Lee Ellis of Cumming is among the tens of thousands of people
expected to take part this week in the four-day Republican National
Convention in Minnesota.
But unlike many Forsyth residents, Ellis has been a fan of presumed
Republican presidential nominee John McCain since the Arizona
senator's first presidential run in 2000.
Ellis' ties to McCain date back to the Vietnam War, when both men
were held prisoner during the same period. The two were released on
the same day and continue to meet during prisoner of war reunions.
"I know him personally. I know his character," said Ellis, who is
going as an alternate delegate. "He's very strong about his
commitments to what he believes in, and I just think ... he'll be a
great leader for our country.
"He's the kind of person who can lead us through problems in our
economy, the war on terror, dealing with Russia and dealing with the
energy crisis and put together a bipartisan effort."
McCain and his recent pick for vice presidential candidate, Alaska
Gov. Sarah Palin, will have their turns to address fellow party members.
According to the convention Web site, more than 4,600 delegates and
alternate delegates will represent their states and territories at
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Host Committee has recruited more than
10,000 volunteers and more than 16,000 hotel rooms have been booked
for the event.
This will be Ellis' first convention, though he has followed the
events since listening to the 1952 gathering on the radio. Because of
his U.S. Air Force career, though, he didn't have much time to take
But with McCain's candidacy, Ellis and several other prisoners of war
have made a concerted effort to be a part of the event.
"In the process, I decided ... McCain's running and I'm trying to
help him get elected and I probably just need to go to the convention
and be there," he said.
Along with Ellis, Bettye Chambers and Charles White will serve as
alternates and District 53 state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga,
District 1 state Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, and Josh Turner will
represent the 9th Congressional District as delegates.
Because of his long history as a McCain supporter, Ellis decided to
learn more about the delegate process.
He attended a precinct meeting, ended up as a delegate for the county
convention, then the 9th district convention and eventually worked
his way up to an alternate delegate.
Ellis left for the convention Friday with his wife, Mary, and the two
will return Sept 5.
Though he is excited to hear all the speeches during the four-day
event, Ellis said he is "most excited about getting everyone excited
about electing John McCain."
"That's the main reason I'm going, and I'm going to try to generate
as much excitement for him that I can," he said. "I want to feed on
that energy and come back ready to do what I can to help get him
With back-to-back events, speeches and meetings, Ellis said he
expects to be tired when he returns to his Cumming home.
"I think it will take a lot of energy," he said, noting the full
"There will be the convention itself that will go until pretty late
at night and then there's parties after that. I'm not a late night
party guy anymore, so I'm just hoping I can keep enough energy to
"Just the pace of it I think, it will be one thing after another
thing, but it will all be exciting."