I had the great fortune of driving George Weeks through the Upper Peninsula to cover the Great Lakes Circle Tour as a member of Governor Blanchard’s staff in 1987. As a student of Michigan history and politics, I considered this to be a great assignment. George had covered everyone and everything in Michigan politics throughout his illustrious career as an esteemed UPI journalist, Detroit News political columnist and former Press Secretary of Governor William G. Milliken.
The Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Travel Bureau were unveiling the Great Lakes Circle Tour which promoted travelling along designated roadways and communities along Michigan’s 3,288 miles of shoreline. Michigan has the distinction of the longest freshwater coastline in the US and the second longest coast line in the US next to Alaska.
Communities along Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior held special events throughout the summer of 1987 to celebrate the Great Lakes. Governor Blanchard would make stops at each site along the tour route and note the attractions in each community and speak about the value of the Great Lakes to Michigan’s tourism industry. My job was to drive George to each event in the U.P. to, hopefully, obtain great coverage for the state’s tourism initiative.
I drove George Weeks from St. Ignace to Sault St. Marie, Whitefish Point, Grand Marais, Munising, Au train and then Marquette when the Lake Superior portion of the Circle Tour was being highlighted. There were scheduled events at each stop along the way. Much of our conversation throughout our drive consisted of me asking George about working in politics, covering Presidents, the U.S. Congress, the Michigan Legislature and world affairs.
I remember making a special stop at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum because George was particularly interested in the Edmund Fitzgerald and Michigan Shipwrecks. We covered a lot of ground that day on the road and in our conversations. The day started off brilliantly with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. As we progressed from stop to stop the sky became increasingly overcast and threatened rain. George was overjoyed.
George told me that one of Governor Blanchard’s claims was that he was never caught in the rain at any public event during his time as Governor. Whether it was a parade, a county fair, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, neither gloomy or grey skies ever thwarted a gubernatorial event. George indicated that he already had a column written that was in his desk drawer in the newsroom and he was waiting for the day when he could have it published. Essentially, the article was going to cast a lighthearted dig at the Governor for being caught in inclement weather. He said all he needed to do was make minor revisions as to the location where the Governor was caught in the rain and then it would be set to print. George stated hopefully, “If I could get a photograph of the drenched Governor that would be icing on the cake.”
As George was discussing his plan with great excitement, raindrops began gently flicking against the windshield. I hesitated to turn on the wipers because I thought that would ensure more rain. Somewhere between Grand Marais and Munising the gentle rain picked up and became a full-on rainstorm. George acknowledged that in all fairness he would have to actually see the Governor caught in the rain to legitimately run the story. He gleefully suggested that he would find a pay phone at the next stop and call the editor’s desk to retrieve the article from his desk drawer, make the revision, and it would run in the Detroit News the next day.
As a dutiful and loyal staff member, this became a perplexing matter for me. I told George that if it was still raining by the time I got to Munising that I was not going to stop at the scheduled event and I was just going to keep driving to the next event in Marquette. George retorted, “that’s not fair, your unwavering loyalty to your boss is preventing me from doing my job.”
Thankfully, the clouds dispersed and all was sunshine and blue skies by the time we pulled into Munising. The event went off without a hitch and there were no raindrops to be found. Tragedy averted.
George and I would always laugh about our adventure when we ran into each other at the State Capitol. I learned a great deal from George through his columns over the years. He was a good man, and many will miss him.
Many years ago Peter Dewan worked around the State Capitol for a number of elected officials. He began working in Jim Blanchard’s congressional office in Oakland County, and worked as a Special Assistant/Legislative Liaison for
Governor Blanchard during his two terms. Mr. Dewan also worked as a
Special Assistant to Secretary of State Richard Austin during his final term in office, then worked for former State Representative Mike Griffin in the Michigan House. Peter Dewan is an independent insurance agent and has been in the insurance industry for nearly 25 years.