Tennessee's New Governor Finds Good Fortune in a Cookie
A mountain of a man (he weighs 260 pounds and stands 6'2" tall), McWherter says the line about vanilla wafers "came as natural—I never thought about it. I've been eating vanilla wafers in banana pudding ever since I was a kid." The remark did the trick, capturing the imagination of voters who wanted a savvy governor who knew which way the cookie crumbled. Over the next several months, McWherter was greeted at every campaign stop by voters waving vanilla wafers. Meanwhile, the State House in Nashville, where McWherter had been Speaker for 14 years, was deluged with hundreds of boxes containing the suddenly famous vanilla biscuits. McWherter's victory margin in last November's election was anything but wafer thin: He won by a 10 percent margin.
The whole cookie business came to a head on Jan. 17, when McWherter was sworn in with great hoopla as the Volunteer State's 46th governor. There was a parade through downtown Nashville, featuring the usual array of marching bands and floats. And there was plenty to eat, too, as some 20,000 packets of Nilla Wafers were handed out to the faithful. After he took his oath of office came the moment the crowd had been eagerly anticipating: The new governor lofted a cup of coffee, then ceremonially chomped his way through the requisite four wafers to wild cheers from the crowd of 8,000. The former college dropout, who made millions through trucking and a beer distributorship, then left the podium, still chewing. "Let's go to work!" he said.