Gov. Bill Lee at the dedication of a Tyson chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee in March, pictured with plant workers. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Great writing and excellent photojournalism go together like peas and carrots, and the Tennessee Lookout has the good fortune to work with excellent writers and photographers.
2021 was a lesser sibling to 2020, our launch year. If the latter gave us the opportunity to cover Black Lives Matter protests, COVID test sites and bombings, the former allowed us to cover not just one legislative session but also three special sessions, the deployment of COVID vaccines across the state and a late year catastrophic tornado.
Our in-house photojournalist extraordinaire John Partipilo gave us the faces of the year, from pensive state legislators grappling with legal issues to joyous Black legislators celebrating the removal of a bust of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee Capital. His work was as diverse as his sensitively photographed families with special needs children, some trying to access assistance with medical care and others educational opportunities and a truly amazing gallery of Freedom Riders.
In Memphis, Karen Pulfer-Focht caught a relaxed Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer shortly after Sawyer, a frequent target of racist harassment, announced she won’t seek reelection. Pulfer-Focht also documented Memphis first responders getting their COVID vaccines and smoke billowing from a Valero plant as we covered Valero’s bid to run a pipeline through a historic Black community.
While there are many more excellent images of the year, we’ve chosen a small selection of our favorites that we feel represent the year that was in politics, civil rights and COVID-19.
John Partipilo took a series of photos of former Speaker of the House Glen Casada shortly after the legislature convened in January, which was also just days after the FBI raided Casada’s home and office as part of an investigation into a shadowy consulting firm called Phoenix Solutions. Casada announced in November he will not run for reelection in 2022 after two decades in office.
Hundreds gathered in Franklin, the site of a brutal Civil War battle, for the Oct. 23 unveiling of “March to Freedom.” The statue, which sits in front of the antebellum courthouse directly across from a Confederate monument, pays homage to the U.S. Colored Troops, many of whom were from Middle Tennessee.
John Partipilo shot one of the most joyous photos of the year during a mass vaccination clinic at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on March 20. Sponsored by the Nashville Public Health Department shortly after the COVID vaccine became available to all adults, 10,000 Tennesseans turned out out for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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