I Am Amazed At How Fast Time Goes By

By John J. Duncan Jr.

I am always amazed at how fast time passes. At the end of next month, I will have been retired for five years.

When I announced in 2017 that I was going to retire at the end of the next year, almost every day someone would ask what I was going to do now.

I told Bob Griffitts, my chief of staff, that I didn’t know anyone who would consider 71½  early retirement.

Now I am 76 and believe I am very fortunate to feel as good as I do and to still be able to do almost everything that I really want to do.

I am 13 months younger than former President Trump and almost five years younger than President Biden. I believe both of them would be better off if they retired.

Just so no one will misunderstand me, I do plan to do everything I can to re-elect Donald Trump. Everything was better when he was president and would be much better now if he had been re-elected in 2020.

And I believe all the cases against him are based on very bitter, partisan political hatred. I also believe if any judge in the key states had let the election cases go before a jury, the 2020 presidential election would have been found to have been crooked.

Even a commission chaired by former President Carter and former Secretary of State Jim Baker in 2012 said we could never have a completely honest election with widespread use of mail-in ballots.

I had another big win in the 2016 election, and I told Bob Griffitts I was going to announce on election night that I was not going to run again. But Bob asked me to hold off, so I decided to make the announcement about a year before the 2018 primary.

I decided to retire for three main reasons.

1) My late wife, Lynn, had suffered two strokes and then cancer spread through her body. She was in a wheelchair her last three years, and I needed to be home.

2) For many years I have looked at the obituaries almost every day. Several years ago I started noticing that about half the men were dying younger than me. I didn’t want to die in an airport or alone in Washington away from my family.

3) I was blessed with four children, now grown, and nine grandchildren. I wanted to spend a little time with them. The best decision I ever made was when I told Lynn after my very first election to Congress that I wanted our children to be raised in Knoxville.

Former Vice President Gore was born and raised in Washington as were his four children. Now, none of them live in Tennessee. All of mine are here.

Bob and I very early on talked over the possibility of my retirement with my Uncle Joe. He told us if he had not retired when he was 69, he would not have still been alive then. He was about 94 years old at that time, and he will be 100 on February 11.

Also, I liked the idea of having served an even 30 years in Congress. Only three other men have served longer than that in the U.S. House in the entire history of Tennessee.

Now, almost every day, someone asks me if I miss being in Congress, or they tell me they bet I am glad I am no longer in “that mess in Washington.”

I usually respond by saying there was never one day during my 30 years that I did not feel very lucky to have my job, but I am very glad to be home now.

Many members of Congress have trouble giving it up, and they stay in Washington to lobby or work in some other government job.

I believe I had a much easier transition into retirement because not once did I ever regard my home as any place other than Tennessee. My family and best friends were always here.

As a Congressman, I tried very hard to never miss a vote, but as soon as the last vote of the week was taken, I got to the airport as fast as I could. Because of District work weeks and recesses, I was able to spend slightly more time in Tennessee than in Washington.

When it was still just a rumor that I might retire, Bill Owen, the former Democrat state senator, told me in my Washington office that I better not retire because this job had been my whole life.

Actually, though, I had 16 years as a lawyer and judge before going to Congress and did several other jobs while a student at UT and then in law school.

But Bill was trying to be kind. He said Bear Bryant died a few months after he retired and that if I retired I would die, too.

Fortunately, I haven’t died yet, and I have had a very active retirement. But I feel very lucky to have had the law practice, judgeship, and years in Congress that I had. The people of East Tennessee have been very kind to me and my family.