Former pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush to speak at Athens cham­ber ben­e­fit

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN BEN­TON STAFF WRITER

Former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush is headed back to Ten­nessee next year.

The 43rd pres­i­dent of the United States will be the fea­tured speaker at the Athens Area Cham­ber of Com­merce’s an­nual ben­e­fit, which is set for 7 p.m. June 22 at McMinn County High School. Tick­ets, which range from $50-$55, went on sale this month.

Bush’s visit to Athens will mark the first time since 1985 a U.S. pres­i­dent has vis­ited the McMinn County seat, when Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan spoke from the court­house steps.

Money gen­er­ated by past an­nual ben­e­fits has typ­i­cally gone back into the com­mu­nity, but pro­ceeds from the 2019 event will go to­ward help­ing down­town busi­nesses, as well as the cham­ber it­self, which was heav­ily dam­aged by fire in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Athens Area Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent and CEO Rob Pre­ston.

Of­ten sports-ori­ented, the ben­e­fit has drawn big­time speak­ers over the years, in­clud­ing Bo Jack­son, Tim Te­bow, Her­schel Walker, Nick Sa­ban, Steve Spurrier, Pete Rose, Bruce Pearl, the 1998 NCAA Na­tional Cham­pion Ten­nessee Vol­un­teers foot­ball trio of former coach Phil Ful­mer and play­ers Al Wil­son and Peer­less Price and, most pop­u­lar so far, Ten­nessee’s beloved Pey­ton Man­ning. Other no­table speak­ers in­cluded “The In­cred­i­ble Hulk” ac­tor Lou Fer­rigno and en­ter­tainer Amy Grant — the only di­ver­sions from cleat-wear­ing ath­letes.

“Pey­ton was by far the largest, at­ten­dance-wise,” Pre­ston said.

Ex­cite­ment over Bush’s 2019 visit is al­ready spread­ing far and wide, he added.

“We’ve had in­ter­est from all over the coun­try,” Pre­ston said. “I got an email from some­one in Aus­tralia. … He said he’s go­ing to be vis­it­ing next sum­mer and wants to come to the event.”

Born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Con­necti­cut, Bush, son of 41st Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, served two terms in of­fice from 2001 to 2009 and was at the na­tion’s helm dur­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that left nearly 3,000 peo­ple dead, ac­cord­ing to bi­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion on web­sites for the White House and the Ge­orge W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter.

The Bush fam­ily moved to Texas in 1948. The then-fu­ture pres­i­dent grew up in Mid­land and Hous­ton. He re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in his­tory from Yale Univer­sity in 1968 and a mas­ter’s de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from Har­vard Busi­ness School in 1975.

In 1994, Bush was elected the 46th gover­nor of Texas, and in 1998 he be­came the first gover­nor in Texas his­tory to be elected to con­sec­u­tive four-year terms.

Ge­orge and Laura Bush founded the Ge­orge W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter in Dal­las af­ter Bush left

of­fice, his bi­og­ra­phy at his name­sake cen­ter states. The cen­ter is home to the Ge­orge W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum, which houses his pres­i­den­tial pa­pers.

It’s also home to the Ge­orge W. Bush In­sti­tute, a pub­lic pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tion that fo­cuses on eco­nomic growth, ed­u­ca­tion re­form, global health and hu­man free­dom. The

Bush In­sti­tute sup­ports the rights of women with its Women’s Ini­tia­tive and hon­ors those who have served in the United States armed forces through its Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Ini­tia­tive, ac­cord­ing to the web­site.

Con­tact staff writer Ben Ben­ton at bben­ton@times freep­ress.com or 423-7576569. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @BenBen­ton or at www. face­book.com/ben­ben­ton1.

AP PHOTO/DAVID J. PHILLIP

Former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, flashes the “W” sign in 2013. The former pres­i­dent will speak at the Athens Area Cham­ber of Com­merce ben­e­fit set for June 2019.

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