Birmingham recall: President Bush visits the city in 2002

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Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, left, greets President Bush, right, as he arrives at Birmingham International Airport in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, left, greets President Bush, right, as he arrives at Birmingham International Airport in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

On this day in Birmingham history, President George W. Bush visited the city in 2002.

President Bush spoke first at the Alys Stephens Center on the campus of the University of Alabama-Birmingham on the topic of national security. He opened his remarks by emphasizing his administration’s connections to Alabama, in particular the City of Birmingham.

“I want to first tell you how proud I am to be back in Alabama,” Bush said, according to his presidential papers. “It’s a great State. It’s produced some wonderful Americans, starting with my National Security Adviser, born and raised, Condoleezza Rice, right here in Birmingham. And I’d be in trouble with the Secretary of State [Colin Powell] — at least his wife — if I didn’t remind you all that Alma Powell was raised—born and raised right here in Birmingham, Alabama, too.”

Bush then travelled to the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) to give a speech in support of Bob Riley’s campaign for governor. He began by joking about his inability to get Alabama politicians successfully elected. As Bush references, he left his position in the Texas Air National Guard in 1972 to serve as political director for Red Blount’s bid for U.S. Senate.

“I don’t know whether you know this or not,” Bush said at the BJCC, “but in 1972, I helped organize Red Blount’s campaign for the United States Senate right here in the State of Alabama. Because of me and Jimmy Allison, he managed to get 32 percent of the vote.”

Bush misstated Blount’s share of the vote, which was actually 34.7 percent. Still, Blount lost the election to John Sparkman, who won just over 65 percent of the state’s votes.

Birmingham recall” is a series of ongoing articles documenting notable events in the city’s past. Check back each weekday to recall another event in Magic City history.

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