Richard H. Fulton, Liberal Tennessee Politician, Dies at 91

Richard H. Fulton, a liberal Democrat from Tennessee who in the 1960s and ’70s was one of the few Southerners in Congress to support the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, and who as mayor of Metropolitan Nashville oversaw the city’s growth, died on Nov. 28 in Nashville. He was 91.

His death, in a hospice care center, was announced by Richard Riebeling, a longtime friend and a former chief operating officer of Nashville.

Mr. Fulton was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1962 and left in 1975, near the end of his seventh term, when he was elected mayor. During his mayoralty, which ended in 1987, he was also president of the United States Conference of Mayors and the Tennessee Municipal League.

As mayor, Mr. Fulton helped spearhead the approval of the Nashville Convention Center, a downtown park on the banks of the Cumberland River, and development along the river and elsewhere downtown.

Richard Harmon Fulton was born on Jan. 27, 1927, in Nashville. He attended the University of Tennessee and served in the Navy before running for the State Senate in 1954, replacing his brother, Lyle, who had died shortly after receiving the Democratic nomination. Richard Fulton was elected and sworn in, but because he was below 30, the minimum age for senators under the state constitution, the Senate unseated him.

He won again in 1956 (he was sworn in a few weeks before his 30th birthday) and 1958. He briefly left politics to pursue a career in real estate but ran for Congress in 1962.After winning a hard-fought Democratic primary, he was elected to his first term.

Mr. Fulton ran for governor of Tennessee in 1978 and again in 1986, but lost in the Democratic primary both times.

After leaving politics, he helped found the Bank of Nashville and worked in his family’s real estate business. He attempted a comeback in 1999, running for mayor again, but lost to Bill Purcell.

In October 2011, a complex of city offices was named in his honor.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Sandra (Ford) Fulton.

On Twitter, Mayor David Briley of Nashville said that Mr. Fulton “helped make modern-day Nashville what it is” and “helped America live up to its promises by creating new freedoms with his votes for civil rights, voting rights, health care and fair housing in Congress.”

The New York Times contributed reporting.

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