Governor-elect Bill Haslam at a reception the night before his inauguration. He's with Emmy and Frank Cerveny, former rector of St. John's Cathedral and a retired Episcopal bishop.
I had only been to one inauguration before this weekend: Bill Clinton’s. It wasn’t that much fun. We tromped around in the cold rain only to end up packed into a warehouse-like space where the closest we got to food or drink was hearing a rumor that there was some.
Then the Clintons came in, danced one dance, and left. We were so far away, we only saw it on the overhead television screens. Bummer.
This weekend was nothing like that. It was so much fun that it’s going to take me a two-part blog post to do it justice! I’m speaking, of course, of the inauguration of former Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam as Tennessee’s 49th governor, the first one from Knoxville since Reconstruction.
It’s hard to describe the sheer excitement in the air from start to finish. It felt like all of Knoxville was there — and they were ready to celebrate!
The festivities began on Friday when we drove to Nashville in time to attend a reception hosted by the governor-elect’s brother and sister-in-law, Jimmy and Dee Haslam. Although the invitation said it was a gathering of “a few close friends and relatives,” we noted the location was the ballroom of the Hermitage Hotel. I guess when most of Knoxville is your friend, that’s what it takes.
Now I’ve been to my share of receptions. But I have never seen a happier group than was gathered in that ballroom on Friday. (The food was a hoot, too. Among the offerings: shaved ham, sweet potato biscuits, and a beautiful sterling silver tray of pork rinds!)
Natalie Haslam, center, with two of her three daughters, Susan Robie and Jenny McCabe
Bill Haslam's sister, Ann Bailey, with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, center, and her husband, Steve Bailey
Jim Haslam, left, and Tommy Griscom, former editor and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Alan Carmichael, left, and Mitch Steenrod, CFO of Pilot Flying J.
Bill and Donna Cobble with Joe Fielden, right
From left, Lin and Chris Christenberry, John Gill and Ruth Fielden
From left, Jim Shelby, Brient Mayfield, Judy Morton, Bobbie Congleton and Billie Shelby
From left, John and Sondra Faris and Tami and Bruce Hartmann
Charlie and Moll Anderson
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
Bill and Crissy Haslam's son, Will
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and his wife, Allison
Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley and Linda Fleming
Nick and Rebecca Cazana with Albert Harb, right
Alan, left, greets Susan and Arthur Seymour
Pilot people. Tami and Tim Purcell, at left, and Alan and Ellen Wright at right. The men both are Pilot Flying J execs.
From left, Ileen and UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV and his wife, Jolene
James Pratt and Margie Nichols
Susan Williams and state Rep. Frank Niceley
The scene inside the Hermitage ballrooom
The party eventually spilled out into the hotel lobby.
Music was by the Pat Patrick Band, a group the Haslams like and use often. They played, for instance, at the wedding reception of Ann and Steve Bailey.
There was a country music concert Friday night, but we were starving (that’s what I get for taking pictures instead of noshing at the reception!), so we went to our favorite Nashville restaurant, Tin Angel, for dinner. Many of us Knoxvillians were staying at the Opryland Hotel where all the balls and parties were to be held on Saturday.
Knoxvillians Mickey Mallonee, left, and Diana Morgan in the lobby of the Opryland Hotel. There were tons of us there!
Saturday morning was cold but, thankfully, not raining. After skipping the prayer breakfast, which we hear was wonderful and featured the Oak Ridge Boys
singing “Amazing Grace,” we headed to Legislative Plaza, the site for the inauguration.
These mounted police were part of a massive and visible security presence which I, for one, was happy to see.
We found, in every seat, these packages of hand warmers. What a great idea. “I wondered why all the Pilots
were out of them,” one of my Twitter friends cracked.
The event was 30 minutes late getting started, but there was plenty of people-watching to pass the time.
Diana and Mickey were dressed appropriately. I, as usual, forgot my coat in the hotel room. Brrrr!
Security was stationed on the roofs of all surrounding buildings.
At 11:30, the official inauguration began with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect. Both houses of the legislature were called into session. Outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen was escorted in. Haslam and his family were escorted in. We pledged allegiance to the flag. The Oak Ridge Boys sang the National Anthem.
Tennessee’s poet laureate made a big goof when she recited a poem in honor of “William Harold Haslam.” His middle name actually is “Edward.” But, no matter. We assumed the right guy was being sworn in!
Bredesen made brief farewell remarks. Haslam took the oath and made a speech you’ve seen and read about. He messed up swearing in his cabinet and charmed everyone by acknowledging it in a self-deprecating manner.
Gov. Phil Bredesen making his farewell remarks.
Jim and Natalie Haslam watch his son, Bill, being sworn in as governor.
I know you are wondering why I don’t have a photo of Bill Haslam actually taking the oath of office. Well, it’s because he was blocked from my view by one of those darned teleprompters! I figured the professional photographers would get plenty of that shot anyway.
I was able to get an unobstructed view of the military fly-over, though!
And then, it was over! Time for more mingling on the Plaza and then a parade!
Alan talks with Congressman Jimmy Duncan, center, and Knoxville Mayor Dan Brown after the ceremony.
Knoxvillian Russell Bird of Comcast.
These folks were bragging on the fact that Bill Haslam graduated from Webb School of Knoxville in 1976. (At first I thought they were protesters!)
Gene Patterson of WATE-TV iinterviewed Jimmy Haslam on the Plaza after his brother was sworn in.
Jimmy chatting with his friend Steve Ridenour.
The parade was a blast. The Austin East band from Knoxville was in it. Everyone yelled when they saw the Tennessee State University Band approaching. “That’s the best band in the state,” someone asserted.
The TSU band approaches.
TSU has a BIG band!
Pride of the Southland Band
Our friend David McMahan
, arguably the best lobbyist in the state, was hosting a reception back at the Hermitage where we had been the night before. We stopped by to say hello.
David McMahan, left, and Congressman Duncan
While we were there, we ran into Knoxvillians David and Nancy Keith
, who used to be our next-door neighbors on Cherokee Boulevard.
Actor David Keith and his wife, Nancy
One of the more surprising sights at the Hermitage was our friend Polly Ailor Tullock, in the midst of the reception and buffet in the lobby and the parade just outside the door, sitting quietly in a chair knitting!
Polly passing time.
We wanted to visit the Impressionists exhibit at the Frist
museum, but the wait was over two hours. We decided to have lunch at beautiful Union Station
next door to the Frist before heading back to the hotel to rest and change into party clothes for the round of balls scheduled for Saturday at the Opryland. Come back to the Blue Streak tomorrow for part two, when you will see Crissy Haslam in one of the prettiest dresses I think I’ve ever seen.
I made poor Alan pose by the huge sculpture of a stack of books located outside the library (of course!). Cool.
The lobby of Union Station, which is now a hotel.