In what could become known as the most historic presidential year to date, a former congressman who is regularly sought for his campaign analysis on CNN will also share his opinions with the Sam Houston State University and Huntsville communities on Oct. 8.
A leader in many facets, J.C. Watts, the 13th of SHSU’s “President’s Speakers,” will address SHSU at 11 a.m. that day in the Beto Criminal Justice Center’s Killinger Auditorium.
Born in Eufaula, Okla., in 1957, Watts graduated from high school there and went on to play quarterback for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, leading them to two consecutive Big Eight championships and Orange Bowl victories.
He was voted Most Valuable Player in the 1980 and 1981 Orange Bowls, a title he also earned during his rookie season in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup, the CFL’s Super Bowl. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from OU in 1981.
Before his eight years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Watts also served as a leader off of the field, becoming the youth minister at Sunnylane Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., in 1987 and then an associate pastor in 1994.
Watts, a Republican who served Oklahoma’s 4th District in the U.S. Congress from 1995 to 2003 and was reportedly mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for John McCain, made headlines in June for voicing his unhappiness with his party and stating that he might not vote for McCain.
Called a “political visionary,” Watts is a regular contributor on CNN’s “Situation Room,” a frequent guest on national radio shows and writes a twice-monthly column for more than a dozen newspapers, bringing an informed viewpoint and relentless passion to issues of fiscal discipline, national defense, education, citizenship and patriotism, as well as analysis of the 2008 election.
His advice also extends beyond the political arena; he consults or serves as a corporate director for a number of major companies, including John Deere, Wells Fargo, NASCAR, Clear Channel Communications and Dillard’s Department Stores, among others.
He currently serves as the chairman of the J.C. Watts Companies, a firm that provides strategic focus and program leadership to the company’s business partnerships, joint ventures, engagements, alliances and initiatives.
Within the political arena, Watts has led a U.S. delegation to Vienna, Austria, at the request of President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell; joined Bush on his historic trip to Africa; co-founded the Coalition for AIDS Relief in Africa; and serves on the boards for Africare, the Boy Scouts of America and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
During his time in the U.S. House, Watts was elected by his peers to serve as chairman of the Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking leadership position in the majority party in the House and a position once held by Dick Cheney, Jack Kemp and Gerald Ford.
He was also the first black member of Congress not to join the Congressional Black Caucus.
Among Watts’ congressional accomplishments are co-authoring the American Community Renewal and New Markets Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000; authoring Bush’s faith based initiative, the Community Solutions Act of 2001; and developing legislation with Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) to establish a Smithsonian museum of African American history.
Established in 2002 to bring to campus prominent speakers who have lived successful and principled lives, the President’s Speaker Series is underwritten by the estate of Lu Ellen Gibbs.
Previous speakers include Gene Stallings, Debbie Fields, David Robinson, Ken Jennings, Drayton McLane Jr., Sherron Watkins and Bob Dole.
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Monday, May 3
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"The measure of a Life is its Service."