Trump returning to Dalton; rally will be the first visit by a sitting president in 28 years

This photo from the Northwest Whitfield High School yearbook for 1991-92 shows Cohutta native Marla Maples and Donald Trump at the school’s Homecoming football game in the fall of 1991. Maples, a former Homecoming queen at the school, returned to crown that year’s Homecoming queen.

President Donald Trump’s appearance in Dalton next Monday will mark the first time a sitting president will have visited Dalton since President George H.W. Bush toured a Shaw Industries facility and held a rally at the airport while campaigning for reelection in August 1992.

Dalton resident Margie Witt, who said she likes Trump, said she’s thinking about going to the rally.

“You don’t get a chance to hear the president speak in person every day,” she said.

Dalton resident Jack Williams, who is a Trump supporter, said he expects a big crowd.

“He’s very popular in this area,” Williams said of the president.

Trump carried Whitfield County in November with 69.7% of the vote even while losing the state with 49.25% of the vote to Democrat Joe Biden’s 49.51% of the vote.

Trump is hosting a rally for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in next Tuesday’s general election runoff, and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who faces Democrat the Rev. Raphael Warnock in another runoff. The event, set for the Dalton Municipal Airport at 7 p.m., is open to the public.

Other speakers expected are Loeffler, Perdue, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr., a Republican member of the state’s Public Service Commission who is also involved in a runoff, and other Republicans.

Turnout for the runoffs is important, and that’s why the Republican Party will be focusing so strongly on Georgia during the next seven days, said state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton.

“Northwest Georgia and Whitfield County is a strong Republican area,” Carpenter said. “But we need to make sure that all those voters come out to vote in the runoff. We want to have a huge turnout to balance out areas where Republicans aren’t as strong.”

Whitfield County Republican Party Chairman Dianne Putnam said it’s “very exciting” that the president is coming to Dalton.

“We are very honored that he would choose Dalton, and we expect a huge turnout,” she said. “This has been a long election season, and we (local Republicans) have been working very hard.”

Trump came to Floyd County for a rally at the Richard B. Russell Regional Airport on Nov. 1, drawing a large crowd from several states.

Vice President Mike Pence came to Dalton in November 2018 while campaigning for Republican Brian Kemp, who was elected governor a few days later. Pence also came to Dalton in August 2016 when he and Trump were first seeking the vice presidency and presidency.

While this will be Trump’s first visit to Dalton as president, he is no stranger to the city. He was married to actress, model and Cohutta native Marla Maples from 1993 to 1999, and during their courtship and marriage he reportedly visited Dalton and Whitfield County several times.

Perhaps the most well-known time that Trump came to Whitfield County was in October 1991, when he accompanied Maples when she returned to Northwest Whitfield High School to crown that year’s Homecoming queen.

“The tradition at Northwest is that the Homecoming queen from 10 years ago crowns the current queen. Marla had been Homecoming queen in 1981, so (the Homecoming Committee) contacted her,” Linda Gilpatrick, principal of Northwest at the time, recalled in a 2016 story in the Daily Citizen-News. “I wasn’t part of that, but it’s my understanding that there was no problem. She agreed quickly. I do know that they (Maples and Trump) didn’t have any special demands, they didn’t require any special treatment.”

The visit brought media from across the nation to Whitfield County.

Gilpatrick recalled in 2016 that she and Trump spent about 10 to 15 minutes talking while Maples met with the Homecoming court and organizers.

“He was very friendly, but also very low-key,” she said. “He really didn’t talk about himself. He asked about the school and our students. Of course, he asked about Marla and what she was like when she was in school.”

While newspaper accounts of the event mention the “entourage” accompanying Maples and Trump, Gilpatrick recalled only a driver and a couple of bodyguards.

“I assume they were bodyguards. They mostly stood around their car while Marla and Donald met with everyone,” she said.

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