Officially kicking off his U.S. Senate campaign at his alma mater, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker told a cheering crowd on Saturday afternoon, "Pretty big day for a boy from City High."
He chose the gymnasium of the venerable school in North Chattanooga as the setting for the Hamilton County kickoff - one of a series across the state by the energetic Corker.
Rep. Zach Wamp flew in from an inspection trip of Hurricane Katrina damage in New Orleans, to laud Corker as "the most competent person from either party running for the U.S. Senate."
His former roommate, Pilot Oil executive Jimmy Haslam, told the crowd, "We are unbelievably blessed to have somebody like Bob Corker running."
Mr. Corker was brought out last - to the pounding rhythm of "Taking Care of Business." He shook hands with many of those who were positioned on a stage behind him. They included County Mayor Claude Ramsey, County Commissioner Curtis Adams, Assessor Bill Bennett, Rep. Gerald McCormick, City Councilman Manny Rico and others.
He introduced his wife, Elizabeth; his daughters, sister and mother. He said his mother has been speaking for him on the campaign trail and "is proving to be the hit of the campaign."
The candidate told of organizing in 67 counties over the past 15 months and said he plans to visit all of Tennessee's 95 counties.
The former construction firm owner called Saturday "the day the backhoe hits the ground."
He pledged "an optimistic conservative vision for America."
At one point he joked, "I don't know where y'all were when we were two-waying MLK and McCallie" - referring to that controversy during his term as mayor.
Rep. Wamp told the crowd, "I've got a dog in the hunt. I want to work with Sen. Bob Corker the way I have worked with Sens. Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander and Sen. Fred Thompson."
He called him "extremely competent - a leader who gets things done. He is progressive yet conservative."
Rep. Wamp also called the candidate "a man of true character and a man of deep faith. He is deeply committed to his family."
He added, "I don't know of anyone who has more energy, focus and attention. He gets results."
Mr. Haslam said Bob Corker "started off basically with no money and built a huge construction company. He made a tremendous impression at the state, and he made a great city even greater.
"People like him come along only every once in a while."
Bill Raines led the Pledge of Allegiance.