Memphis Local Council Sends Rep. Justin Pearson Back to Tennessee House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, April 12, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted to send recently expelled state Rep. Justin Pearson (D) back to the Tennessee General Assembly. Last week, Tennessee Republicans ousted two young, Black lawmakers — Pearson along with Rep. Justin Jones (D), who represents parts of Nashville — for breaking decorum while protesting at the state capitol in favor of gun safety laws following a deadly mass shooting in Nashville. The Assembly did not expel Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), a white woman, even though she protested as well. 

Former Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and former Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, raises their hands outside the House chamber after Jones and Pearson were expelled from the legislature Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Today, the Shelby County commissioners voted 7-0 to reappoint Pearson, though the remaining six Republican commissioners did not attend the meeting.

On Monday, the Nashville Metro Council reinstated Jones by a unanimous vote. “Tennessee’s constitution provides a pathway back for expulsion,” Tennessee House Republican leaders said in a statement. “Should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them.” Jones was seated in the Tennessee General Assembly on Monday evening.

The expulsions were the latest in a long line of anti-democratic actions in Tennessee, including imposing a strict felony disenfranchisement law, splitting Nashville’s county in the most recent redistricting cycle and more.

Learn more about last week’s expulsions here.