MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The community is mourning the loss of a former Shelby County Republican Party chairman.
Officials say Bill Giannini died in a car accident on Interstate-40 on Thursday in Decatur County.
He was also the founder and former owner of Little Italy Pizza on Union Avenue and leaves behind a wife and children.
“I was just stunned and we all make that trip from Memphis to Nashville so regularly, it could’ve been any one of us," said Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer. "I was just stunned and my first thought was for his wife and his kids."
Giannini was the former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party County and deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce.
“He was one of those people who had a lot of energy and believed he could do everything and that it was his responsibility to take responsibility for the community and try and make it better,” said Shafer.
She said Giannini had been everything from a trained hairdresser to a restaurant owner to doing work for the governor.
On Friday, Senator Bob Corker said he was very to sad to hear of his passing and said Giannini made countless contributions to the Memphis community and our state.
Congressman David Kustoff also wrote in a statement in part, “Bill was a strong voice for the Volunteer State. We will never forget his humor and unmatched positivity.”
“Bill was a friend of mine," said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. "He was a great spirit, he loved Memphis and Shelby County. He did so much for our state. A great laugh, a great sense of humor, he was smart and he was a great friend and he died way too young."
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. wrote in a statement:
“He was a close friend and adviser to many of us in government. Bill was a consummate public servant. His insight, kindness, and willingness to help others will be long-remembered.”
Current Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Lee Mills said he’ll remember Giannini’s enthusiasm, quick wit, and infectious smile.
Mills said Giannini's work as chairman laid the groundwork for many of the successes we see today.