George W. Bush, living at the Texas Governor's Mansion in 1998, was in Columbus to raise money for the late Paul Coverdell's campaign for U.S. Senate.
If the governor thought he could get in and out of town quietly, then he did not appreciate the tenacity of Nan Pate, a history and government teacher at Brookstone School.
When she heard he was coming, Pate grabbed the phone.
Before she was through, she arranged for her students to meet Bush at the private airline terminal in Columbus.
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She also invited a columnist from the Ledger-Enquirer. I arrived early, figuring Bush would be landing soon.
Instead of getting off a private jet, Bush appeared from inside the terminal. There were no speeches and no security men in 10-gallon hats. He mingled with the students as if he had known them all of their lives, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
He was 878 miles from home but he seemed to be at home.
Pate was in her element. She retired in 2012 after 42 years and among her students were an NFL fullback, a Georgia state senator, a Superior Court judge, a Hollywood scriptwriter and a stand-up comedian. Her students that morning came bearing questions but so did Bush.
"Come over here, I need to ask you something," he told a group of girls.
"I've got twin daughters," he said. "They're bugging me about staying out late. What kind of curfew do you girls have?"
Answers stretched from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sounding like a concerned father, Bush thanked them for their input and said he would share his findings with his 16-year-old daughters.
"I've got to have a curfew for them because I remember all the trouble I used to get in when I stayed out late."
I introduced myself and he grabbed my hand.
"You have a great building," he said, referring to the newspaper's former headquarters on 12th Street. "It looks like it ought to be in Texas."
That afternoon at Aflac CEO Dan Amos' house, Republicans paid to have their picture taken with Bush.
Remembering our conversation, he talked about people migrating from Georgia to the Republic of Texas, including Mirabeau B. Lamar, who founded the first newspaper in Columbus.
A year later, Bush became our 43rd president, staying in the White House for two terms. He came back to Columbus in 2012 to headline the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum, two years after first lady Laura Bush.
On Aug. 24, the whole family will be here and it's a hotter ticket than a Texas Ranger baseball game. Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush will join their parents this time.
And maybe George W. will let them stay out late.