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


Arnold Palmer Was A Great Role Model

Roy, thanks for an amazing tribute to Arnold Palmer. I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 60's and 70's and Arnie was one of my early heroes. I never had the pleasure to see him in a tournament. My Dad saw him once. Arnold is the epitome of a great role model when it comes to athletes. Tom Watson is another hero of mine as well. Arnie brought class and dignity to the game. He was ... (click for more)

Hillary Or Trump?

I do not accept simply asking myself which candidate would be best for me and my family when deciding which one I will vote for.  That is because I do not believe 100 percent of what either of them says.  Instead, I ask how each will go about setting policies, reaching goals and making decisions.  Hillary has made it clear that only she has the knowledge and experience ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Smart Running: Vradenburgh, Boyd Win Again

There’s a lesson to be learned for those young folks who choose cross country as their sport in the fall:  It’s impossible to win a race in the first mile, but you can surely lose one in that same space. As anyone with much running experience can verify, the fastest person doesn’t always win.  Running smart and using a tactical approach with planned pacing often produces ... (click for more)

CCS Claims District 7A/AA Soccer Title With 2-0 Win Over Signal Mountain

The Chattanooga Christian School girls soccer team traveled to Signal Mountain on Tuesday to battle for the regular season District 7A/AA championship.  CCS scored twice in the second half to earn the 2-0 win.   CCS freshman Laura Beth Turner scored the first goal 30 seconds into the second half after a double assist from Olivia Hoffman and Kyla Wright.  12 minutes ... (click for more)