Above: Ernie Rumsby, right, during a 2018 presidential visit to Johnson City.
The man who has, for most of the last decade, served as the face and voice of veterans in the Tri-Cities business community has passed away. Ernie Rumsby, founding president of the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council died this week. His passing was announced by T-C MAC via the organization’s social media accounts.
“I always appreciated Ernie’s tireless dedication to serving those who have served their country,” said Publisher Bill Derby of Derby Publishing, parent company of The Business Journal and Johnson City News & Neighbor and himself a Korea veteran. “It seemed like Ernie was at every community event, making sure active duty and retired servicemen and women were represented.”
Rumsby was an omnipresent force in the region whenever veterans’ issues were being discussed. A supporter of entrepreneurial efforts of veterans in particular, he advocated for individual veterans as they moved from the service of their country to the private sector.
In 2018, Rumsby, whose physical stature and gregarious nature allowed him to stand out in many situations, gained social media fame when he was pulled from the crowd by President Donald Trump’s handlers during a presidential campaign rally at Freedom Hall in Johnson City and given a seat directly behind the president for maximum visibility. “A woman from the administration was coming through our section before the event and saw Ernie,” remembered Andy Dietrich, who was attending the event with Rumsby and Gary Mabrey. “She saw him with his hat that showed he was a veteran and she started asking him questions about his service. The next thing you know, she was asking if he wanted to sit behind the president and hold a sign, and he said he’d love to.”
Just days before that event, Rumsby had been inducted into the ETSU Army ROTC Hall of Fame. Rumsby was also honored by the Kingsport Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship with the 2018 IMPACT Award.
A graduate of Schoolcraft College, Rumsby also attended Wayne State University. A Michigan native and U.S. Army veteran whose career also included several years working for organized labor in Florida, Rumsby formed T-C MAC in 2011.
Kingsport Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine (USMC, ret.) remembers “Our Ernie”
You’ve heard it before. You have one life to live so live it well. Make a difference and leave this world a better place. It is evident that Ernie Rumsby desired to do exactly that. He was a loyal, passionate and dedicated friend to our region. For those who were fortunate to know this determined and tenacious man, know that we lost a good one. A selfless servant always recruiting people to support his cause and make a positive impact, Ernie, a veteran himself, founded the Tri Cities Military Affairs Council a decade ago. A champion for other veterans, especially for those in need, Ernie also advocated for and supported veteran-owned businesses, many of whom came to Ernie for help, advice and encouragement. Known among veteran-owned businesses for his desire to face and overcome adversity and to understand how such experiences could help others, his strength was sought by many.
In 2018, after being nominated by several veteran-owned businesses, Ernie received the prestigious Small Business Impact Award from the Kingsport Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship. He was also the voice of veteran owned businesses as a member of the Kingsport Chamber Board of Directors and his participation in other local chambers and organizations was asked for and respected. Ernie led by example. He sought and accepted responsibility and accountability. His verbal commitments were backed by immediate action and never wavered until positive results were achieved. When our Veteran Community needed a champion, God gave us a hero who led the charge: Ernie G. Rumsby. Ernie is physically gone from our world, but his memory, his selfless work and his determination to help veterans will live on. – Miles Burdine