Tyrone Gayle passed away on Thursday, October 25, 2018, after battling from colon cancer for more than two years. He would have been 31 years old in just a few weeks.
The communications director for Senator Tim Kaine, Ian Sams, shared the news on Twitter. He wrote, “The world lost a great young man last night. @TyroneGayle was the best of us. Boundless joy. Steely drive and determination. Empathy and compassion. There will forever be a hole in my heart and thousands of hearts (#GayleNation) the size of TG. We love you. Rest easy, brother.”
1. Tyrone Gayle Achieved Professional Success Within the Democratic Party & Developed a Strong Friendship With Now-Senator Tim Kaine
Gayle accomplished much in his young career. At the time of his passing, Gayle was working as Press Secretary for Senator Kamala Harris. He moved into that role in January 2017 and was based in Washington, D.C.
Prior to joining her staff, he worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. According to his LinkedIn page, Gayle was hired in April 2015 as a regional press secretary and African-American media director. In June 2016, he was promoted to national spokesperson for the campaign.
Gayle’s resume also includes working as a regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and as associate director for communications at the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.
Gayle got to know Senator Tim Kaine when he was governor of Virginia. Gayle was a special assistant in the governor’s office from August 2011 until November 2012.
According to a 2016 profile on Gayle in People, he played an influential role in Clinton’s decision to pick Kaine as her running mate in the 2016 election. While undergoing chemotherapy, Gayle wrote an email to Secretary Clinton praising Kaine. He wrote, “I can personally attest to his incredible character, integrity, competency and ability to get things done. I believe he would be a great choice, and be an effective governing partner.”
2. Tyrone Gayle Married Elizabeth Foster in May 2018 & Senator Tim Kaine Officiated the Wedding
Tyrone Gayle had been a married man for nearly six months prior to his death. According to their wedding announcement in the New York Times, the couple met on the political trail in 2012. She was a staff member on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Tim Kaine, still the governor of Virginia at the time, was running for Senate.
According to the Newsstand, Gayle asked Foster to marry him a few days after Christmas, in 2016. He told the newspaper, “She is my rock and my life would be dramatically unfulfilled without her in it. I am lucky to have her — a partner, a travel buddy, fellow Clemson football fanatic and my best friend.”
Elizabeth Bradstreet Foster and Tyrone Gail tied the knot on May 5, 2018. The wedding took place in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Septenary Winery at Seven Oaks Farm. Senator Tim Kaine officiated the ceremony.
3. Tyrone Gayle Was Diagnosed With Stage 4 Colon Cancer in 2016 at Age 28; He Underwent Chemotherapy While Maintaining His Schedule With the Hillary For America Campaign
Tyrone Oliver Gayle was told in March 2016 that he had stage 4 colon cancer. He had been working on the Hillary for America campaign for about a year at that point. And he was determined not to allow his diagnosis to get in the way.
Gayle spoke about his journey with the Newsstand, a newspaper at his alma mater of Clemson University. After the diagnosis, Gayle went through 12 weeks of chemotherapy. It was a rough battle; he told the newspaper he even went into cardiac arrest at one point.
Gayle explained, “I was committed to seeing it through, no matter the adversity I faced. With the fate of the republic at stake I knew there was no time to waste. I had a team, a candidate, a family and a girlfriend who were 100 percent supportive of me throughout it all.” Gayle went into remission. But the cancer unfortunately returned again in 2017.
4. Tyrone Oliver Gayle Grew Up in Jacksonville, Florida & Ran Track in College
Tyrone Gayle was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. According to the wedding announcement in the New York Times, both of his parents work in the medical field. Ann Gayle worked as a nurse at the Mayo Clinic. His father, Dr. Michael Gayle, was chief of pediatric critical care at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. According to the hospital website, he still holds that position.
Tyrone Gayle attended college at Clemson University from 2006 through 2010, graduating with a degree in Communication Studies. In addition to cheering on the football team as often as he could, Gayle was an athlete too. He had a state championship in track as a high school student, and was able to take that talent to Clemson. He ran the 800 and 500 meter races in college.
In September 2018, a friend of Gayle’s, Jesse Lehrich, decided to run the Chicago Marathon in Gayle’s honor. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Gayle’s medical treatments. Lehrich described Gayle on the page: “He is a contagious smiler, an unrivaled go-getter, a benevolent guilt-tripper, a master of perspective, a lottery-winning husband, an ice cream aficionado, a consummate friend, a perpetual matchmaker, a loving brother and son, a stubborn Jaguars fan, and, for the past ~3 years, a fierce battler of cancer – though he never lets that last one define him.”
He also joked about how dedicated Tyrone Gayle had always been, even as a college student. “Both Tyrone and I were prolific runners in college – he ran D-1 track, and I once ran away from an RA without spilling either of my beers. As coworkers, we often bonded over our shared passion. For instance, I might say, ‘wow, we were at the office until midnight and you still woke up and ran 6 miles before sunrise?’ – and Tyrone would respond with something encouraging, like,’hey man, we can’t all sleep until noon; how’s that hangover tho?’ You know, just two runners talking shop.”
The campaign ultimately raised $55,000 for Gayle and his family.
5. Senator Tim Kaine Wrote a Tribute to Tyrone Gayle, Describing Him as a ‘Wonderful Young Man’ & Hillary Clinton Wrote That She Was ‘Grateful’ to Have Known Him
Senator Tim Kaine wrote a tribute to his friend and former staffer, which he posted to Facebook. He wrote:
“Today is a sad day for Anne and me. A wonderful young man, Tyrone Gayle, who worked for me when I ran for Senate in 2012, died after a courageous battle with cancer. All who crossed Tyrone’s path were affected by his warmth, humor, and positive energy. Just yesterday, while visiting a Virginia company, I met one of Tyrone’s roommates and track teammates from Clemson and we shared great stories of our friend.
It was one of the honors of my life to officiate at Tyrone’s wedding to Beth just 6 months ago. And I preached about the unusual repetition in a line in the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread.” Not enough for all time, just enough for today. And Tyrone lived—and shared—a life of many beautiful todays.
I went to my bookshelf and found A.E. Housman’s poem “To an Athlete Dying Young”
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town . . . .
God bless Beth and the entire Gayle family. As Ty would say: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
Hillary Clinton wrote a series of tweets in honor of Tyrone Gayle. She described him as one of the “fiercest fighters we will ever know.” She wrote, “Whatever he did, he did with his whole heart—whether he was running sprints, planning his wedding to the love of his life, rooting for his beloved Clemson Tigers, or working to build an America as kind, compassionate, and big-hearted as Tyrone himself… We are forever grateful to have known him and will always be proud members of #GayleNation.”
Gayle’s friend Andrea Purse wrote a tribute on Twitter. It included: “The bottom line about Tyrone–and what I want to enforce–is that he never lost that light. He wanted so badly to be here, to do this work, to make change. Even when things were very bleak, he was most sad to miss out on the thrill of making big things happen… His @amprog aunties, every staffer that I hired because he told me I “absolutely had to!”, and the whole family of campaign staff he worked with will miss him dearly. We will carry his light where he cannot. #gaylenation #cleareyesfullheartscantlose.”