Richard Fulton, a Tennessee Democrat who was elected to seven terms in Congress, where he was among a handful of Southerners to support federal civil rights legislation, and later served 12 years as mayor of Metro Nashville, died Nov. 28 at a hospice care center in Nashville. He was 91.
Richard Riebeling, a former assistant in Mr. Fulton’s mayoral office, confirmed the death but did not provide further details.
Mr. Fulton was elected to Congress in 1962 and was a rare Southern supporter of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. He also was reportedly among the first Southern legislators to hire a black secretary on Capitol Hill.
He left Congress to serve three terms as mayor of Metro Nashville from 1975 through 1987 and was credited with helping shepherd construction of Riverfront Park and the original Nashville Convention Center.
While mayor, he was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mr. Fulton also ran for governor in 1978 and 1986 but lost both times, partly because he was not well-known outside Nashville.
Richard Harmon Fulton was born in Nashville on Jan. 27, 1927. After high school graduation in 1945, he served briefly in the Navy and then attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville on a football scholarship. He left school to go into the retail trade with his brother Lyle, who nursed political ambitions.
Lyle Fulton won a state Senate primary but died of cancer just before the general election. His brother took his place and won at age 27, but the body declined to seat him because he missed the minimum-age requirement by three years. He ran again and won in 1958.
In the interim, he lost a 1956 congressional race during which he criticized incumbent J. Percy Priest (D) for not signing the “Southern manifesto,” a document signed by other Southern congressman expressing opposition to racial integration in public spaces. He later shifted his views on civil rights.
After his mayoral career, he started a private governmental relations firm.
His first wife, Jewel Simpson, with whom he had five children, reportedly had depression and died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in 1969. Soon afterward, his son Barry drowned in a boating accident. He married Sandra Fleisher in 1970. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
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