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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Family and friends listen as Pat Brock tells stories about his brother during the memorial service for former U.S. Senator Bill Brock on Saturday, May 22, 2021 at Tennessee RiverPlace.

He loved fast convertibles. Enjoyed listening to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Kept his tools and fishing gear in meticulous order using a peg board system he became acquainted with while working in his family's candy company.

And the Chattanooga native adored his family, loved his country and remained devoted to public service and civility while keeping active until just before his death in March at age 90, family and friends say.

But let's be honest, said former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Listening to former Republican congressman, U.S. senator, one-time Republican National Committee chairman and later U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Labor Secretary Bill Brock was "a painful experience."

Alexander's remarks triggered laughter from a crowd of dozens Saturday as he and others, including former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, gathered to pay tribute to the former political leader from Lookout Mountain whose 1962 election to Congress signaled the start of Republicans' climb to political dominance in Tennessee and across the South. Brock family members reminisced about their father and brother during a celebration of his life.

Pat Brock, one of Bill Brock's two younger brothers, recalled how after he and his older brother left the military in 1956, came home, and joined the Republican Party. Their grandfather had served in the Senate as a Democrat.

"This was still the era when the Democrats controlled the South, just like the Republicans do for the most part today" Pat Brock told the audience. "There was not a single person elected to office in Hamilton County who was a Republican." In 1961, Bill Brock decided he would run to represent the 3rd Congressional District, which had not had a Republican representative in 42 years.

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Bill Brock memorialized

"You all know the answer," said Pat Brock, whose skills as a campaign strategist are well known. "He was elected and changed the landscape of politics in Tennessee," serving four terms in the U.S. House, before going on to topple then-U.S. Sen. Albert Gore Sr., D-Tennessee, in 1970.

Four years earlier, emboldened by Brock's 1962 victory in the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Howard Baker, a Huntsville Republican representing the 2nd Congressional District, ran in 1964 for U.S. Senate and lost. Two years later he went for the other Senate seat and won, Alexander said.

Regarding Brock, Alexander said "He had a name everyone knew: B-R-O-C-K. Buy Brock today, Brock is the candy. We all grew up singing that jingle. In other ways it didn't make any sense. It'd been 40 years since a Republican congressman had been elected," Alexander said of Brock's 1962 win.

And, Alexander added, "hearing Bill speak was a painful experience. In fact, several times, people literally went up to Bill and suggested that he should let Pat [Brock] or [campaign manager] Bill Timmons be the candidate and he should manage the campaign. But he won."

After Brock was defeated in 1976 by Democrat Jim Sasser, he became Republican National Committee chairman, helping rebuild the party following Republican President Richard Nixson's Watergate scandal. After Republican Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, Reagan later named him trade representative and then labor secretary. Senate majority Democrats easily confirmed him, Alexander recalled.

Corker won Brock's old seat in 2006 and served two terms, becoming Senate Foreign Relations chairman. He decided not to seek reelection following a series of public wrestling matches with then-President Donald Trump.

"I knew him in a different way," Corker said of Brock. "I would get calls from him, calls of encouragement. The word patriot to me has been sullied in recent times and doesn't seem to mean the same thing that it really meant when Bill was coming along. But to me, Bill Brock was a patriot, a real patriot."

In 1994, Brock was living in Maryland where he once again got the political itch and ran for U.S Senate, losing to incumbent Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who won re-election to a fourth term.

Noting his brother Bill was 11 years older than him, third Brock brother Frank, a retired president of Covenant College, recalled how his older brother let him run a campaign sound truck years earlier in a Tennessee campaign before he was old enough to vote.

The younger Brock said his brother "shot high" during his life and remained engaged in the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Bill Brock, he said, was concerned with the "loss of civil discourse" in today's America, as well as "fiscal profligacy."

Brock was preceded in death by his first wife, Laura Handley "Muffet" Brock. He later remarried to Sandra Schubert "Sandy" Brock.

William E. "Bill" Brock IV said he and his three siblings and Sandy Brock's two children and an army of grandchildren and great-grand children have blended well, praising her.

Another son, Oscar Brock, a Republican National Committee man, said his father had "two great loves" in life, his first wife Laura Hanley who he was with for 28 years before her death, and Sandy Schubert Brock. The couple had recently celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, he said adding, 'Sixty-two years of marriage is not a bad track record."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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