The U.S. Senator from Tennessee got her start in Magnolia State. She graduated from Northeast Jones High School and went to Mississippi State University before marrying and moving to the Volunteer State.
We’re blessed with the opportunity to stand for something, for liberty and fairness. And these are things worth fighting for, worth devoting our lives to. ~ Ronald Reagan
Being in the news is nothing new to Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn. Do a Google search, and you will find articles from The Clarion-Ledger to The Wall Street Journal about this conservative, first-woman Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee.
For example, in the Friday, August 23, 1968, edition of The Clarion-Ledger, Marsha, then a 15-year-old, was recognized as the state winner in the 4-H food program. Later, in December, she would attend the National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, Illinois. The article tells us that by the time she had reached this achievement, she had given 76 demonstrations in food preservation methods, won awards in the chicken and pork cooking contests, and had held the title of an officer in her local 4-H club for six years.
Perhaps she was she following in her mother’s footsteps, who, as a youth, in 1944, had won the President’s Trophy and the National 4-H Club Girl Achievement award.
Perhaps you are asking yourself why an article is highlighting a senator from another state. The answer is simple, because of her roots in Laurel, her connection to Mississippi State University, and her work continues to impact our state and nation.
Leadership Skills Begin in the Home
Hilman and Mary Jo Morgan Wedgeworth became the proud parents of Mary Marsha on June 6, 1952, in Laurel. From Mr. Wedgeworth’s obituary posted on January 31, 2013, we learn his background was in sales and management with the Armco Steel/National Supply Company, and he was co-owner of M&D Sales, both located in Laurel. As a leader in volunteer work, to name a few positions, he founded the Jones County Sheriff’s Volunteer Deputy program and worked with the Jones County Chamber of Commerce. He was an active member of First Baptist Church, Laurel.
After their marriage, Mary Jo’s roles included being a 4-H club leader, the Mississippi Extension Service Homemakers and FCE Club president, and the Keep American Beautiful campaign. She was awarded the lifetime achievement award for her work with the Avenue of Magnolias.
Then, there is her work with the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, board member for the Red Cross and an active member of FBC Laurel. During her 97 years, she passed on April 15, 2022; Mary Jo also had a leadership role as chairman of the Jones County Republican Women and the Mississippi Federation of Republican Women.
Reviewing the legacy of Hilman and Mary Jo Wedgeworth, you see the importance of biblical values, a marriage of 67 years, parents and children involved in work, volunteerism, and patriotism. Quoted in the Mississippi State Alumnus Summer 2008 magazine in an article by Robbie Ward, Marsha Blackburn said, “I grew up in a family that believed in making sure your community is in better shape than when you found it.”
What a legacy of faith, family, and freedom values!
Education, Family, and Business Endeavors
Marsha Wedgeworth graduated from Northeast Jones High School and went to Mississippi State University on a 4-H scholarship. The doors for her leadership skills were used as she served as President of the Associated Women Students, a member of Gamma Beta Phi, and worked for Southwestern Company, engaged in door-to-door book sales. She held the position of Student Manager and later became one of the first female sales managers.
In 1974, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Home Economics. That year, she married Charles Clifford Blackburn, now an entrepreneur and author, and eventually moved to Brentwood, Tennessee. They have two children, Mary Morgan and Chad. Currently, they are members of Christ Presbyterian.
After working with Southwestern, she was a sales manager with Times Mirror, Inc. She moved to Castner Knott Company and became the director of retail fashion. In the late 1970s, using her entrepreneurial skills, Marsha founded her own business, Market Strategies.
From one generation to the next, Marsha and Chuck continued the tradition of building upon the legacy of the values of faith, family, and freedom.
The Next Step, A Career in Public Service
Nothing is by accident or coincidental in God’s economy, and no experience is wasted.
Remember the work Marsha’s mother did with the Jones County Republican Party? In many ways, it seems only natural that involvement in politics would be the next step. Her political start began when she became a founding member of the Williamson County, Tennessee, Young Republicans and was chairman from 1989 to 1991. That step led to another and then another.
The following is a brief synopsis of Senator Blackburn’s service in the political arena:
- 1992 – Ran for Congress in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District, lost
- 1992 – Delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention
- 1995 – Gubernatorial race, lost to Bart Gordon
- 1995 – Appointed executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Commission until 1997
- 1998 to 2003 – Served in the Tennessee Senate, 23rd District, the first woman ever elected for the seat, serving in the position of Minority Whip
- 2003 to 2019 – Represented Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives
On November 6, 2018, Marsha Blackburn was elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. She defeated Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, in a significant upset. This election made her the first woman, as a Republican, to represent the state.
Presently, she serves on the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, Finance Committee, Judiciary Committee, and the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Newt Gingrich wrote:
When I first met Marsha Blackburn, I was impressed by her drive, her determination, her intelligence, and her experience. She was clearly someone who was going to make a difference. She had courage and conviction. She also had charm and a great smile. Her entire life had prepared her to lead in Washington.
(Excerpt from the Foreword, “Meet a Woman Who is Changing History” –Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and architect of the Contract with America – The Mind of a Conservative Woman, Seeking the Best for Family and Country by Senator Marsha Blackburn).
Work as an Author and Contributions
The following statement best describes Senator Blackburn’s philosophy:
Marsha’s public service is dedicated to promoting opportunities for women and making America a more prosperous place to live. Marsha’s leadership philosophy is based on her experiences in the private sector as a businesswoman and author, as well as being a grandmother.
She shares that philosophy in the following books.
- Life Equity: Realize Your True Value and Pursue Your Passions at Any Stage in Life, by U. S. Congressman Marsha Blackburn (Thomas Nelson, Inc., January 1, 2008)
- The Mind of a Conservative Woman, Seeking the Best for Family and Country, by Senator Marsha Blackburn (Worthy Books, September 1, 2020)
- Camilla Can Vote: Celebrating the Centennial of Women’s Right to Vote, by Mary Morgan Ketchel and Senator Marsha Blackburn (Forefront Books, Illustrated edition-July14, 2020)
In 2007, then-Congressman Marsha Blackburn donated her official papers to MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library. Later that year, she spoke at the fall commencement ceremonies held at the Humphrey Coliseum.
In today’s age of technology and information, one thing is sure; Senator Marsha Blackburn will continue to be in the news because she is a fighter for the deep-rooted values of faith, family, and freedom this country was founded upon.
The American Dream is independence and being able to create that dream for yourself. – Marsha Blackburn
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