Bush in Woodstock

The Aug. 26, 1992 cover of the Cherokee Tribune after the late former President George H.W. Bush kicked off his bid for president in Woodstock. / Cherokee Tribune

As the nation mourns the death of former President George H.W. Bush, many of today’s Cherokee County’s residents may be unaware he kicked off his campaign for re-election in 1992 in downtown Woodstock.

After all, in the 26 years since that event on Aug. 22, 1992, Woodstock’s population has grown by more than five times and the county’s population, then hovering around 100,000, now stands at more than 255,000.

Historian and Cherokee Tribune columnist Juanita Hughes wrote after the visit, “Not many towns of 5,000 can boast of such a visit. It’s an event many will recall as a one-in-a-lifetime, for many of us have never seen a president. We’re grateful that he was invited; we’re honored that he came.”

Bush had just accepted the Republican nomination for president days before his Saturday visit to Woodstock.

Woodstock attorney Steve Campbell said on Monday that he attended and got to shake the president’s hand. And he also got a photo of him, which he still displays in his office.

“It was very exciting, they had the area cordoned off and you had to get their early and go through metal detectors to attend,” Campbell said. The Cherokee Tribune reported a crowd of 25,000 heard Bush speak that day.

It was a hot, muggy day and it had rained as well. At one point, Bush removed his tie and threw it into the crowd, Campbell said. Janice Priest caught the wide end of the tie, while another person caught the thin end. Neither would surrender their end of the tie, so they decided to cut it in half and share it. Janice’s husband Herb did the honors of cutting the tie in two, Campbell said.

Jane Hancock was selected to sing the national anthem at the event following auditions for the honor.

“When it was time for me to sing, I don’t remember being nervous, but I’m sure I was,” Hancock said. “The excitement was overwhelming. I was standing on the stage with the President of the United States! It was certainly a day I will never forget.”

Not surprisingly, Bush thanked a list of local and statewide figures by name and included local landmarks and high schools in his remarks on a rainy day in which he addressed a crowd of thousands in a wet shirt, his sleeves rolled up. His entire speech is available online from the Government Publishing Office, but his opening remarks included:

“You know, this reminds me of a great country song, ‘If you want to see a rainbow, you've got to take a little rain.’ And we're going to show the American people a rainbow.

“May I salute Mayor (David) Rogers and thank my friend of long standing, and I hope your next Senator, Paul Coverdell, for that introduction; salute our leader, Newt Gingrich, who helps us so much in Washington; members of the city council here; the cheerleaders and bands from Cherokee and Etowah and Sequoyah High Schools; and Daron Norwood, the Spirit of Atlanta; and of course, Dr. Johnny Hunt, who I'm told is not only a spiritual leader here, but that First Baptist Church here in Woodstock stands for family, family values, one Nation under God. Jane Hancock and Audra Dinsmore and Johnny Isakson, thank you all. And of course, I'm glad to be standing here with one of Woodstock's own, my friend Orlando Wilson, who is a good — if anybody likes bass fishing, they know all about this guy. Now, Fred Cooper, my chairman, and Alec Poitevint, our leaders, thank you all.

“It's great to be here in Cherokee County, the land of the free and the home of the Warriors. Okay, and let's not forget the Chiefs and the Eagles. Frankly, it's great to be out of that D.C. mode and out on the campaign trail, taking our case to the American people. We are going to give them something to talk about down at Dean's Store here in Woodstock.”