Former Knox County commissioner Mary Lou Horner dies at age 88

Former Knox County commissioner Mary Lou Horner dies at age 88

Mary Lou Horner Mary Lou Horner

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville legend has passed away. Former Knox County Commissioner Mary Lou Horner served the Halls community since the 1970s. She was 88-years-old.

"If you needed something done, if you needed something looked into, if you needed someone to set a fire under something here in Halls, you called Mary Lou," said longtime friend Kim Hansard.

In Knoxville, it seems almost everyone has a memory or a story to share about Mary Lou Horner.

Known for her vivacious and get it done personality,  friends and local leaders say Knoxville will not be the same without one of the great local leaders.

"Her heart, her passion, she wanted a better place for our kids, our grand kids, she wanted everything to be better and right," Hansard said.

Mary Lou Horner served on the now Knox County Commission from nearly 30 years. She was elected in 1976 when it was known as County Court and served until she was term limited in 2006. She was one of the first women elected to hold the position.

"Even though it was all men at that time, she stood her ground and she made things happen and she made things rock," said Sam Maynard, a friend and fellow board member of the James White Fort.

Long-time friends describe Mary Lou, with her memorable red hair, as a person who always worked the room.

"You could not find anyone who was more bubbly, more rambunctious, [someone] louder than anyone in the group," Maynard recalled.

"She taught me so many things, she took  me under her wing, she taught me to always have a change of clothes and a necklace in the car with you because she would do several ground breakings and television opportunities out the wazoo. She was everywhere and she didn't want to be seen in the same clothes," Hansard remembered.

That strong personality served her well as a representative of the Halls community.

"That's what made her such a force, because everybody knew her. She tried to help somebody with an issue and there wasn't really an issue too small to tackle," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Mayor Burchett explained Horner's love for her constituents carried far past the commission room, in good times and bad.

"She probably went to every funeral that happened, at least on Broadway I know. Anytime there was a baby christening or a church picnic or somebody's 50th anniversary, Mary Lou would always be there," Mayor Burchett said.

Mary Lou Horner also married thousands of Knoxvillians, officiating more than 3,000 weddings.

"She married us and it was a beautiful ceremony," Hansard said. "She would show up anywhere and marry somebody, it was part of her loving and caring and giving back to the community

In 2011, Horner was diagnosed with dementia. In a statement released by her family she said she hoped by releasing the news of her illness, "Others may be empowered to address their condition with grace and not feel it necessary to hide in the shadows."

A woman with many passions, Horner served on countless boards and organizations including the Knoxville Beautification Board and Knoxville Women's Center.

"Her legacy is going to go on for years," Maynard explained. "She may not be with us now but we will never forget Mary Lou Horner, because Mary Lou is Mary Lou."

Horner is survived by her son and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements will be handled by the Gentry Griffey Funeral Home in Fountain City. Her family says it will be a large event and anyone that knew Mary Lou Horner is welcome to come remember her legacy.


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