Clifton Beverly Briley (January 11, 1914 – September 14, 1980) was the first mayor of the newly consolidated metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County. A Democrat, he served from 1963 to 1975.
Briley was born in West Nashville. He was involved in Scouting as a boy and became famous in the area for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout at age 12. He attended Vanderbilt University and Cumberland Law School. In 1932, at the age of eighteen he became the youngest Tennessean ever admitted to the bar. He began practicing later that year and quickly made a name for himself as a successful lawyer. In 1934, Briley married Dorothy Gordon and in subsequent years they had two children together, Cliff and Diane. Briley served in the US Navy during World War II as a quartermaster aboard the USS David Taylor. After the war, he ran a successful campaign for county judge (chief executive) of Davidson County in 1950, serving until 1963.
Briley was a champion of metropolitan government and in 1963 won election against Davidson County tax assessor Clifford Allen, another longtime Nashville politician, and became the first mayor of what is known as Metro Nashville. In 1966, his main opponent was the final mayor of the former City of Nashville municipal government, Ben West. Briley won the election in a runoff. Briley was again reelected in 1971, also in a runoff. He was prevented by term limits from running again in 1975, but remained active in Nashville politics until his death five years later. Altogether, he served as chief executive of Davidson County and of Nashville for almost 30 years.
Briley took a fairly progressive position on the Civil Rights Movement, an important question for mayors of Southern cities at the time. He readily cooperated with black leaders and is generally credited with helping smooth the transition away from racial segregation in Nashville, although it had begun before he assumed office. Otherwise, however, he was a conservative Democrat and in 1972 was the area leader of "Democrats for Nixon." That year, Nixon became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Davidson County since the reconstruction era.
His name is honored today in Briley Parkway, a major beltway thoroughfare which runs by the Grand Ole Opry house and around much of the city, and the city-owned Beverly Briley Building, a major component of Nashville's redesigned Public Square. His grandson, Rob Briley, formerly represented the 52nd House District, a Nashville district, in the state legislature. He also served as the Democratic Majority Floor Leader; another grandson, David Briley, served as a city council representative in Nashville.
- Campbell, Chester D. (January 1963). "Metro Mayor—The Man and the Job". Nashville Magazine 1 (1).
- Gordon, Thomas Gilbert (1988). The John Hilton Gordon Family, Rutherford County, Tennessee. T.G. Gordon.
|Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee