19 And At The Capitol With Senator Howard Baker

Saturday, June 28, 2014

So in 1976 my parents move from Indiana to scenic Scott County, Tn., above Knoxville.  (Knoxville came in 1982.)  Howard Baker’s father incorporated the business where my dad went to work just after World War II.  Scott County is home to Huntsville, population 300, where HHB was born.  My parents built a house in Huntsville.

Thus began a pretty good family friendship.   

Skip ahead to January, 1978 where I’m interning in Senator Baker’s Minority Leader’s office in the U.S. Capitol during my DePauw University freshman winter term.  The Senator has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Panama on a Saturday.  (You may recall that some say his vote supporting Carter’s desire to turn over the Canal doomed Baker’s future presidential ambitions – the Great Conciliator.) 

Baker’s secretary calls the rooming house where I am staying and says the Senator would like to see me in the Capitol on Sunday morning at 9:00 am.  I figure he’s just being nice and wants to say hello.  Keep in mind I’m a whopping 19 years old. 

And so the chuckle begins.  Some of my DPU friends and I enjoy the night in Georgetown and I crash at their place.  A cold Sunday morning dawns and I’m cutting it a bit close.  The lack of cabs to be found puts me behind.  I make it home with no time to shower so I just put on my finest three-piece suit.  Seriously.  I was styling.  You might remember the hairstyles of the day though.  Rushing out the door with bedhead all askew was not good.  Anyway, I make it to the Capitol (pre 9/11 – it was pretty wide open back then – about the time bomb-sniffing dogs were clearing the Minority Leader’s ornate chambers. 

Several yards down the hall in the Capitol Rotunda former VP Hubert Humphrey is lying in state.  Rather than just a quick hello with the Senator, he is hosting a Republican reception following the funeral service that morning and I’ve been invited to be a fly on the wall.  It is President Nixon’s first return to DC since Watergate.  I get to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller who were kind and the Kissingers – tall Nancy was a bit cool.  President Ford was in attendance and soon the Sergeant at Arms booms out, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States” and in walked President and Mrs. Carter.  It was somewhat of a blur after that and I’m sure at 19 I didn’t understand much of it.  At one point, being the avid photographer that he was, the Senator takes the three Presidents into an adjoining room for a picture.  Rather than a pool photographer, however, he allows his daughter Cissy to take the shots.  I can’t recall if she really made $10,000 selling them or if I imagined it.   

As the reception wound down, President Ford was still there and the Senator called me over for introductions.  He said, “Kurt, I’d like to introduce you to someone.  This is President Ford.”  I remember responding, “Yes, Sir.  I recognize you.”  The picture with the two men and my rack hair is a real winner.  

When the reception ended, I headed for the nearest WATTS line.  Remember those?  “Free” long distance.  I called my parents back in Huntsville and said, “You’ll never believe where I’ve just been and who I’ve seen.” 

The Senator was an incredible man.  I froze campaigning for him in New Hampshire in 1980.  If Panama didn’t do it, being 5’7” on a good day probably did. 

Later when he was Chief of Staff to President Reagan my dad and I would go to the Senator’s house on Sunday afternoons.  He would send his deputy Ken Duberstein to the Western White House with the Reagans and he’d come to Huntsville on those weekends.  As Reagan left to fly back to DC, they’d call and the Senator knew he had two hours before he had to leave to make it back to DC at the same time.  Exhilarating is a pretty good word to describe a twenty-something political junkie getting to listen to Senator Baker.  That’s priceless in my book. 

It’s too bad that the civility for which Senator Baker was known in Congress 30 years ago is now ancient history.   

Kurt J. Faires



Protect The Dreamers

Children of illegal immigrants brought here as juveniles should be able to stay here.  When these children were brought to the U.S. they did not, willingly with any intent, violate immigration laws. They were too young to even know what immigration laws were. For many, this is the only home they have ever known. Now, as educated and otherwise law abiding young adults, it ... (click for more)

Coyote Jack's Won't Close

It is a shame that both Ms. James and Ms. Madhue will be disappointed when they are told that this establishment will not be closing; regardless of its deadly past.  Why, you ask?  Well, if as the article states that both Bella Vita and Coyote Jack’s are under the same ownership, that ownership lies within the hands, at least partially, by the Berke family.  Yes, ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy In Officer-Involved Shooting At Lakesite

A Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy was involved in an officer involved shooting in the Lakesite area on Friday morning.   Authorities said it happened around 9:35 a.m. near the 1900 block of Wilkes Avenue.   Deputies were called on "an unwanted party."   There was a confrontation with deputies and a man at the mobile home was shot.   ... (click for more)

EPB Video As Percentage Of Fiber Customers Going Down, But That's Fine With Management

With more and more video customers turning to streaming options, EPB's video is dropping as a percentage of overall fiber customers. But that's fine with EPB management, knowing that all that video streaming needs a wide fiber pipeline to go through. EPB is positioned with the best "gig" service. Greg Eaves, chief financial officer, said 65 percent of EPB fiber customers now ... (click for more)

UTC Women Rally To Beat Wofford 54-47

 The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team outscored Wofford 28-17 in the second half to come away with a 54-47 victory Thursday night at Richardson Indoor Stadium. Chattanooga runs its win streak against the Terriers to 41 straight games. Chattanooga improves to 12-6 overall and 3-1 in league play while the Terriers move to 9-11 on the year and ... (click for more)

UTC's Boykin Named Wrestler Of The Week

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Scottie Boykin is the Southern Conference Wrestler of the Week for all competition from Jan. 10-16, the league office announced Wednesday. This is the league-high third Moc to win the honor this season.  It is the second career award for Boykin.  Boykin, a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, went 4-0 in the Virginia ... (click for more)