published Monday, September 10th, 2012

Bill and Karyn Frist end marriage after 31 years

In this March 10, 2006, file photo, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., makes his way through the crowd at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tenn. with his wife Karyn. A family spokeswoman confirmed on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, that the Frists are divorcing after 31 years of marriage. (AP Photo/Greg Campbell, file)
In this March 10, 2006, file photo, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., makes his way through the crowd at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tenn. with his wife Karyn. A family spokeswoman confirmed on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, that the Frists are divorcing after 31 years of marriage. (AP Photo/Greg Campbell, file)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his wife of 31 years, Karyn, have divorced.

Family spokeswoman Beth Seigenthaler Courtney confirmed the split in a statement Monday, saying the Frists “ask for prayers, understanding and privacy at this time.”

Bill Frist, 60, was a heart surgeon before entering politics in 1994, and his 12 years in the Senate were marked by a speedy rise but an uncertain tenure at the peak. He was widely expected to make a 2008 presidential bid, but cited his close ties with the unpopular Bush administration in his decision not to run.

He considered a run for governor in 2010, but ultimately decided against a bid to instead focus on education and health issues.

In his 2009 memoir “A Heart to Serve,” Frist recounted meeting his future wife in 1979 when he attended to her at a clinic while he was working as a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and she was a flight attendant based there.

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