TEXAS’ LEADING BUMPERSTRIP SIGN MAKER FUTURA PRESS Esc Hickory 2-8682 ..Hickory 2-2426 1714 SOUTH CONGRESS AVENUE P. 0. BOX 3485 AUSTIN, TEXAS In Pursuit of America Amarillo Dwight Eisenhower’s journeys across America by train are done, but his pursuit of an American style from the platform of a private railroad car isn’t forgotten. One ineradicable memory is of his cross-country trip to the Republican national convention in 1964. During the trip an incident occurred that might have helped change the events in San Francisco, an incident that was hidden quickly but not thoroughly and gave away everything. To understand the motivations of those involved, the times must be recalled. Barry Goldwater’s organization, after two years of careful preparation, had an iron grip on the convention delegates. Scranton, Rockefeller, Romney, ordinarily names to reckon with, had been reduced to impotence. The only hope moderate Republicans, and others, held of averting a Goldwater runaway at the convention was a dramatic statement by Eisenhower endorsing another candidate. But Eisenhower had refused to intervene in the nominating process. Only a traumatic incident would shake his adamant refusal to speak. It almost happened in Amarillo. It was one of those days in July when mirages of lakes glistened on every melting asphalt street and your head throbbed when you came out of an air-conditioned office. The heat didn’t keep the crowd away from the railroad station. Eisenhower, traveling in the railroad car with a tiny platform that he had used as president, was on his way to the convention, the consummation of months of planning by the Goldwater movement. The scene at the Amarillo station was much like others across the country. Eisenhower waved and smiled and smiled, but carefully said nothing about the candidates. The temptation for another The writer was a reporter for the Amarillo dailies at the time of the incident here recounted. He now is on the faculty of California State Polytechnic College, San Luis Obispo. 12 The Texas Observer MEETINGS THE THURSDAY CLUB of Dallas meets each Downtown YMCA, 605 No. Ervay St., Dallas. Good discussion. You’re welcome. Informal, no dues. CENTRAL TEXAS ACLU luncheon meeting. Spanish Village. 2nd Friday every month. From noon. All welcome. ITEMS for this feature cost, for the first entry, 7c a word, and for each subsequent entry, 5c a word. We must receive them two weeki before the date of the issue in which they are to be published. man would have been too greata stream of hint and speculation would have followed him across the land, a river by Albuquerque, a flood in San Francisco of public outrage that would have made the delegates listen. Though Eisenhower wanted the nomination to go to a moderate Republican and personally preferred Scranton, he stood by his pledge to say nothing. LARGELY unreported, Goldwater followers of the rabid sort, smelling victory, had been turning up at railroad stations across the country to gloat over Eisenhower’s inability to stop the Gold Claude Walbert water nomination. At Amarillo two such followers came close to provoking Eisenhower into doing what he couldn’t bring himself to do. Two men carried large signs urging support for Goldwater and suggesting that Eisenhower was soft on communism. At the conclusion of Eisenhower’s brief stop, the reporters and photographers who were traveling on the train hurried back up the tracks to board their car. As the train slowly moved out of the depot the two men with signs ran alongside and waved. Eisenhower was carried past, still waving from the platform. One of the men thrust his sign against the ex-president and knocked him off balance. An aide helped Eisenhower back inside the car. Amarillo police grabbed the two men and took them to police headquarters. Reporters were not allowed to see them. Lee Harvey Oswald was still very much in the minds of Texans. The national press aboard the train, meanwhile, filed routine stories about the friendly reception that Eisenhower had received in Johnson’s home state. None of them had seen the incident. But a local television station had a film of the sign being thrust over the railing and striking Eisenhower. As luck would have it, this station was owned by Whittenburg Enterprises, the oil-rich family cartel that also owns the city’s two daily newspapers, the afternoon Globe-Times and the morning Daily News. The editorial policies of the newspaper and the TV station were alike: far right. The editor of the papers, Wes Izzard, whose mildest sobriquet was the Wizard of Was, usually rode herd on the news, and his son was chief news commentator of the affiliated TV station. Izzard was in San Francisco. The phone lines to San Francisco were humming within minutes. Word of the incident somehow got out and calls began to come to the newspaper from out of town. Don Boyett, managing editor, who was taking his instructions from Izzard in San Francisco, told the out-of-town reporters that the incident amounted to nothing. And of course there had been no pictures. But there were pictures. The TV film showed the incident clearly, the man with the sign leaning forward, rising on one toe to get maximum power behind the thrust, Eisenhower staggering, and then, unbelievably, the man who had thrown the sign and his companion laughing enthusiastically, finally bending double and slapping their legs with glee. While Boyett, trying to seem casual, roamed from desk to desk looking over what each reporter was writing, a photographer was in the darkroom making prints from the TV film. The photographer, a Goldwater supporter, had no political interest in making the incident public, only a desire to see the news reported freely. I went to a typewriter in another part of the building and wrote captions. Four photos were chosen from the sequence. They showed the sign being thrust over the railing, Eisenhower staggering, Eisenhower being helped into the car, and the men laughing, one bent double and the other upright and facing the camera, as the door shut on Eisenhower. The TV cameraman was delighted at his work. He hadn’t known what happened until the police arrested the two men, he feared that he had failed to film the incident. The photos and captions were glued up for transmission. The Dallas bureau of the Associated Press granted permission to break into the circuit for a transmission. The photos were repeatedly placed on the transmission drum, then snatched off and hidden as the watchful managing editor stalked through the offices. Finally he spotted the photos. He took them to his office without a word. Then he demanded all other prints. After he had everything he declared that the incident waS unimportant and that he wasn’t going to let a bunch of radicals slander Amarillo the way they had Dallas. GOLDWATER’S staff in San Francisco got on the phone to Eisenhower and
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.