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Reagan comes to FHS

President Ronald Reagan greets Anna Bellamy, then Knox County Schools supervisor, and home economics teacher Martha Bell. Accompanying the president is then Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander.- Photo Submitted
In conjunction with President Ronald Reagan’s 93rd birthday (Feb. 6) and the 100-year anniversary celebration of Farragut schools, the farragutpress is running a two-part series reliving Reagan’s visit to FHS on June 14, 1983.

In last week’s issue (page 6), then Farragut High principal James Bellamy recalled the events leading up to Reagan setting foot in FHS around noon on that memorable summer afternoon.

In part two, Bellamy starts by reliving a personal moment with the president prior to Reagan embarking on his three main objectives at FHS: a luncheon, a briefing with then Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander about Alexander’s Master Teacher Plan and a visit to Shirley Mynatt’s English class.


In addition to then Knox County Schools superintendent Earl Hoffmeister and Bellamy greeting the President, “I gave the president a (Farragut High) T-shirt and the Secret Service grabbed it before he got it to make sure there wasn’t anything in it, then they handed it to him,” Bellamy said.

As for Bellamy’s own reaction to Reagan’s visit, “they all said I was laid back,” Bellamy said. “I’m a laid-back person, I don’t get excited.”


“His favorite food was macaroni and cheese, so we fixed him chicken and macaroni and cheese,” Bellamy said about the president’s lunch, the first order of business. “They (FHS cooks) went down to Kroger’s the night before and bought it. They (Secret Service) said not to tell anybody who they were buying it for. The next day the White House chef came and watched them prepare it.”

Bellamy remembers “about thirty people” eating with the president, including Lamar Orr, a science teacher at FHS; Becky Little, a science teacher at Farragut Middle School; Pat Smith, a fifth-grade teacher at Farragut Intermediate School and Barbara Comeaux, a biology teacher at Bearden High School.


“They wanted to use the “Mini-Auditorium, it’s upstairs and holds about 250 people,” Bellamy said about the briefing site in what is now known as the Ferguson Auditorium. “They had about a-hundred-and-eight guests. There were members of the state legislature of Tennessee, there were politicians from Washington, local politicians, teachers. They negotiated for every seat.”

Then with a big laugh Bellamy added, “you had to be on the first two rows to be important.”

Reporters filled the remaining seats. “They wanted the room full because they said the President didn’t want to perform to a half-empty room,” Bellamy said. “There was two-hundred-and-fifty newspaper reporters with him, followed him everywhere he went.”


Of the approximately 300 students attending what Bellamy said was a special two-week “make-up” summer session, Reagan’s last order of business at FHS was to drop by Mynatt’s English class. The topic was Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”

“At first they said he wanted a history class,” Bellamy said. “Then they changed their minds and said that ‘he was a communicator and that an English class would be better for communication (symbolism) than a history class.”


“The President wanted to go to Maryville High School because that’s where Gov. Alexander went to school,” Bellamy said about the original plans. “But that summer they were (remodeling) and didn’t have summer school, and he wanted a summer school.”

Reagan’s visit perhaps can be attributed to the Farragut Community Day Walk-a-Thon held May 14, 1983.

“A month before he came here, we had a walk at Farragut to raise money for the community and the governor came and walked and that’s where got in mind Farragut High School,” Bellamy said. “So the governor recommended Farragut High School because we were nice to him, I reckon.”

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