“Have you met the man?”
That’s the answer I gave out twice last week when I was asked a question about Joe Hollingsworth Jr. and the park the Hollingsworth Foundation is planning in South Clinton — The Aspire Park.
The first question was, “Why’s he doing this?”
The person who asked me this question was looking for a motive — something concrete to hang their hat on.
There has to be a “reason,” something that sounds realistic, something “worldly,” as it were.
How about this? Joe Hollingsworth loves Clinton.
Not tangible enough?
There has to be a catch, right?
Something more, some kind of explanation that sounds good when someone asks you and you feel silly just saying, “The man loves Clinton.”
Spend 45 minutes talking with the man and you’ll hear a lot of about growing up in Clinton. You’ll hear a lot about the future of Clinton, the city’s potential. You’ll hear a lot about the pride he has in this small city straddling the Clinch River and how it is located, truly, in the center of God’s country.
These aren’t sales pitches. These aren’t words thrown out to get you to vote Republican or Democrat, or to buy a new washing machine.
They’re just feelings from a man who happens to be able set up a vehicle to back those feelings up.
Other people have these same feelings about Clinton. They express them, show their devotion(?) in ways they can, and they are all important. They take care of and look out for their neighbors; when they speak about this city they say good things; they get good educations and come back home and practice their chosen professions (from the courtroom to the class room to the playing fields and courts of the schools to the businesses lining our city streets); and they don’t litter — all to enrich Clinton. No external motive needed.
So yeah, I answered, “Have to you met the man?”
The second time I answered a question with that question I was asked, “Will he really do it? That’s a big project.”
And I’ve been asked that question a couple of times in a couple of ways. The answer is the same.
Have you seen the JA Building on the campus of Anderson County High School: The Joe Hollinsgworth Center For Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Call it Biz Town, or the JA Building.
It was a massive undertaking and I would need another 25,000 words to fully describe the importance this facility carries not just for Clinton, but for East Tennessee.
Or how about the Clinton Middle School Gymnasium? Because this project — to me more than any other until Aspire Park — shows the heart of the man.
The history behind the building, the important role Clinton played in the story of our nation’s struggles with Civil Rights — it’s all there. To me it shows that you never forget where you come from and you embrace your past.
Not good enough? How about the Hollinsworth Sportsplex on the campus of Clinton High School?
One of the first remarks I heard when the Hollingsworth Foundation came on board for this project was, “Well, you know it’s going to be done right.”
These three projects showed commitment to this city, this region; commitment to the youth of this city; commitment in giving each and every one of us a sense of accomplishment — “Look what we can do.”
So yeah, I answered: “Have you met the man?”
Aspire Park is a reality. It is happening.
It will be a jewell long after you and I are gone; it will be a sparkle in this area for generations.
And we can witness it from its beginnings.
And maybe for once and for all, people might start to look at Joe Hollingsworth Jr. and the Hollingsworth Foundation and be thankful — if you really love this city, if you really have pride in being from Clinton, Tennessee — they are in your corner and working, like you, for the enrichment of future generations of Clintonians.