Washington D.C. – President George W. Bush honors country singer George Jones with the 2002 National Medal of Arts. Nine individuals in all received this prestigious award from President and First Lady Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony at the White House on March 6, 2003. The medalists were notified of the honor by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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”We honor these individuals for the singular distinction of their artistic careers,” Said Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. ”Whether they were creating stunning choreography, reconceiving contemporary stage design, or adding Motown to our nation’s musical vocabulary, these remarkable people have made significant contributions to our nation’s cultural life.”

George Jones, country singer, Nashville, Tennessee

Over Four decades have passed since country music fans first heard the raw, emotional, heart-on-his-sleeve delivery that is instantly identifiable as belonging to George Jones. Born in Sarasota, Texas, Jones started out singing for tips on the streets of nearby Beaumont and working the local honky tonk circuit. His first hit song, Why Baby Why, came in 1955. He then experimented with rockabilly under the name Thumper Jones. White Lightning earned him his first number one country record in 1959. More hits followed with Tender Years and She Thinks I Still Care, which led to Male Vocalist of the Year awards from the Country Music Association in 1962 and 1963. Throughout the 1970’s, he continued to record number one solo hits such as The Grand Tour, in addition to chart-topping duets including We’re Gonna Hold On, with his then-wife Tammy Wynette. Jones kicked off the 1980’s with He Stopped Loving Her Today, winning CMA Single of the Year honors in both 1980 and 1981. He also climbed the charts with his autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All, which reached number six on The New York Times bestseller list. Jones continues to record the traditional country music that he loves and remains a relevant artist today, winning a Grammy in 1999 as Best Male Country Vocalist. This April, Jones will release a Gospel Collection, his first in more than 25 years, In recognition of his monumental career, Jones was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992.

The National Medal of Arts is the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. The Medal is given by the President to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, support and growth of the arts in America. Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the Endowment’s advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.

Other 2002 Medal of Arts Recipients include: Florence Knoll Bassett, designer/architect, Miami, Florida, Trisha Brown, dancer/choreographer, New York, New York, Philippe de Montebello, museum director, New York, New York, Lawrence Halprin, landscape architect/environmental planner, San Francisco, California, Al Hirschfeld, artist/caricaturist, New York, New York (deceased), Ming Cho Lee, painter/stage designer. New York, New York, and William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr., singer/songwriter, Detroit, Michigan.