Although I love going to the Celebration each year and to take candid shots and kibbutz with the folks in the press box, there have been only a few times since I've been at the T-G when I was actually the lead reporter for covering the show each night. Usually, we rely on someone who actually knows something about the industry.
In 1992, for whatever reason, I was covering the show. That was the year when Bud Dunn rode crowd favorite Dark Spirit's Rebel to the World Grand Championship.
As I was leaving on that Saturday night, I saw Gov. Ned McWherter, who had made the presentation at center ring, in the Celebration offices under the west grandstand. I asked him for a comment.
"My horse won," he said, beaming.
Gov. McWherter visited Bedford County on a number of occasions. I remember a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Shelbyville Municipal Airport to celebrate the completion of four-laning U.S. 231 between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. The late Franklin Yates, long-time publisher of the Times-Gazette, was by then retired and in very poor health. But he had been dogged in his support of the highway project, and had personally spoken to Gov. McWherter and his predecessors about it. So they brought Mr. Yates to the ribbon-cutting. He stayed in the car, and Gov. McWherter walked over to the car and shook Mr. Yates' hand.
McWherter, the son of sharecroppers, rose to the pinnacle of Tennessee government, first as speaker of the house and then as a two-term governor. He was a unique and popular figure, and I doubt we'll see anyone exactly like him any time soon.