Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Douglas Brinkley and "Cronkite"
Here's a photo that I took after the Oregon Historical Society sponsored event at First Congregational Church, downtown Portland. I got there early, bought my already-signed copy of the hefty book, found myself a seat in the beautiful sanctuary on the first non-reserved-seats-row. Turns out folks like former Governor Ted Kulongoski and his wife, President Nixon's brother Ed, and Senator Mark Hatfield's widow Antoinette were among those sitting in the reserved seats. The only one I actually recognized was Governor Kulongoski.
And it wasn't until I overheard Brinkley talking with someone as we walked after the event to the Oregon Historical Society building next door for the short reception and more book signing that I realized the former president's brother had been in the audience. So, when I got home, I Googled Ed Nixon and realized he had been in front of me! I had said, "Excuse me," to Mr. Ed. Nixon as I made my way to talk with Governor Kulongoski and his wife after a superb 90-minute-lecture in which Brinkley had the audience in the palm of his hand, as the saying goes.
Yes, I wanted to talk with the Governor and his wife because one day after he had left office last year, I found myself seated on the homeward bound bus, with him standing right in front of me, holding onto the strap as we turned onto NE 16th. I looked at him and realized I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn't place him. When a man a strap or two away called him Ted, it clicked. Former governor! On the bus! In front of me! Kulongoski explained to the man that he was on his way home, proving to his wife that he could get off at the right stop, chuckling all the way along with the man who knew him. In fact, he looked down and me and smiled as he said that last part. So I piped up, "Governor, I moved here from Mississippi in 2006 and ride the bus everyday. I don't think you're going to have any problems at all." Both of us chuckled and he stepped back as I stood up to get ready to get off at my stop. What a neat happening! Only in Portland, I remember thinking. And here he was again, this time with his lovely wife. I just had to share the neat happening with her, and him. We three enjoyed more chuckles and smiles as I told the tale. His wife said they'd been in Mississippi last year for the historic Freedom Summer events (she showed me the folded up program which was still in the bottom of her purse) and they both were interested in why I'd moved to Oregon, both happy that I had found their home state to be such a good place for Mama and me and my sons.
At the signing, I asked Mr. Brinkley if he could personalize my book, which he graciously agreed to do. As I stood there, I just had to mention Lemuria Books, the best independent bookstore if the whole world--to me and lots of other folks and not meaning to disparage Powell's which is grand in its own right but it's not in my birth-city-home-town! He smiled real big and we talked for a few moments about Lemuria and his visits there before I asked if he'd like me to give a message to John Evans and/or Joe Hickman. He smiled and said, "Yes, tell them I'd like to bring Cronkite there!" So I called John later in the week and e-mailed Joe, too. What fun!
What an evening! All thanks to Douglas Brinkley and the Oregon Historical Society and First Congregational Church. Next up, reading "Cronkite."
About the event: Acclaimed author and historian Douglas Brinkley will share a fascinating lecture surrounding the release of his latest book, "Cronkite." In "Cronkite," Brinkley presents the definitive, revealing biography of an American legend: renowned news anchor Walter Cronkite. Brinkley has drawn upon recently disclosed letters, diaries, and other artifacts at the recently opened Cronkite Archive to bring detail and depth to this deeply personal portrait. He also interviewed nearly two hundred of Cronkite's closest friends and colleagues, using their voices to instill dignity and humanity in this study of one of America's most beloved and trusted public figures. Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University. Seven of Brinkley's books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. One of his most recent books The Wilderness Warrior, became an instant New York Times best-seller. Brinkley is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and The Los Angeles Times Book Review.
About Brinkley from Harper Collins: Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune has dubbed him "America's new past master." Six of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. His most recent book, The Great Deluge, won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He lives in Texas with his wife and three children.