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