Gorrell was related by marriage to the powerful Middle Tennessee Jamison family, whose interests included a mattress factory near downtown Franklin, Tennessee. In 1964, Governor Frank G. Clement decided that he desired Gorrell to be lieutenant governor to replace the outgoing James L. Bomar. The Tennessee General Assembly had begun to show a measure of independence from the executive branch of government in this era, but was generally still largely subject to it. However, a faction of the Democratic Caucus in the Tennessee State Senate, which in Tennessee elects the lieutenant governor from its own members, had decided to resist the selection of Gorrell. They were joined by the relatively small Republican Caucus, which proposed the election of former lieutenant governor Jared Maddux, who had previously served as lieutenant governor during Clement's first administration.
A "nose count" revealed a total of sixteen Senators supporting Clement's selection of Gorrell, and sixteen supporting Maddux. The remaining member, Senator Charles O'Brien of Crossville was in seclusion and could not be reached by either side. Clement, sensing victory, sent his sister Anna Belle, who also served as his chief of staff, to visit O'Brien's home and persuade him to support Gorrell. Exactly what occurred is unknown, but while O'Brien voted for Maddux, who was returned to office, Anna Belle Clement later married Senator O'Brien, later serving in the Senate herself as Anna Belle Clement O'Brien, while Senator O'Brien later went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Gorrell's turn was to come two years later.
Gorrell was regarded as being both pro-business and somewhat progressive, not an impossibility in the Tennessee politics of the era. He probably had far more influence after his term as lieutenant governor as a lobbyist, and was regarded as the most influential lobbyist in the state at the time of his death in a choking incident at a restaurant in Brentwood, Tennessee.