Class of 1965
Jimmy Rhein was born in Charlotte, NC. The family moved back to Jonesborough when he was 3. His father Rudy was from Koenigswinter, Germany. He was in the ice, coal, lumber and building material business on Spring Street in Jonesborough. His mother, Margaret "Peggy" Mathes, was a Jonesborough native and grew up in a big brick house downtown that sat where the Christopher Taylor Cabin now sits. She attended East Tennessee State Teachers College. Rhein's second cousin Lilly Bell February sold her home, February Hill, on College Street in Jonesborough to past ETSU president Burgin Dossett and wife Nell, where they lived for many years after his retirement. Jimmy grew up in a house on West Main Street. He lives in that house today. Until around 1960 there was one main two-lane road in and out of town and that was Main Street. He is a graduate of Jonesboro High School. In the summer, Rhein worked at the family business and attended summer school at the "Training School" better known now as University School in order to go to college a year early with friends who were a year older. He took an English class under John Tallent and American History under George Allen Finchum. They later moved to the university where he had them in future classes. They were great instructors in their respective fields. Rhein had an early interest in radio and became an amateur radio operator. He is a life member of the American Radio Relay League.
Rhein earned a B.S. degree, majoring in Chemistry and Biology from East Tennessee State University in 1965. While in college he was considering a career in medicine and was invited along with five other pre-med students to scrub on Saturdays in the operating rooms at Johnson City Memorial Hospital. Two wiped out the first day, but the rest stayed with the program about two years. It was quite a learning experience for him.
After graduation, a break from school led him to job interviews and subsequent employment as a chemist at Eastman Chemical Company. While working at Eastman, Rhein did post-graduate studies in business at ETSU. He had a finance class under Mr. S. Jonathan Benson. Benson's family was from Burma and they had major business interests there. A change in government necessitated they escape leaving everything behind. Rhein said he was a great teacher and provided some valuable instruction in financial management.
Through 33 years at Eastman in technical service and development, Rhein worked closely with Eastman's sales, marketing, manufacturing, and research divisions. He also provided service, training and presentations to customers and participated in numerous technical conferences. Rhein was also the recipient of several patents. He was a member of numerous technical organizations including the American Chemical Society, Society of Plastic Engineers, and Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry.
In late 2002, Rhein successfully ran for Alderman for the town of Jonesborough where he served from 2003 through 2006. During this time, improvements were made to the supply and distribution of water which allowed significant commercial and residential growth in the Jonesborough area. A final flood control project was completed to eliminate flooding in the downtown area and improvements to the sewer system were implemented.
Rhein is chairman of the Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission, a member of the Park and Recreation Board and the Traffic Committee in Jonesborough. He is a member and past president of the Jonesborough Civitan Club. He serves as a member and past Chairman of the Finance and Stewardship Committee at Jonesborough Presbyterian Church. Rhein is a board member of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and is a director for the Miss Historic Jonesborough/Miss Johnson City Scholarship Pageant. The pageant has provided thousands of dollars in scholarships for young women attending ETSU and other universities. He is a member of the ETSU foundation. Rhein is also a member of the Tri-Cities Sister City program.
In addition to his many civic roles, Rhein is a supporter of storytelling and the International Storytelling Center. He believes everyone has many stories and those stories are their legacy. He has also been involved with the town of Jonesborough and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum to save and reconstruct the historic Chuckey Depot in Jonesborough. He is also a member of the ETSU Foundation. One of his main interests is supporting the Roan Scholars Leadership Program, but overall he says he is a big fan of all things ETSU!