TOWNSEND (WATE) – Because Tennessee isn’t a traditional battleground state, presidents haven’t made frequent visits. However, several presidents have come to Knoxville and the surrounding area over the years.
President Ronald Reagan welcomed a crowd tens of thousands strong to the 1982 World’s Fair. Nearly two decades later, President George W. Bush made several trips to Knoxville and East Tennessee.
President Bush visited Townsend Elementary in 2001 to talk about No Child Left Behind and put a spotlight on a school that was continuing to make academic achievements.
Cynthia Parcell remembers that trip vividly.
“I got the call from my principal who said, ‘You will not believe what is happening,’” said Parcell, a secretary at Townsend Elementary.
The president was coming. Cynthia Parcell says news of the visit to her little school came out of nowhere and the next three days were focused solely on preparing for President Bush.
“It became the mad dash rush to get everything ready,” she said. “They came in earlier days and secured the entire hill with snipers up in the woods and all the things that would happen in a movie if the President came – it was all real.”
Townsend Elementary is a small school with a little over a hundred students and only one hallway. Parcell says the little school was overtaken with media and security, all so the president could read a story to the kids.
“Everything was covered with men in black,” she said.
Parcell says her favorite part of President Bush’s visit was how much time he wanted to spend with the kids, even when his handlers told him to move on with his schedule.
“He was reading a story to second grade and he said, ‘I want to finish my story,’ and that made a big impression on the children,” Parcell remembered.
The day the president came is now only a memory, but it’s something Parcell will remember for the rest of her life.
“It was a very exciting time, very honoring and humbling to think the president of the United States would come to our little town and our little school. And he loved it. I never will forget it. Never will forget it.”