Shelby County Republican Party (Tennessee)

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Republican Party of Shelby County
ChairmanCary Vaughn
Fiscal conservatism
Social conservatism
National affiliationRepublican Party
ColorsRed (unofficial)

The Republican Party of Shelby County is the Republican political organization for Shelby County, Tennessee. It has a long history of impacting politics in Shelby County long before the Republican Party was popular in the south[citation needed].

Despite being in a heavily Democratic county, the Republican Party of Shelby County is the largest county Republican Party in the state. Though Tennessee does not register by party, it is estimated that there are roughly 272,000 Republican voters in Shelby County.


The party has its origins in the Lincoln League, which was founded by Robert Church Jr. in 1916 to promote black voter registration. Church was one of the most prominent African-American businessmen in the nation and is credited with the early development of Beale Street. By the 1950s conservative Democrats were joining the party as blacks were leaving.[1]

In the 1970s the party remade itself as a suburb-focused party that relied on activities like backyard parties, door-to-door campaigning and telephone networks to coordinate conservative voters in the suburbs.[1]

Starting in 1992, the party began holding a primary election to pick candidates in the general election. It was scheduled for the same day as Tennessee's presidential primary, and represented the first partisan local elections in the County since before 1900. The county Democratic party soon copied the practice. The move meant the end of nearly a century of nonpartisan elections in the county.[2]


Robert Church Jr. (1910s) leading African-American businessman, founded Lincoln League (1916), founder of Memphis NAACP (1917)
Lt. George W. Lee (1920s–1940s)
Walker Wellford, Jr. (1954)
Dr. R.Q. Venson (1954–1970) Alternate to the Republican National Convention in 1956; founder and general chairman of the Cotton Makers' (currently Kemet) Jubilee
Bob James (1961–1963) Memphis City Councilman
Governor Winfield Dunn (1963–1967) Governor of Tennessee (1971–1975)
Judge Harry W. Wellford (1967–1969) Judge (U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee 1970–1982), (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit 1982–2021)
Alex Dann (1969–1971)
Dr. Kyle Creson (1971–1973)
Bill Lawson (1973–1975)
Governor Don Sundquist (1975–1977) Congressman (7th district 1983–1995), Governor of Tennessee (1995–2003)
William H. Watkins, Jr. (1977–1979)
Tom Pyron (1979–1981)
Maida Pearson Smith (1981–1985) Republican National Committeewoman (1984–1992)
Jack J. Craddock (1985–1987)
John L. Ryder (1987–1991) Republican National Committeeman (1996–2004; 2008–2016), Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (2019–2021)
Dr. Phil Langsdon (1991–1995) Author of Tennessee, A Political History
David Kustoff (1995–1999) Congressman (8th district 2017–present)
Alan Crone (1999–2003)
R. Kemp Conrad (2003–2005) Memphis City Councilman (2008–2020), Chairman of the Memphis City Council in 2016 and 2019, Vice Chairman of Memphis City Council in 2015.
Bill Giannini (2005–2009) Shelby County Election Commission Chairman (2009)
Lang Wiseman (2009–2011) Deputy to the Governor and Chief Counsel for Governor Bill Lee (2018–2022)
Justin Joy (2011–2015)
Mary Wagner (2015–2016) Appointed Circuit Court Judge (2016)
Lee Mills (2016–2019) Served as 1st Vice Chairman under Mary Wagner. Elevated to Chairman after Judge Wagner was appointed to her judgeship. Ran successfully for a full two-year term in 2017.
Chris Tutor (2019–2021)
Cary Vaughn (2021–present)


  1. ^ a b Dries, Bill (2003-03-09). "GOP LEADER: OUTREACH CRUCIAL - NEW CHAIRMAN MAKING WAVES WITHIN OWN PARTY". Commercial Appeal. pp. B1.
  2. ^ Bernsen, Charles (1991-12-06). "COUNTY GOP SWITCHES TO PARTY VOTING IN PRIMARIES". Commercial Appeal. pp. A1.

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