The Mile High View

George McClure portrait by Ann Litrel

The Mile High View – pastel on board, 12” x 9”

(For a custom portrait contact me, or visit my Etsy shop online for details.)

 

Pilot and Developer George McClure Looks at the Teamwork That Built a Regional Airport

George McClure is a former Chairman of the Cherokee County Airport Authority, and has served on the Authority board since the mid 1980’s. As one of the original developers of Towne Lake and also a Cherokee County native, he has seen the airport runway grow from 3,400 feet to its current 5,000 feet, accommodating the aviation community and a growing number of corporate jets. The Cherokee County Airport is located on Airport Drive at 575 and Exit 24.  

 This story is part of a series featuring local leaders and visionaries, some behind the scenes, who have had an impact on the community. 

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“I drag-raced on the runway as a teenager. I knew it was here, you see.”

George McClure smiles as he shares this rare snapshot from his past. He’s seated in the second-story conference room at Cherokee County’s regional airport terminal. Wall-to-wall windows showcase a spectacular view of the runway under blue October skies. McClure shifts often in his chair, his tall form constantly in motion. I ask him to talk about his connection to the airport. But he is not interested in telling his personal story. He has shown up with a thick file of notes: he wants to make sure we recognize the many people who built the airport, and how it’s grown.

“This airport is here because of a whole team of people,” he says. “It was the Canton Jaycees that got it built, in 1966. Norman Sosebee was part of that group.” He looks through his file for the names. “Also Bud Chambers, Lee Winn, and N.J. Wilbanks – Wilbanks’ dad actually gave some of the land. They built the first hangar and the runway. In 1968 the Airport Authority Board was created – Norman Sosebee served on the board for forty years.”

Knowing McClure is a County native, I ask if he got interested in flying when he saw the airport being built. He smiles and mentions his drag-racing on the runway as a teen. He also confides that he and a buddy dreamed of owning a plane. “Flying was always on my bucket list.”

He leapfrogs over large chunks of his past to get back to the airport story. “But I went to school and studied accounting. I worked in the corporate world for a while, and I rose to the VP position. When I left, I got into building, as a developer. In the mid-1980’s I was doing a project off Bells Ferry. That’s when Gene Hobgood – the County Chairman – re-activated the Airport Authority Board. The airport hadn’t changed too much since the 60’s.

“I was a pilot by that time, so I knew the aviation side.”

McClure glosses over this to focus on the players. “I understood how to do big projects, how to push dirt. Gene asked me and Don Stevens to serve on the board. Don’s also a developer. Also Bill Johnson, an Atlanta commercial developer, and Homer Gold – ‘Nugget,’  a Canton physician. He was the Chairman then. I was Chairman for years after that, and Don Stevens is the current one.

“We’ve all played a part, you see,” he looks at me to emphasize the point. “But it was Bill Johnson who had the vision. I want to say that.

“Bill had the idea of putting together a business plan. We had been getting funding from the FAA in small doses, $100,000 here, $200,000 there. Bill had us go to the FAA with a business plan for a 5,000 foot runway and this new terminal. The County would put up half the money if the FAA would put up the other half.

“It was a paradigm shift from how we were operating.”

I ask if this work on the airport has been a paid position. “No,” he says emphatically. “The airport authority is prohibited from making money. It’s part of the charter.

“I like the jazz of doing it – it’s the challenge. And the airport helps the whole community. It brings in business. The thing I’m proudest of is that we’ve had one hundred per cent support of every elected official since we started. We’re one hundred per cent transparent. I’m very proud of that.”

I ask him if there is a connection between flying and the other things he’s done in his life.

“Flying is real helpful when you’re a developer. Flying gives you the mile-high view – you get a whole different perspective at 5,000 feet.”

It’s the perspective McClure seems to keep, no matter his elevation.

Comments

  1. Philip Litrel says:

    Ann, I think you are doing the people of Cherokee County and the town of Woodstock a great service by highlighting the people who have been at the foundation of the our blossoming communities.
    Thank You

    • Ann Litrel says:

      Thank you!
      It’s been a treat to talk with people who have helped grow this community – They each have a unique perspective.
      Honestly, I look forward to what I’ll find out with each new interview!

  2. Holt Westbrook says:

    I really enjoyed reading this feature on George. I had the pleasure of teaching a class with him for years at Eagle’s Nest Homes and I am proud to call him a friend.

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