Larry Daughtrey, legendary political reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, known as a tenacious watchdog at the state Capitol who always broke the story first, died May 12 of complications from lung disease. He was 76.
Daughtrey worked as a political reporter at The Tennessean from 1962 to 1997, helping solidify the newspaper’s reputation for crusading journalism while becoming a mentor for dozens of young reporters, including a young Al Gore, ’73. “Larry’s devotion as a reporter, as well as his ability to understand and explain the complex political issues of our time, remains unmatched,” the former vice president said in a statement. “His work commanded the highest respect from both sides of the aisle, and his voice of reason will be missed.”
At Vanderbilt, Daughtrey was only the third person to receive the Grantland Rice Sports Writing Scholarship (now the Fred Russell–Grantland Rice Scholarship). The Abilene, Texas, native worked part time as a sports copy boy at the Nashville Banner and as Vanderbilt’s campus correspondent for The Tennessean, which caught the attention of Editor John L. Seigenthaler. Upon graduation Seigenthaler promoted him to full time.
Daughtrey’s first major contribution came as a young reporter in 1962, when he was part of a Tennessean investigation of voting fraud. He would go on to cover state politics that spanned eight governors, and he held the distinction of covering every presidential convention from 1964 to 2000.
He continued to write a political column for the paper after retirement. His last column, a take on the Nashville mayoral runoff of 2015, was published last September.
U.S. Sen. and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, BA’62, a classmate of Daughtrey’s, said Daughtrey was “the finest writer in our class at Vanderbilt, and he continued to display that gift throughout a distinguished career with The Tennessean. He relished reporting, was fair about it, and good at it. He had sources all over the state Capitol. When Larry was reporting, nobody in Nashville was better.”
Daughtrey is survived by his wife, Judge Martha “Sissy” Craig Daughtrey, BA’64, JD’68, and daughter, Sarah Carran “Carrie” Daughtrey, BE’86, JD’94.
—THE TENNESSEAN (EXCERPTED)