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A fter my sophomore year I went home without a job but with a clear idea of what I wanted to do. It was the end of an era in Arkansasafter six terms, Orval Faubus wasnt running for reelection as governor. Finally our state would have a chance to move beyond the scars of Little Rock and the stains of cronyism that also tainted his later years. I wanted to work in the governors race, both to learn about politics and to do what little I could to put Arkansas on a more progressive course..cheap prom dresses.
The pent-up ambitions from the Faubus years propelled several candidates into the race, seven Democrats and one very big Repub-lican, Winthrop Rockefeller, the fifth of the six children of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who left his fathers empire to oversee the charitable efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation; left his fathers conservative, anti-labor politics under the influence of his more liberal wife, Abby, and the great Canadian liberal politician Mackenzie King; and, finally, left his fathers conservative religious views to found the interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City with Harry Emerson Fosdick..cheap wedding dresses.
Winthrop had seemed destined to be the black sheep of the family. He was expelled from Yale and went to work in the Texas oil fields. After distinguished service in World War II, he married a New York socialite and reacquired his reputation as a hard-partying dilettante. In 1953, he moved to Arkansas, partly because he had a wartime buddy from there who interested him in the possibilities of setting up a ranching operation, and partly because the state had a thirty-day divorce law and he was eager to end his brief first marriage. Rockefeller was a huge man, about six feet four, weighing about 250 pounds. He really took to Arkansas, where everybody called him Win, not a bad name for a politician. He always wore cowboy boots and a white Stetson hat, which became his trademark. He bought a huge chunk of Petit Jean Mountain, about fifty miles west of Little Rock, became a successful breeder of Santa Gertrudis cattle, and married his second wife, Jeannette..cheap prom dresses.
As he settled into his adopted state, Rockefeller worked hard to shed the playboy image that had dogged him in New York. He built up the small Arkansas Republican Party and worked to bring industry to our poor state. Governor Faubus appointed him chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, and he brought in a lot of new jobs. In 1964, impatient with Arkansas backward image, he challenged Faubus for governor. Everybody appreciated what he had done, but Faubus had an organization in every county; most people, especially in rural Arkansas, still supported his segregationist position over Rockefellers procivil rights stance; and Arkansas was still a Democratic state..cartier love bracelet replica.
Also, the painfully shy Rockefeller was a poor speaker, a problem aggravated by his legendary drinking habits, which also made him so late so often that he made me look punctual. Once, he arrived inebriated and more than an hour late to address the chamber of commerce banquet in Wynne, county seat of Cross County, in eastern Arkansas. When he got up to speak, he said, Im glad to be here in When he realized he didnt know where he was, he whispered to the master of ceremonies, Where am I? The man whispered back, Wynne. He asked again and got the same answer. Then he boomed out, Damn it, I know my name! Where am I? That story crossed the state like wildfire, but was usually told good-naturedly, because everybody knew Rockefeller was an Arkansan by choice and had the states best interests at heart. In 1966, Rockefeller was running again, but even with Faubus gone, I didnt think he could make it..cartier love bracelet replica.
Besides, I wanted to back a progressive Democrat. My sentimental favorite was Brooks Hays, who had lost his seat in Congress in 1958 for supporting the integration of Little Rock Central High. He was defeated by a segregationist optometrist, Dr. Dale Alford, in a write-in campaign, which succeeded partly because of the use of stickers with his name on them that could be plastered on ballots by voters who couldnt write but were smart enough to know that blacks and whites shouldnt go to school together. Hays was a devout Christian who had served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention before the majority of my fellow Baptists decided that only conservatives could lead them, or the country. He was a marvelous man, bright, humble, funny as all get-out, and kind to a fault, even to his opponents young campaign workers...
Ironically, Dr. Alford was in the race for govenor, too, and he couldnt win either, because the racists had a far more fervent champion in Justice Jim Johnson, who had risen from humble roots in Crossett, in southeast Arkansas, to the state supreme court on rhetoric that won the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan in the governors race. He thought Faubus was too soft on civil rights; after all, he had appointed a few blacks to state boards and commissions. With Faubus, who had genuine populist impulses, racism was a political imperative. He preferred improving schools and nursing homes, building roads, and reforming the state mental hospital to race-baiting. It was just the price of staying in office. With Johnson, racism was theology. He thrived on hate. He had sharp features and bright, wild eyes, giving him a lean and hungry look that would have made Shakespeares Cassius green with envy. And he was a savvy politician who knew where his voters were. Instead of going to the endless campaign rallies where the other candidates spoke, he traveled all over the state on his own, with a country-and-western band, which he used to pull in a crowd. Then he would whip them into a frenzy with tirades against blacks and their traitorous white sympathizers...
I didnt see it at the time, but he was building strength among people the other candidates couldnt reach: people upset with federal activism in civil rights, scared by the Watts riots and other racial disturbances, convinced the War on Poverty was socialist welfare for blacks, and frustrated with their own economic conditions. Psychologically, were all a complex mixture of hopes and fears. Each day we wake up with the scales tipping a bit one way or the other. If they go too far toward hopefulness, we can become nave and unrealistic. If the scales tilt too far the other way, we can get consumed by paranoia and hatred. In the South, the dark side of the scales has always been the bigger problem. In 1966, Jim Johnson was just the man to tip them in that direction...
The best candidate with a good shot at winning was another supreme court justice and a former attorney general, Frank Holt. He had the support of most of the courthouse crowd and the big financial interests, but he was more progressive on race than Faubus, and completely honest and decent. Frank Holt was admired by just about everybody who knew him (except those who thought he was too easygoing to make any real change), had wanted to be governor all his life, and also wanted to redeem his familys legacy: his brother, Jack, who was more of an old-fashioned southern populist, had lost a hot Senate race to our conservative senior senator, John McClellan, a few years before...
My uncle Raymond Clinton was a big supporter of Holts and told me he thought he could get me on the campaign. Holt already had secured the support of a number of student leaders from Arkansas colleges, who called themselves the Holt Generation. Before long I got hired at fifty dollars a week. I think Uncle Raymond paid my way. Since I had been living on twenty-five dollars a week at Georgetown, I felt rich...
The other students were a little older and a lot better connected than I was. Mac Glover had been president of the University of Arkansas student body; Dick King was president of the student body at Arkansas State Teachers College; Paul Fray was president of the Young Democrats at Ouachita Baptist; Bill Allen was a former Arkansas Boys State governor and student leader at Memphis State, just across the Mississippi River from Arkansas; Leslie Smith was a beautiful, smart girl from a powerful political family who had been Arkansas Junior Miss...
At the start of the campaign, I was definitely a second stringer in the Holt Generation. My assignments included nailing Holt for Governor signs on trees, trying to get people to put his bumper stickers on their cars; and handing out his brochures at rallies around the state. One of the most important rallies, then and later when I became a candidate, was the Mount Nebo Chicken Fry. Mount Nebo is a beautiful spot overlooking the Arkansas River in Yell County, in western Arkansas, where the Clintons originally settled. People would show up for the food, the music, and a long stream of speeches by candidates, beginning with those running for local office and ending with those running for governor...
Not long after I got there and began working the crowd, our opponents started to arrive. Judge Holt was running late. When his opponents began speaking, he still wasnt there. I was getting worried. This was not an event to miss. I went to a pay phone and somehow tracked him down, which was a lot harder before cell phones. He said that he just couldnt get there before the speeches were over, and that I should speak for him. I was surprised and asked if he was sure. He said I knew what he stood for and I should just tell the people that. When I told the event organizers Judge Holt couldnt make it and asked if I could speak in his place, I was scared to death; it was much worse than speaking for myself. After I finished, the people gave me a polite reception. I dont remember what I said, but it must have been okay, because after that, along with my sign and bumper-sticker duties, I was asked to stand in for Judge Holt at a few smaller rallies he couldnt attend. There were so many, no candidate could make them all. Arkansas has seventy-five counties, and several counties held more than one rally...
After a few weeks, the campaign decided that the judges wife, Mary, and his daughters, Lyda and Melissa, should go on the road to cover places he couldnt. Mary Holt was a tall, intelligent, independent woman who owned a fashionable dress shop in Little Rock; Lyda was a student at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, where Woodrow Wilson was born; Melissa was in high school. They were all attractive and articulate, and they all adored Judge Holt and were really committed to the campaign. All they needed was a driver. Somehow I was chosen...
We crisscrossed the state. We were gone a week at a time, coming back to Little Rock to wash our clothes and recharge for another lap. It was great fun. I really got to know the state and learned a lot from hours of conversation with Mary and her daughters. One night we went to Hope for a rally on the courthouse steps. Because my grandmother was in the crowd, Mary graciously invited me to speak to the hometown folks, though Lyda was supposed to do it. I think they both knew I wanted the chance to show that Id grown up. The crowd gave me a good listen and I even got a nice write-up in the local paper, the Hope Star, which tickled Daddy because when he had the Buick dealership in Hope, the editor disliked him so much he got an ugly mongrel dog, named him Roger, and frequently let the dog loose near the Buick place so that he could go down the street after him shouting, Come here, Roger! Here, Roger!
That night I took Lyda to see the house where I had spent my first four years and the wooden railroad overpass where Id played. The next day we went out to the cemetery to visit the graves of Mary Holts family, and I showed them my fathers and grandfathers graves.
I treasure the memories of those road trips. I was used to being bossed around by women, so we got along well, and I think I was useful to them. I changed flat tires, helped a family get out of a burning house, and got eaten alive by mosquitoes so big you could feel them puncture your skin. We passed the hours of driving by talking about politics, people, and books. And I think we got some votes.
Not long before the Hope rally, the campaign decided to put on a fifteen-minute TV program featuring the students who were working for Judge Holt; they thought it would position him as the candidate of Arkansas future. Several of us spoke for a couple of minutes about why we were supporting him. I dont know if it did any good, but I enjoyed my first TV appearance, though I didnt get to watch it. I had to speak at yet another rally in Alread, a remote community in Van Buren County, in the mountains of north-central Arkansas. The candidates who made it way up there usually got the votes, and I was beginning to realize that we needed all we could get.
As the hot summer weeks passed, I saw more and more evidence that the Old South hadnt given up the ghost, and the New South wasnt yet powerful enough to chase it away. Most of our schools were still segregated, and resistance remained strong. One county courthouse in the Mississippi Delta still had white and colored designations on the doors of the public restrooms. When I asked one elderly black lady in another town to vote for Judge Holt, she said she couldnt because she hadnt paid her poll tax. I told her that Congress had eliminated the poll tax two years earlier and all she had to do was register. I dont know if she did.
Still, there were signs of a new day. While campaigning in Arkadelphia, thirty-five miles south of Hot Springs, I met the leading candidate for the south Arkansas congressional seat, a young man named David Pryor. He was clearly a progressive who thought if he could just meet enough people he could persuade most of them to vote for him. He did it in 1966, did it again in the governors race in 1974, and again in the Senate race in 1978. By the time he retired, much to my dismay, from the Senate in 1996, David Pryor was the most popular politician in Arkansas, with a fine progressive legacy. Everybody thought of him as their friend, including me.
The kind of retail politics Pryor mastered was important in a rural state like Arkansas, where more than half the people lived in towns with fewer than five thousand people, and tens of thousands just lived out in the country. We were still in the days before television ads, especially negative ones, assumed the large role in elections they have now. Candidates mostly bought television time to look into the camera and talk to voters. They also were expected to visit the courthouses and main businesses in every county seat, go into the kitchen of every caf, and campaign in sale barns, where livestock are auctioned. The county fairs and pie suppers were fertile territory. And, of course, every weekly newspaper and radio station expected a visit and an ad or two. Thats how I learned politics. I think it works better than TV air wars. You could talk, but you had to listen, too. You had to answer voters tough questions face-to-face. Of course, you could still be demonized, but at least your adversaries had to work harder to do it. And when you took a shot at your opponent, you had to take it, not hide behind some bogus committee that expected to make a killing from your time in office if its attacks destroyed the other candidate.
Though the campaigns were more personal, they were far from just personality contests. When there were big issues at stake, they had to be addressed. And if a strong tide of public opinion was rolling in, and you couldnt go with the flow in good conscience, you had to be tough, disciplined, and quick to avoid being washed away.
In 1966, Jim Johnsonor Justice Jim, as he liked to be calledwas riding the tide and making big, ugly waves. He attacked Frank Holt as a pleasant vegetable, and implied that Rockefeller had had homosexual relations with black men, a laughable charge considering his earlier well-earned reputation as a ladies man. Justice Jims message was simply the latest version of an old southern song sung to white voters in times of economic and social uncertainty: Youre good, decent, God-fearing people; theyre threatening your way of life; you dont have to change, its all their fault; elect me and Ill stand up for you just as you are and kick the hell out of them. The perennial political divide, Us versus Them. It was mean, ugly, and ultimately self-defeating for the people who bought it, but as we still see, when people feel discontented and insecure it often works. Because Johnson was so extreme in his rhetoric, and largely invisible on the traditional campaign trail, most political observers thought it wouldnt work this time. As election day neared, Frank Holt refused to answer his attacks, or the attacks from other candidates, who assumed he was way ahead and also began to hit him for being the old-guard machine candidate. We didnt have many polls back then and most people didnt put much stock in the few that floated around.
Holts strategy sounded good to the idealistic young people around him, like me. He simply replied to all charges with a statement that he was completely independent, that he wouldnt respond to unsubstantiated attacks or attack his opponents in return, and that he wanted to win on his own merits or not at all. I finally learned that phrases like or not at all are often used by candidates who forget that politics is a contact sport. The strategy can work when the public mood is secure and hopeful and when the candidate has a platform of serious, specific policy proposals, but in the summer of 1966 the mood was mixed at best, and the Holt platform was too general to inspire much intense feeling. Besides, those who most wanted a candidate who simply embodied opposition to segregation could vote for Brooks Hays.
Despite the attacks on him, most people thought Frank Holt would lead the ticket, but without a majority, and then would win the runoff two weeks later. On July 26, the people spoke, more than 420,000 of them. The results surprised the pundits. Johnson led with 25 percent of the vote, Holt was second with 23 percent, Hays was third with 15 percent, Alford got 13 percent, and the other three split the rest.
We were shocked but not without hope. Judge Holt and Brooks Hays had gotten slightly more votes between them than the segregationist combo of Johnson and Alford. Also, in one of the more interesting legislative races, a long-serving old-guard House member, Paul Van Dalsem, was defeated by a young, progressive, Yale-educated lawyer, Herb Rule. A couple of years earlier Van Dalsem had infuriated supporters of the rising womens movement by saying women should be kept at home, barefoot and pregnant. That got Herb, later Hillarys partner at the Rose Law Firm, an army of female volunteers, who dubbed themselves Barefoot Women for Rule.
The outcome of the runoff election was very much up in the air, because runoffs are about voter turnout, about which candidate will do a better job of getting his own voters back to the polls, and a better job of persuading those who voted for candidates who were eliminated or people who didnt vote the first time to support him. Judge Holt tried hard to make the runoff a choice between the Old South and the New South. Johnson didnt exactly undermine that framing of the race when he went on TV to tell the voters that he stood with Daniel in the lions den and with John the Baptist in Herods court in opposing godless integration. I think somewhere in that talk Justice Jim even got on Paul Reveres horse.
Though the Holt strategy was smart and Johnson was willing to fight it out as Old versus New, there were two problems with Holts approach. First, the Old South voters were highly motivated to vote and they were sure Johnson was their champion, while the New South voters werent so sure about Holt. His refusal to really take the gloves off until late in the race reinforced their doubts and reduced their incentive to vote. Second, an undetermined number of Rockefeller supporters wanted to vote for Johnson because they thought hed be easier than Holt for their man to beat, and anyone, Republican or Democrat, could vote in the Democratic runoff as long as he or she hadnt voted in the Republican primary. Only 19,646 people had done that, since Rockefeller was unopposed. On runoff election day, only 5,000 fewer people voted than in the first primary. Each candidate got twice as many votes as the first time, and Johnson won by 15,000 votes, 52 to 48 percent.
I was sick about the outcome. I had come to care deeply about Judge Holt and his family, to believe he would have been a better governor than he was a candidate, and to dislike what Justice Jim stood for even more. The only bright spot was Rockefeller, who actually had a chance to win. He was a better organized candidate the second time around. He spent money as if it was going out of style, even buying hundreds of bicycles for poor black kids. In the fall he won with 54.5 percent of the vote. I was very proud of my state. I had gone back to Georgetown by then and didnt watch the campaign unfold firsthand, but a lot of people commented that Johnson seemed less animated in the general election. Perhaps it was because his financial support was limited, but there was also a rumor that he might have gotten some encouragement from Rockefeller to cool it. I have no idea if that was true or not.
Except for a brief interregnum in the Carter years, when I was President Carters point man in Arkansas, and when he wanted a federal appointment for his son, Jim Johnson remained way out there on the right, where he grew more and more hostile toward me. In the 1980s, like so many southern conservatives he became a Republican. He ran again for the supreme court and lost. After that, he made his mischief in the background. When I ran for President, he planted ingenious stories, directly and indirectly, with anyone gullible enough to believe them, and got some surprising takers among the so-called eastern liberal media he loved to revile, especially for Whitewater tales. Hes a canny old rascal. He must have had a great time conning them, and if the Republicans in Washington had succeeded in running me out of town, hed have had a good claim to the last laugh.
After the campaign I got to wind down by taking my first trip to the West Coast. A regular customer of Uncle Raymonds wanted a new Buick he didnt have in stock. Uncle Raymond found one at a dealership in Los Angeles, where it was being used as a demonstrator, a car prospective customers could test-drive to see how they liked it. Dealers often swapped these cars or sold them to one another at a discount. My uncle asked me to fly out to L.A. and drive the car back, along with Pat Brady, whose mother was his secretary, and who had been in my high school class and the band. If we both went, we could drive straight through. We were eager to go, and back then student fares were so cheap Raymond could fly us out for nearly nothing and still make a profit on the car.
We flew into LAX, got the car, and headed home, but not in a straight line. Instead, we took a minor detour to Las Vegas, a place we thought wed never have another chance to see. I still remember driving across the flat desert at night with the windows down, feeling the warm, dry air and seeing the bright lights of Vegas beckoning in the distance.
Las Vegas was different then. There were no big theme hotels like the Paris or the Venetian, just the Strip, with its gambling and entertainment. Pat and I didnt have much money, but we wanted to play the slot machines, so we picked a place, got a roll of nickels each, and went to work. Within fifteen minutes I had hit one jackpot and Pat had pulled two. This did not go unnoticed by the regular hostages to the one-armed bandits. They were convinced we were good luck, so every time we left a machine without hitting, people rushed to it, jostling for the right to pull up the jackpot we had left waiting for them. We couldnt understand it. We were convinced that wed completely used up years of luck in those few minutes, and we didnt want to squander it. We got back on the road with most of our winnings still bulging in our pockets. I dont think anyone carries that many nickels anymore.
After we turned the car in to Uncle Raymond, who didnt seem to mind the side trip, I had to get ready to go back to Georgetown. At the end of the campaign, I had spoken to Jack Holt about my interest in going to work for Senator Fulbright, but I didnt know if anything would come of it. I had written Fulbright for a job the previous spring and had received a letter back saying there were no vacancies but theyd keep my letter on file. I doubted things had changed, but a few days after getting back to Hot Springs, I got a call early in the morning from Lee Williams, Fulbrights administrative assistant. Lee said Jack Holt had recommended me and there was a job opening as an assistant clerk on the Foreign Relations Committee. He said, You can have a part-time job for $3,500 or a full-time job for $5,000. Even though I was sleepy, I couldnt miss that one. I said, How about two part-time jobs? He laughed and said I was just the kind of person he was looking for and I should report for work Monday morning. I was so excited I could have popped. The Foreign Relations Committee under Fulbright had become the center of national debate over foreign policy, especially the escalating war in Vietnam. Now I would witness the drama unfold firsthand, albeit as a flunky. And I would be able to pay for college without any help from Mother and Daddy, taking the financial burden off them and the guilt burden off me. I had worried about how in the world they could afford Daddys medical treatments on top of the costs of Georgetown. Though I never told anyone at the time, I was afraid Id have to leave Georgetown and come home, where college was so much less expensive. Now, out of the blue, I had the chance to stay on at Georgetown and work for the Foreign Relations Committee. I owe so much of the rest of my life to Jack Holt for recommending me for that job, and to Lee Williams for giving it to me.