tennessee at Martin on a football scholarship, and Indiana University for graduate school.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Welch's death marks the end of an era for Tennessee Republicans.
"Not only will Ted be remembered for his energy, loyalty and drive but also for being a friend to many, admired by many and a powerhouse in Tennessee and across the country," Corker said.