ELIZABETHTON — Former state Rep. Ralph Cole, 85, who represented Carter and Johnson counties in the General Assembly for more than a decade, died Friday.
Cole had been suffering from cancer in recent weeks.
The Elizabethton Republican served until 2002, when he was defeated by Jerome Cochran in the Republican primary election.
Cole was an influential member of the House Finance Committee during his time in Nashville, and was noted for working hard for his district during the administrations of Govs. Ned McWherter and Don Sundquist.
“He was my friend,” said Sundquist. “He was a statesmen who always did what he thought was right. He was a man of courage and dedication and was successful in life in every way.
“You could always count on him that if it was right he would do it. I didn’t have to go to him and say ‘Will you do this?’ We need more men and women like that.”
Former state Rep. Robert “Bob” Patton, who represented the 7th District, sat one seat over from Cole in the Legislature and served alongside him on the House Finance Committee from 2000-2002.
“I really enjoyed serving in the Legislature with him,” Patton said. “He was somewhat of a mentor to me. It was often that I would check with him and talk about issues that were important and he was kind and considerate and would take the time to speak with me.”
Cole served as a state representative from 1990 to 2003. In addition to his political role, he was also the sales manager at Courtesy Motors Co. for 20 years and owned C&T Volkswagen-Subaru for 18 years.
Sundquist said he spoke with Cole regularly and knew that his health was declining. The two of them recently had a conversation about life and death and Sundquist said he recommend that Cole take a look at one of his favorite books, “Heaven is for Real.”
“I don’t know if he read it, but I hope he did,” Sundquist said.
Cole will be remembered for reaching out to both political parties during his time in the state capital.
“He’s the type of guy that would get along with anyone who would get along,” Patton said. “He worked both sides of the aisle and was well respected.
“He was one of the finest men I’ve ever known.”
The graveside service for Cole will be private.