“I’m Basil Marceaux dot com.”
With that simple statement on WSMV’s airwaves, a perennial Republican candidate became a viral Internet legend. What’s more, he unintentionally earned himself a nickname, joining the long list of Tennessee politicos with memorable sobriquets.
Most famous, of course, is Andrew Jackson, called “Old Hickory,” as tough as the toughest wood his backwoods ragtag militiamen knew. Jackson’s political protege, James K. Polk, became, predictably, “Young Hickory,” though his other nickname — “The Napoleon of the Stump” — has a certain je ne sais quoi. One of Polk’s earliest races was against James Chamberlain Jones, a rail-thin lawyer who defeated the future president in a gubernatorial race and became known as “Lean Jimmy.”
Some nicknames are obvious. Longtime West Tennessee Congressman Robert Ashton Everett was known to his rural constituents as “Fats” for readily apparent reasons.
Lesser-known hopefuls have their nicknames, too. Dewey Lineberry made it his personal quest in the late 1990s to unseat longtime Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe. Part of his plan was to use the nickname “Lawdog,” going so far as to sue the county election commission for refusing to put that name on the ballot. After all, he argued, Ashe’s real first name isn’t Terry, it’s Terrence.
Byron Looper was so enamored of his self-given nickname, he legally changed his name to Low Tax ahead of a run against wildly popular state Sen. Tommy Burks. Originally, Low Tax was seen as merely eccentric, but his creativity was exceeded by his cold and evil ambition: Looper — still legally Low Tax — is serving a life sentence for murdering Burks on his family farm.
There are plenty more obscure nicknames out there. House Democratic Caucus spokesman Addison Pate will likely never shake off “Buckets,” appended to his name after an unflattering AP photo showed him gathering buckets of donations at a Democratic fundraiser. In quiet corners of Legislative Plaza and smoky bars near the Capitol, state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver is sarcastically called “Buttons” after a voting error on her first day in the House started a chain of events leading to Kent Williams’ speakership.
Now that the primaries are over, Marceaux can point to his “dot com” and take pride in being the latest link in a chain of nicknames reaching back to the first Tennessee country boy who made national news.