Bethel Bible Village Benefactor Pat Boone Still Going Strong At 89

  • Thursday, June 1, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg

Pat Boone has made as many or perhaps more trips to Chattanooga than any other singer/entertainer. June 1st is his 89th birthday and he’s still recording. His latest release (2023) is entitled, “Grits.”

Pat Boone has had a life-long love of grits. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he says. Raised in Music City - Nashville, now he’s written a true-blue country “novelty song” and recruited country music stars Ray Stevens, The Gatlin Brothers, Lorrie Morgan, Deborah Allen, and country legend Roger Miller’s son, Dean Miller, to sing on his energy-charged “Grits,” tailor-made for the “line dancing crowd.”

Boone recorded dozens of hit records in the 50s and 60s including “Love Letters in the Sand”, “April Love” and “I’ll see you in my Dreams.” One of his top ten records was a Gospel song, “A wonderful time up there” which is still heard today on many oldie stations. Pat Boone hosted a national TV show; he has appeared in several movies and written top selling books.

“Hello Chattanooga,” by David Carroll documents over 20 performances by Pat Boone at the Memorial Auditorium - Tivoli by the singer whose father in law Red Foley sold over two million copies of “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy.”

Mr. Boone was married to Mr. Foley’s daughter Shirley for over 65 years. She died in 2019. Pat said of his high school sweetheart, “She’s changed her address, that’s all and moved to a different mansion that I expect to join her in one day.”

Bethel Bible Village began a popular tradition in 1975 - the Bethel Spectacular and golf tournament. In 1978, Pat Boone took over hosting duties from country singer Tom T. Hall that lasted for several decades. It featured well-known entertainers and sports figures including Perry Como, Glen Campbell, John Gary and the Forrester Sisters from Rising Fawn, Ga.

Mr. Boone said he was able to get Mr. Como to come to Chattanooga in 1986 and 1987 - the crooner fell in love with the city and the kids at Bethel.

The late Ike Keay served as Bible Bible Village director for 32 years. Mr. Keay said the kids looked forward every year to Pat Boone coming to the Hixson campus. He said the famed singer visited as many of the cottages as possible and the children especially liked it when the singer would sit down and read to them.

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Charles H. Coolidge asked Pat and Shirley Boone to serve as Grand Marshals for the Armed Forces Day Parade in Chattanooga in the early 1980’s and they accepted. The large crowd that lined Market Street cheered loudly for the Boones as their convertible passed by.

Former State Rep. Richard Floyd, a close friend of the entertainer, said, “Chattanooga owes a big thank you to Pat Boone and especially his interest in Bethel Bible Village. Happy 89th Birthday Pat.”

Billboard magazine currently ranks Pat Boone as the number ten all time recording artist.

Twenty years ago (2003) this writer interviewed Mr. Boone before his annual visit to the Scenic City. In that conversation he said the good folks at Bethel take in kids who are drifting and give them direction. “I’m addicted to Bethel,” he said.

Pat Boone and Earl Freudenberg at the Tivoli in 1990
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