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Great potential, promise gone with death of political strategist Ken Taylor

The recent death of Kenneth “Ken” Taylor, said those who knew him, left a tremendous void in service to the community and Tennessee Democratic Party politics.

Mr. Taylor, 36, died unexpectedly last week (Feb. 8).

“After the campaign, we stayed in touch,” said Marquita Bradshaw, the history-maker, who became the first African-American woman to win the primary candidacy for statewide office for a major political party in her 2020 U.S. Senate Democratic campaign.

Although Bradshaw lost her bid, Taylor was proud of the coalition-building work they had done across the state to reach “at least a million Tennesseans.” 

Taylor grew an army of volunteers, who relentlessly worked a telephone bank, reaching out to voters in East Tennessee who have traditionally voted Republican.

“Sometimes we would talk two or three times a day,” said Bradshaw. “He was a great thought partner. But it wasn’t just to me. That was the way Ken was. He was a very loving person. He had a love for people, and a song in his heart.”

Taylor left his small-town, rural home in West Tennessee after graduating high school to settle in Shelby County as a University of Memphis student. 

A masterful communicator, the world of politics opened up to Taylor as he worked in high-profile, Democratic campaigns.

Taylor perfected his “king-making” skills before establishing Kingmaker Strategies, a communications firm serving high-stakes clients all over the country.

In 2016, at barely 30 years old, Taylor became executive director of the Beale Street Merchants Association. He promoted the entertainment district, where Taylor said everyone should be able to come and have a “safe and exciting time.”

At the time of his death, Taylor was working as the Memphis Education Fund chief of staff. He had served with the company for less than two years.

Deidre Malone, CEO of the Carter Malone Group and past president of the Memphis Branch NAACP, recalled meeting Taylor when he was just starting out.

“When I was president of the NAACP Memphis Branch, I recruited a few young folk to join the organization and serve with me,” said Malone.  “Ken Taylor was one. I had worked with him before on (former Memphis mayor A C) Wharton’s campaign and considered him a ‘son.’ 

“The last text I received from him was when Judge Teresa Jones passed. He wanted to know if I was okay. Ken was smart, funny and had a great sense of politics. I will miss him. I can’t believe he’s gone, but I know he is in a better place.”

Malone said Taylor’s family and friends need prayer at this very difficult hour.

Ken’s endeavors also boast positions working with Wellstone Action Network and Service Employees International Union. He served ash of operations at Soulsville Charter School, the State Training and Education manager for Progressive Majority Washington and Faith Outreach coordinator for Working Washington.

Accolades in a stellar career cut short include graduate of the Leadership Memphis Executive Program, named a “40 under 40 of Memphis Urban Elite” and honored one year as “Big Brother of the Year.” 

His collegiate career highlight was sitting on the Governor of Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL), where his work was recognized by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Taylor lived in Harbor Town with his German Shepherd, Senator.

Serenity Funeral Home hosted a service on Saturday (Feb. 13). 


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