By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

As we live our lives there are milestones along the way. Among those milestones are marriages, graduations, baptisms and other things. Those occasions are important and we remember them in detail. There have been many milestones in my 79-plus years. As I look back on my adventure of life, I see many milestones, some important, some not so important. Every once in a while I think back to the time I covered then candidate Ronald Reagan when he was running for president of the United States. Although not as important as some events, it was one I remember well.

I wore a number of hats when I was employed at the Tomahawk Newspaper and writing some news stories was part of my job. Of course I was sports editor for many years as well. As I remember it, Derl McCloud owner and editor of the Tomahawk asked me to go to Kingsport to cover the event. Reagan was on the campaign trail against Jimmy Carter with an appearance in Kingsport at Dobyns Bennett High
School. Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys were on hand to entertain the large crowd that had assembled.
I was fortunate to get a couple of pictures of the candidate. One was from several feet away while he was speaking, the other a profile of him as he was shaking hands with folks as he and his entourage walked along a rope-line. Both of the pictures were featured on the front page of the Tomahawk along with my story.
Reagan went on to win over Jimmy Carter and become the fortieth U. S president. At the age of 69, he was the oldest person ever elected to that high office. He was born February 6, 1911. He became an actor and appeared in a number of movies during his career. His first major political move was to be elected governor of California. He attained the rank of Captain in the U. S. Army Air Force. Being a radio announcer was also one of his jobs early in his life. On March 30th of 1981 he was wounded in an attempted assassination.
President Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. After struggling with Alzheimer’s disease for a number of years, he passed away on June 5, 2004 in Los Angeles.
Anyway, it was good to be at Reagan’s campaign rally in Kingsport on that day. I will always remember it.