Hundreds gather for Gov. Haslam’s inauguration
Posted: Monday, January 17, 2011 9:12 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
and LUCAS JOHNSON II
NASHVILLE (AP) — Alex Johnson drove across half the state to witness Bill Haslam’s swearing-in as Tennessee’s 49th governor on Saturday, and he said afterward the inauguration was well worth the trip.
“This is the first campaign that I’ve really heavily participated in, so it’s nice to see the fruit of that labor,” the 29-year-old Sevierville resident said.
Johnson was among hundreds of people who gathered in the Legislative Plaza to see the Republican businessman sworn in as the first governor from Knoxville since William G. “Parson” Brownlow in 1865.
The crowd was granted a break from the bitter cold and snow that had gripped the city all week, as Saturday’s ceremony took place in bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 40s.
In the invocation, Rabbi Mark Schiftan of the Temple of Nashville prayed for “faith without fanaticism, for tolerance of views differing from our own.”
Tennessee poet laureate Margaret Britton Vaughn followed with a reading of her inaugural poem “The USS Volunteer.”
“No storm can rock her, block her or dry dock her, she’s always on course,” she read. “Take the helm, Capt. Haslam. The USS Volunteer awaits you.”
According to state archivist and librarian Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee’s oath of office has remained largely unchanged over the years. One exception was Gov. James C. “Lean Jimmy” Jones, who in 1841 also took an oath to prohibit dueling.
Not all new governors have made an inaugural address. In 1890, Willie Blount sent a written message to the Legislature instead of making a speech, saying he was “unaccustomed to addressing public assemblies.” Among those who have made speeches, the shortest on record was by Isham Harris, who in 1857 said only: “I am ready to take the oath of office.”
At the inauguration of Frank Goad Clement in 1963, a 19-gun salute set fire to the Capitol lawn. National Guardsmen beat out the blaze with their feet.
During Saturday’s ceremony, snipers were positioned on buildings surrounding the ceremony site, though Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said they are a common security measure for inaugurations and not a response to the recent Arizona shootings that killed six and left a congresswoman critically wounded.
A total of about 160 law enforcement officers from around the state provided security for the event.
“It’s a collaborative effort with the Nashville Police Department,” Trott said. “We use our special ops people along with their SWAT people.”
Tennessee National Guard aircraft conducted a fly-over of the ceremony at 2,100 feet shortly after noon. The group was made up of two C-130 Hercules, one KC-135R Stratotanker and one C-5A Galaxy.
Following the ceremony, several bands, including the Tennessee State University marching band, paraded through part of downtown and in front of the Legislative Plaza as Haslam, his wife Crissy, and other family members waved to participants and clapped along to music. Vendors sold cotton candy alongside the parade.
Haslam’s first official act as governor was to swear in his Cabinet, and when he flubbed some of his lines he remarked with a laugh: “My first act isn’t going so well”
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, joked in response: “It’s uphill from here, OK?”
After the inaugural ceremony and the parade, the celebration shifted to the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort on the outskirts of town, where the new governor attended a series of receptions and dinners, followed by the inaugural ball.
Lobbyists, lawmakers and members of the business community were heavily represented at exclusive events for sponsors and other key supporters.
Published in The Messenger 1.17.11