Tennessee senator’s

MONTEREY, Tenn. (AP) — State Sen. Tommy Burks, who fought for the rights of crime victims and never missed a day of work during 28 years in the Legislature, was shot to death on his hog farm Monday.
Police have not determined a motive but Police Chief Bruce Breedlove said “it absolutely was not a suicide.”
The 58-year-old Burks was shot once in the head at nearly point-blank range. A farm worker found the body in the front seat of Burks’ truck parked on a road a half-mile from the senator’s home, Breedlove said.
“We’re running down what we’ve got, which is very little,” he said.
Burks, a Democrat, served four terms in the House before he was elected to the Senate in 1978. His opponent Nov. 3 was Republican Byron Looper, the Putnam County tax assessor who earlier this year was charged with theft and misusing his office.
Burks was the sponsor of two constitutional ballot questions that will appear on the ballot.
One would strike the word “comfortable” from the section of the Constitution that lists requirements for building and maintaining state prisons. The other would add a crime victims’ bill of rights to the Constitution.
Burks sponsored legislation this year establishing a $100 reward for people who report and help prosecute litterers. He also helped win a $1.9 million tax break for farmers by getting them exempt from sales tax on parts and labor for farm equipment repairs.
His bill to allow judges to sentence first-time drunken drivers to public service — picking up trash along highways while wearing an orange vest saying either “I am a drunk driver” or “I am a DUI offender” — was vetoed by Gov. Don Sundquist.
Burks never missed a session at the Legislature. His perfect attendance record was nearly snapped in February when a snowstorm buried Monterey. He used a tractor to pull his vehicle out of a snowbank at the farm and made the 85-mile drive west to Nashville.
News of the killing quickly reached the Statehouse.
Maxine Roberts, executive assistant to Lt. Gov. John Wilder, cast an absentee ballot for Burks on Monday before learning about his slaying.
“He was the best,” she said. “He was like family.”
Houston Gordon, the state Democratic Party chairman, offered condolences to Burks’ wife, Charlotte, and their three children.
“They should take comfort in the fact that he had a positive impact on many people’s lives as a public servant and as a compassionate human being,” Gordon said.