Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson talks with reporters as he takes a break from meeting supporters at a book signing at the Barnes and Noble booksellers at the Hamilton Place Mall on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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People line up from the front of the Barnes and Noble bookstore to beyond the main mall entrance as Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson meets supporters at a book signing at the bookstore at the Hamilton Place Mall on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Evelyn Hardin has lived through the tenures 17 U.S. presidents. On Sunday, she met the man who she hopes is next.

Hardin, 101, was one of hundreds who came to Barnes and Noble at Hamilton Place to meet retired neurosurgeon and U.S. presidential hopeful Ben Carson, a Republican who was in town to sign his new book, "A More Perfect Union."

"I think he has a good chance to win because what he says makes a lot of sense," said Hardin, a former teacher. "At this point in time, we need somebody to understand what's happening in America, and I think he's the proper one to come in at this time."

If Sunday's crowd was any indication, many Chattanoogans agree.

Barnes and Noble sold out of Carson's book, and a line wrapped around the building full of Carson supporters waiting to get a moment with the man who was second behind Donald Trump in the most recent GOP polls.

"It's encouraging to see people come out," Kimberly Akridge said from the back of the line. "I hope he gets this kind of turnout everywhere he goes."

Akridge, who works in health care, said she believes Carson would be well-suited to tackle the country's health issues and added that she is impressed with his respect for the Constitution, which is the topic of, "A More Perfect Union."

"I think he is very respectable and classy," she said. "He stands up for what he believes in and he does it in a way that he doesn't get involved with putting other people down. I admire his faith and how he stands up for that."

A group of student journalists from Southern Adventist University, which is a Seventh-day Adventist school in Collegedale, covered the event for SAU's student newspaper, the Southern Accent. Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist.

"Something like this," said one Accent staff member, "it's a big deal for us."

Detractors have pointed to Carson's lack of political experience and, with his rise in prominence, the 64-year-old Yale graduate has been subject to greater scrutiny from media in recent weeks.

Carson told local reporters that many of the people who he met during the afternoon encouraged him to tune out negative media attention.

"I think people are starting to realize," Carson said, "that it's you guys [the media] that are the problem."

Regarding President Barack Obama's proposed America's College Promise, a plan inspired by Tennessee Promise that would give students two free years of community college education, Carson said he does not like national education programs.

"I like things that are done at the local level," he said. "It seems to work much better. You want the control to be in the hands of those people."

And if control of the presidency goes to Carson, that would be fine with Hardin, who was born when Woodrow Wilson was in office.

"I think he is wonderful," she said outside the store after getting her book signed and photo taken with Carson. "I am glad to be here to support him."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at or 423-757-6249.