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“It was as though his entire future had been laid out in front of him on the direct route he took to school as an adolescent, 1.9 miles up the hill of Massachusetts Avenue from the Fairfax Hotel to St. Albans, passing on the left along the way the grounds of the Naval Observatory, where he would live as vice president. All true enough, yet misleading if considered without the prologue in Tennessee. People looking at Al Gore today see the product of the American upper crust… It was as if his entire future had been laid out in front of him… All is true enough, yet misleading if considered without the prologue of Tennessee.”

Prince of Tennessee

Al Gore Meets His Fate

After losing the closest American election in years, Al Gore remains a fascinating political figure, a man both revered and reviled. Drawing on documents, letters, and interviews with more than three hundred people, including six lengthy conversations with the vice president, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima look closely at the forces that have shaped Gore’s life and career to explore the man behind the contradictory public persona. Beginning with Gore’s earliest years — when this son of a senator was torn between elite Washington and rural Tennessee — one is struck by the image of a young American prince burdened by expectations of his likely political fate. With a new afterword written after the election, The Prince of Tennessee depicts Gore as an intelligent and competent man whose struggles with self-doubt and insecurity made him one of our least understood presidential candidates.

  • 320 pages
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Jun 2001
  • ISBN 9780743210508

The Long Road

Chapter One

In the foothills of middle Tennessee, there is a little village called Difficult. Whatever hardship that place name was meant to convey, it could not match the resigned lament of the nearby hamlet of Defeated, nor the ache of lonesomeness evoked by a settlement known as Possum Hollow. It was that kind of land, isolated and unforgiving, if hauntingly beautiful, for the farmers and small merchants who settled the region, families of Scots-Irish and Anglo-Irish descent named Hackett and Woodard, Key and Pope, Gibbs and Scurlock, Beasley and Huffines, Silcox and Gore.

For generations one old road, Highway 70, was the main road west and the best way out, weaving through the hills of the Upper Cumberland past the county seats of Carthage and Lebanon and across the barrens of rock and cedar and flat cactus to the capital city of Nashville. Albert Arnold Gore, then a young superintendent of schools in rural Smith County, regularly drove that route in the early 1930s to study at the YMCA night law school, and to loiter at the coffee shop of the nearby Andrew Jackson Hotel, pining for a brilliant young waitress named Pauline LaFon who would forgo her own law career to become his wife and adviser and, some say, his brains.