KENNEDY’S INAGURAL 

As we approach the historic moment of inaugurating our first African-American president I think back to the famous inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. It was enormously important for me personally because the event killed forever the idea that we could never have a Roman Catholic president.. I of course my whole family were Roman Catholic.

I was then Executive Director of the National Association of Counties. Mayor Beverly Briley of Nashville, Tennessee and Commissioner Dan W. Gray of Anniston Alabama two of my officers were in town for the great event. Our offices were off Connecticut Avenue on De Sale St. adjacent to the Mayflower Hotel. On the evening before the inaugural at dusk we got into my car to drive them to their Hotel just across the Potomac in Arlington , Virginia . A great snow storm was in progress. Dan Gray noted that he had no bourbon in his room and asked to stop the car at the liquor store across the street. He quickly returned with a whole bag of liquor.

We passed onto Pennsylvania Ave at the White House and started towards the Key Bridge. In two hours we reached Washington Square a few blocks for the White House and were completely stopped.. A long convoy of Army trucks was stalled on its way to the White House. We did the logical thing. We decided to share our refreshments and party with our soldiers. .We passed the bottle of bourbon around to the whole group. It was another first. Most of the soldiers were black and they joined two devout Southerners to drink to our new Commander in Chief. .

It took hours but we finally got down to Georgetown at the bottom of the steep hill Pennsylvania Avenue. No one was able to make the grade in the now deep snow. I got the idea of all of all of us pulling together and pushing the cars one at a time to the top. By the time it was our chance the group lost interest. I abandoned the car underneath the overpass at a Boat House.


We made our way very slowly up the hill to the end of the Key Bridge. There was an old man in a beat up truck filled with trash. We gave him $20 to drive us to the hotel across the bridge. The three of us jumped in on top of all the junk finally after about an hour in the wind got to the hotel. We discover that all of the telephone lines were so jammed with traffic that I couldn't get through to home and I would have to spend the night ..

The next morning we got to the inaugural site somehow in deep snow and our seats were literally within the baseball throwing distance of the podium. These choice seats were courtesy of Dan Gray's close friend former Vice Presidential candidate Senator John Sparkman (D-Ala. The he podium stand caught fire as Robert Frost delivered his poem. The inspiriting moment however came when the handsome young Irish Catholic President said” Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your count


A small group at Oliver St. celebrating the Inauguation of President Obama
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