Little Rock Look Back: Nixon Out

On August 8, 1974, Richard Milhous Nixon announced he would resign the Presidency of the United States the following day.  On August 9, 1974, after the Nixons left the White House escorted by Vice President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, the oath of office was administered and Gerald R. Ford became the 38th President of the United States.

With the Arkansas Democrat being an afternoon paper, by the time their August 9 issue came out, Nixon had announced his resignation and the oath had been given to Ford.  (Though the afternoon of August 8 did carry a headline saying that resignation seemed imminent.) The morning Gazette carred the headline “NIXON RESIGNS” on August 9 and on August 10 carried coverage of the transfer of power.

In their headlines, both the Democrat and the Gazette included the phrase “nightmare is over” from Ford’s speech.

Remembering Betty Ford with Clinton Foundation, Clinton School tonight

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Clinton Foundation and University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service will host Remembering Betty Ford, a conversation about the woman who made a positive and lasting impact on our country.

The conversation will include Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, and Lisa McCubbin, author of “Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer,” an intimate and insightful biography of Betty Ford, the groundbreaking, candid, and resilient First Lady and wife of President Gerald Ford. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa McCubbin – with foreword by Susan Ford Bales – the book tells the inspiring story of an ordinary Midwestern girl thrust onto the world stage and into the White House under extraordinary circumstances.

The program starts at 6pm at Sturgis Hall.

Setting a precedent as First Lady, Betty Ford refused to be silenced by her critics as she publicly championed equal rights for women, and spoke out about issues that had previously been taboo—breast cancer, depression, abortion, and sexuality. Privately, there were signs something was wrong. After a painful intervention by her family, she admitted to an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. Her courageous decision to speak out publicly sparked a national dialogue, and in 1982, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, which revolutionized treatment for alcoholism and inspired the modern concept of recovery.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing or by calling (501) 683-5239.

A book signing will follow the conversation. Copies of “Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer” are available for purchase through the Clinton Museum Store online, in store, and at the event. Those who purchase their book through the Clinton Museum Store will receive priority line access at the signing.

Little Rock Look Back: Wilbur D. Mills

While later known more as a punchline due to personal fallibilities, for decades Wilbur D. Mills was one of the most powerful men in the world.  As the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee from 1958 to 1975, he was the architect not only of an overhaul of the tax code, but also determined ways to finance Medicare, Medicaid, and many other federal programs of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford years.

Wilbur Daigh Mills was born in Kensett on May 24, 1909.  When Mills went to Congress at the age of 29, he was the youngest man elected to that time.  A scant four years later he joined the Ways and Means Committee.

Because Mills rarely had an opponent (only 1942, 1966, and 1974), he was able to focus on learning the ins and outs of the tax code. As long as he delivered some federal dollars to his largely rural district every so often, he did not have to preoccupy himself with the daily issues many in Congress face.  It was not until 1963, when Arkansas lost two of its six congressional seats, that Mills had Little Rock in his district. Prior to that, Searcy had been the largest city he represented.  (There had been concern that Rep. Dale Alford, who had upset incumbent Brooks Hays in 1958 before losing his seat due to reapportionment four years later might challenge Mills. But Alford opted to retire instead of taking on the powerful Mills.)

President Kennedy’s visit to Little Rock and Greers Ferry in October 1963 was the result of bargaining with Congressman Mills over some tax policy.  Mills gave in to JFK a bit, and JFK agreed to come to Arkansas to speak in Little Rock and at the dedication of two dams.  In recognition of his national clout, Mills was briefly considered a contender for the 1972 Democratic nomination for President.

Though he probably struggled with alcoholism for years, he had been able to keep his behavior in check until 1974 when his car was stopped in Washington DC for not having its headlights on. Though Mills was not driving, he was inebriated.  Another occupant of the car, a stripper with the stage name Fanne Fox ran from the car and frolicked in the Tidal Basin.  It became fodder for worldwide headlines.

The incident happened about a month before Election Day, when Mills was facing Republican Judy Petty.  A contrite Mills spent the remaining days in the campaign in Arkansas and won re-election by 59% of the vote.  (Though later in November, he again was in the headlines when Fox pulled him on stage with her at a club in Boston.) In January 1975, he stepped down as Ways and Means Chair.

In 1976, he opted to retire from Congress and did not seek another term.  In retirement, he practiced law in Washington DC before eventually moving back to Kensett full-time.  He died in 1992.

Spies and Pets Among Features at Clinton Presidential Center

Clinton LibraryToday is not Presidents’ Day. No such holiday exists within Federal or Arkansas governments.  However, a good way to celebrate the observation of George Washington’s Birthday (Federal holiday for today) would be to visit the Presidential Library of one of his successors – Bill Clinton.  Visiting that facility is also a good way to mark the Arkansas holiday of Daisy Gatson Bates Day since she and President Clinton were friends.

The Clinton Presidential Center features numerous permanent and temporary exhibits.  Two of the current temporary exhibits are:

Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America -Created by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America dramatically illustrates the challenge of securing our nation without compromising the civil liberties upon which it was founded.
Through artifacts, multimedia elements, and interactive exhibits, visitors can uncover stories of espionage, treason, and deception in the United States from 1776 to today.
Visitors can discover little-known accounts of foreign agents, militias, and radicals, and learn how responses to domestic attacks have driven counterintelligence measures that continue to affect our everyday lives.

This exhibit is designed to be viewed by families and schools, although the content is most appropriate for children ages 11 and up.

Presidential Pets. Socks. Buddy. Barney. Bo. The Clinton Center will debut a new temporary display, “Presidential Pets,” on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. “Presidential Pets” is a tribute to the presidential pets that helped make the White House a home.
From snakes to chocolate Labs, these famous pets provide an enjoyable look at presidential history. The display will include items from President George W. Bush, President Clinton, President George Bush, President Ford, President Nixon, President Johnson, and more.

Both exhibits run through April 27, 2014.