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Source: The Greeneville Sun
by Amy Rose
The success of the year-long Bicentennial Celebration of the birth of President Andrew Johnson was recognized Monday night in a two-hour reception at the General Morgan Inn.
Numerous groups and individuals were honored for devoting their time, money or energy to the year-long celebration that culminated Monday with a birthday party, wreath-laying ceremony and spectacular fireworks display.
(For photos, video, and the article about the 200th birthday celebration that appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 30, edition of The Greeneville Sun, visit www.GreenevilleSun.com.)
After several hundred members of the general public gathered to celebrate Johnson's 200th birthday, an estimated 100 invited guests attended the "Recognition Ceremony" of the Andrew Johnson Bicentennial Celebration Steering Committee.
The ceremony was led by committee co-chairs Carlos Whaley and Jim Small, chief of operations of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, and Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
Many of the leaders they recognized gave brief remarks as they received their personalized certificates of appreciation.
The certificates said, "Your contributions have made this year a success in educating the public about the unique heritage of this community and the life and legacy of President Johnson."
Top Hats, Tailor's Shears
The tables held centerpieces of black top hats, tailor's shears and an iron, copies of the U.S. Constitution and miniature replicas of the Andrew Johnson Homestead.
Whaley opened the ceremony by telling the crowd, "Tonight is about you and what you have done this year in celebrating the life of one of the most remarkable East Tennessee politicians."
He thanked government officials from Greene County, the Town of Greeneville, and the Town of Mosheim for their support of the celebration.
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles said, "It takes a lot of people working together to make great things happen." He added, "I'm sure if Andrew Johnson were here today, he would be proud."
Greeneville Mayor Laraine King said the year-long celebration has brought visitors to Greeneville and has increased awareness of Johnson's life both locally and across the nation.
Kathy Knight spoke for former Greeneville Mayor Darrell Bryan, who was in office when the celebration began. She said Bryan thought the year-long celebration would involve a true commitment from the entire community, and it would make Greeneville a destination place.
Small 'Worked Tirelessly'
Whaley then recognized Small for beginning the planning process for the overall celebration and for organizing the first work day to brainstorm ideas from community leaders in April 2007.
"He has worked tirelessly," Whaley said of Small.
Whaley asked all the members of the steering committee to stand as he called their names. In addition to himself, Small, Watts and Knight, the committee included Jim Austin, of Andrew Johnson Bank; Denise Carr and LeRoy Ripley, of the George Clem Multicultural Association; Earl Fletcher, director of the Nathanael Greene Museum; Larry Henderson, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Andrew Johnson Post 1990; Tammy Kinser, tourism director of the Greene County Partnership; Nancy McNeese Monger, Greeneville alderman and former executive director of Main Street: Greeneville; Dr. Robert Orr, historian; and Sarah Webster, Greeneville alderman.
Clark Planned Event
Whaley then recognized Anita Clark, administrative officer of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, for her work in planning the celebration held Monday to commemorate Johnson's actual 200th birthday.
"It has been a wonderful year," Clark said.
Watts announced that she has nominated both Small and Clark for the National Park Service's Superior Service Award for their hard work and dedication to the Bicentennial Celebration.
She also recognized the entire staff of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, commenting, "I could not be more honored and more proud of each of you."
Among the staff members is Daniel Luther, museum guide, who has portrayed Johnson throughout the year. His final official appearance of the year was made during the recognition ceremony when the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to him.
Watts recalled that she came to Greeneville in summer 2007 while planning for the Bicentennial Celebration was well under way.
She said she thought the committee's goals were "ambitious" but was told that the committee members could accomplish anything they wanted to do.
"With that in mind, we moved ahead," she recalled. "This has been a tremendous success."
One of the first leaders she remembers meeting was the now-late Dr. Don Henard, who visited her office to spearhead the drive to raise local matching funds for a national grant for the celebration.
In April it was announced that the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site was named a recipient of $100,000 as part of the National Park Centennial Initiative.
The funds were matched with $100,000 in local donations that were used for events and projects related to the Bicentennial Celebration.
The Andrew Johnson site was one of 110 national parks that received more than $50 million for special projects to be funded by an equal combination of public and private funds.
Niswonger, Cantler Efforts
Watts recalled that when Henard died unexpectedly in May, two men -- Scott Niswonger and Bob Cantler -- stepped up to continue the funding drive, "out of the kindness of their hearts and in honor of Dr. Henard."
Good Things In 2009
Cantler said the Bicentennial Celebration will carry over into 2009 with tourism enhancement through continued marketing of the local community.
Small agreed, noting that a new billboard on Interstate 81, near the Baileyton exit, points motorists toward Greeneville.
The billboard, erected earlier this month by the steering committee, has a photo of presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson and simply states, "Lincoln Chose Johnson, Discover Why, Home of the 17th President, Greeneville -- This Exit."
"The ball is rolling, and its up to us to keep it rolling," Small said.
Media Coverage Recognized
Watts introduced John M. Jones Jr., editor of The Greeneville Sun, which worked with the steering committee to create a Web site devoted to the Bicentennial Celebration.
Watts also expressed appreciation for the newspaper's coverage of the events throughout the year.
Jones congratulated the committee for developing a great plan and then functioning with excellence to execute the plan.
He noted that the various events held throughout the year -- lectures, a scholarly symposium at Tusculum College, Civil War reenactment activities, concerts and other family-oriented celebrations -- showed "remarkable diversity."
Battle Of Blue Springs
Whaley introduced Jim Allen, executive director of the annual Battle of Blue Springs Civil War reenactment.
Allen congratulated the steering committee and said the year-long celebration "gave us an opportunity to show what we're capable of in Greene County."
He noted that the steering committee sponsored the battle reenactment's Education Day this year, enhancing the historic presentations made to area students.
Watts introduced George Collins, director of Museum and Program Studies at Tusculum College, where several educational programs were held throughout the year.
Collins noted that the Bicentennial gave Tusculum College the opportunity to present educational programs to more than 1,200 area school children and 2,500 adults.
African-American Task Force
LeRoy Ripley, of the African-American Task Force, recalled the organization's two-day seminar held in April in conjunction with the Bicentennial.
He also stressed the importance of local representatives traveling to Nashville with a proclamation that resulted in Emancipation Day being declared on Aug. 8 in Tennessee.
Ripley recalled Johnson's important role in emancipation, noting that he freed his own slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted.
Main Street: Greeneville
Watts recognized Main Street: Greeneville as the organization that funneled the money for the Bicentennial.
Jann Mirkov, executive director, recognized both John Hendrix and former executive director Nancy McNeese Monger for their roles in the celebration.
She noted that Main Street's "Walk with the President" downtown walking tours have enhanced the celebration, including a tour provided Monday for 25 visitors from Ventura, Calif.
Nathanael Greene Museum
Earl Fletcher, director of the Nathanael Greene Museum, noted that visitation at the museum is up 14 percent this year, "due greatly to the Bicentennial Celebration."
The year of events was kicked off at the museum with a 199th birthday party for Johnson on Dec. 29, 2007.
Greene County Partnership
Randy Harrell, president of the Greene County Partnership, said he was both humbled and proud to be a part of the celebration.
He noted his love for American history, especially that of the Civil War.
He encouraged the continued preservation of Civil War history and commented, "Andrew Johnson was a great man."
Greeneville City Schools
Dr. Vicki Kirk, assistant director of the Greeneville City School System, spoke about a new fifth-grade curriculum developed this year in conjunction with the Bicentennial.
She recognized retired teachers Carolyn Ward, Mary Jo Slagle and Sandra Britton for writing the curriculum and her administrative assistant, Sheila Bailey, for distributing it.
Dr. Bob Orr
Historian Dr. Bob Orr, who has written a series of newspaper articles and participated in lectures throughout the year, said the celebration has explained Johnson's life and defended his policies in a way that many scholars choose not to.
He said scholars often create "a fantasy world" about Johnson's life that the Bicentennial Celebration has refuted.
"Thank God for the American people and their passion for truth and history as it actually happened," Orr said.
Other supporters who were recognized for their financial contributions, in-kind donations, hard work and other support include:
* Niswonger Foundation;
* Mary G.K. Fox Foundation;
* Patterson-Bartlett Corporation;
* First Tennessee Foundation of First Tennessee Bank;
* Betty Austin of Austin & Co.;
* Madge Walker, director of the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library;
* Greeneville Light & Power System;
* U.S. Postal Service;
* Greeneville Junior Woman's Club;
* Andrew Johnson Women's Club;
* Greeneville Arts Council;
* Girl Scout Troop 214;
* Nolachuckey District of the Boy Scouts of America;
* Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) of both Greeneville and Greene County;
* Daughters of the American Revolution;
* Consumer Credit Union;
* Bewley Properties, Inc.;
* Greene County Coach; and
* Representatives of all local veterans groups.
Near the end of the recognition ceremony, Harrell asked the crowd to stand and recognize Small, Whaley, Watts and the rest of the steering committee for their hard work to make the Bicentennial Celebration a success.