Crissy Haslam: Bill can be persistent

Excerpt from a Tennessean story wherein Crissy Haslam recounts her early encounters at Emory University with her husband, Bill Haslam, now the governor of Tennessee:

The first time they met was in front of the Christian fellowship table in Emory’s student center. She noticed his first-week freshman nametag: “Bill Haslam, Knoxville.”

The second time, she went to a fraternity house where she asked a friend if there might be any freshmen she could meet.

“Yeah, I picked one out for you,” the friend said. “His name is Bill Haslam.”

The third time, another friend took her to church that first Sunday, and he showed up with a surprise passenger.

“The guy in the back seat is Bill Haslam,” her friend announced.

Were there any sparks between the two that week?

“I thought he was really handsome,” the first lady said, “but I thought he had a real hillbilly voice, an East Tennessee twang.”

Still, she was intrigued. And Haslam was persistent.

He asked her out twice, and she declined, saying both times she had prior obligations.

The third time he asked her out that semester, she said yes. She agreed to go to his fraternity function at 5:30 p.m., but she rushed through it — because she had another date with a different guy at 8 that night.

“He’s always like, ‘You late-dated me our first date!’ ” Crissy Haslam said, laughing. “I say, ‘I knew if I turned you down that third time, you’d probably never call me again.’ ”

Still, the two stayed friends, in part, Crissy Haslam said, because her future husband was “a nerd” at Emory, always studying in the library, not socializing or dating as much as other students.

“He was a choir boy,” she said, “a straight arrow.”

Then, one late night junior year, Crissy Haslam got a phone call; her younger sister, Anne, had died in a car crash.

“She was a senior in high school,” the first lady said, tears in her eyes.

“Kind of a freakish thing. Why in the world? How could this happen? You don’t even think about death when you’re that age.”

Her parents had arranged a flight for their surviving daughter to come home early that very next morning. Crissy needed a ride to the airport, and she was going to have to wake up someone to do that.

She remembered that Haslam’s mom had died when he was a junior in high school; she just knew he would understand.

“I didn’t call the guy I was dating. I called my friend Bill,” she said. “He would be OK if I was sobbing the whole way to the airport.”

A month or so later, the two started to date, and they got married about two years later.