Ghosts of inauguration days past
Joseph R. Biden assumed the presidency at 11:00 Central Standard Time (12:00 EST) today. He becomes the 45th man to hold the office (Grover Cleveland was elected to two non-consecutive terms, and he is counted both 22nd and 24th; don’t ask me why), and oddly enough, the first from the nation’s first state, Delaware, which joined the union 7 December 1787, a few days before neighboring Pennsylvania.
He is the second Roman Catholic president after John F. Kennedy; coincidentally, Biden and several top-ranking governmental officials attended a prayer service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral this morning, the same cathedral where Kennedy’s requiem mass was conducted by Cardinal Richard Cushing 25 November 1963, approximately 70 hours after he was shot to death (supposedly by Lee Harvey Oswald) on Elm Street in Dallas.
I watched ZERO of Biden’s inauguration. I was somewhere between Hays and Russell when the oath was administered by Chief Justice John Roberts. I had ZERO desire to watch, and I will not be searching the Internet to watch it.
I didn’t vote for Biden. I didn’t vote for his predecessor either. It’s so sad Biden was the best the Democratic Party could offer, but he was more palatable than the Democratic candidate of 2016. Had Biden said something before the Democratic National Convention, he could have saved the country from Hillary AND Trump. Too late.
As I cruised Interstate 70 towards Shawnee and then Leawood, I thought about where I have been for past inaugurations.
Since 1937, presidential inaugurations are held every four years on 20 January. Previously, 4 March was the date, but after a tortuous lame duck period following FDR’s election in 1932 and the end of Herbert Hoover’s presidency, Congress passed and the states ratified the 20th Amendment, moving the inauguration date ahead 42 days, while setting the meeting date of the new Congress to 3 January or thereabouts.
Why 20 January is used, I’ll never know. New Year’s Day sounds like a fine time to do it, but anyone and everyone involved with college football would raise hell. It would not be too hard to move back bowl games to 2 January every four years.
Better yet, why not inaugrate the new president as soon as possible? The 4 March date was designed to give newly elected House members and newly elected or appointed Senators enough time to get from their homes to Washington in the era before air travel.
The electoral votes can be counted by 1 December, and the new president can take office on 15 December. This way, you don’t have to go through the crap that Trump put the country through.
Kansas City reminds me I was in town four years ago when Trump was inaugurated. Larry and I were playing trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa, trying to avert our eyes from the big screen. We told Tori, the regular daytime bartender, to mute the sound and let me play the jukebox. She had no objections. Later that day, Robb and Dawn came in (they were still married and everything looked good for them), and they were despondent. Both of them were Bernie Sanders supporters in the primary and they absolutely loathed Trump. Three days after his election, I brought them some beer to help them drown their sorrows.
For both of Obama’s inaugurations (2009 and 2013), I was working at home. I recall being in my bathroom at 11:00 in 2009. I did not watch either ceremony.
I also did not watch either of George W. Bush’s inaugurals. In 2005, I was at work at Delgado Community College, and in 2001, I was at Lee High in Baton Rouge covering the annual Lee High (now Louisiana Classics) wrestling tournament for The Advocate.
I was in LSU’s sports information office the day of Bill Clinton’s second inaugural in 1997. Since it was Martin Luther King Jr. day, not everyone showed up; the only others there were Kent Lowe, Michael Bonnette and Jim Kleinpeter. Lowe and Bonnette were the media relatoins contacts for the men’ s and women’s basketball teams, respectively, at the time, and Kleinpeter was LSU’s beat writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. We went to lunch that day at Pizza Hut just south of the LSU campus.
Lowe is still in his position, Bonnette was promoted to the top spot in 2000 and still holds it, and Kleinpeter is now covering LSU’s women’s basketball for The Adovcate.
I was a junior at Brother Martin High the day of Clinton’s first inaugural in 1993. Since it was my lunch period, I did not have to watch, and I didn’t. Lucky for me, my social studies class was my first of the day and ended at 08:55.
I was in seventh grade at Arabi Park Middle when George H.W. Bush was inaugurated in 1989. It was cold and rainy that Friday. There was a “Mardi Gras Ball” that evening and a dance afterwards. A very awkward pre-teen evening for Foots, who was still three years away from receiving the nickname.
The next evening, I had to march with the band in the Krewe of Saturn parade in Kenner, which is on the opposite side of the New Orleans metro area from Arabi.
Super Bowl XXIII was that Sunday; I watched every play of the 49ers’ thrilling victory over the Bengals, which wasn’t cemented until Joe Montana hit John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining to cap a 92-yard drive. Cincinnati has yet to recover.
Four days after the elder Bush took the oath, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison just after 06:00 CST, ending his reign of terror for good. Bundy was officially executed for murdering 12-year old Kimberly Leach in Lake City in February 1978, but he also raped and murdered Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy in the Chi Omega house at Florida State hours before Super Bowl XII, and killed at least 40 women in the western United States from 1974-77.
I woke up in the dark the morning of Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.
Reagan was officially inaugurated for a second term on 20 January 1985, but since 20 January was a Sunday that year (it was again in 2013), Dutch took the oath privately in the East Room of the White House at 11:00 CST, and the public ceremony was held the next day.
Super Bowl XIX was 20 January 1985. To celebrate Reagan’s second term, the man who played George Gipp on the silver screen was asked to toss the coin prior to the Dolphins meeting the 49ers at Stanford. There was a satellite hookup between the locales, and Reagan tossed the coin in the East Room when prompted by referee Pat Haggerty.
It was bitterly cold in most of the country that Super Sunday. It was chilly and foggy in Stanford, a fitting backdrop for the Dolphin defense, which was shredded for 537 yards by Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and company. Dan Marino was pounded by a San Francisco defense spearheaded by future Hall of Famers Fred Dean and Ronnie Lott, and the 49ers rolled 38-16. Little did anyone know Marino would never return to gridiron football’s biggest stage.
Temperatures below minus-7 Celsius (20 F) are as rare in New Orleans as sightings of Haley’s Comet and four-leaf clovers, but lo and behold, it dipped to minus-10 C (14 F) in the early hours of 21 January 1985. The power at 224 Jaguar Drive went out, as it did for tens of thousands across south Louisiana.
The cold hit the Air Products and Chemicals plant at the northeast edge of New Orleans hard, and my dad had to go out there to check it out only a couple of hours after the Super Bowl ended.
Fortunately for my brother, mother and I, we had a way to keep warm.
My mother’s close friend, Wanda Pattison, had a gas furnace at her residence in Chalmettte, about 15 minutes from our house. We went there to keep warm, and the electricity came on just in time to see Reagan take the oath from Chief Justice Warren Burger.
It was so cold in Washington–minus-15 C (5 F)–the ceremony was moved from the West Front of the Captiol into the rotunda, the first time in memory the ceremony was held indoors. It should have been held indoors today.
U.S. Representative Gillis Long from Louisiana died the previous day, and Reagan asked for a moment of silence in his memory. Long represented the former Eighth District, which stretched from Alexandria south and east along the Mississippi River to St. John the Baptist Parish, from 1973-84, and previously in 1963 and ’64. Gillis was a cousin of legendary brothers Huey and Earl Long, and secured funding for an important Hansen’s Disesase research center in Iberville Parish about 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Baton Rouge; the center now bears his name.
Gillis ran for Governor of Louisiana in 1963 and again in 1971. He was third in the Democratic primary each time, with John McKeithen winning the former election and Edwin Edwards the latter.
I was not old enough to remember Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981, although I have watched it on YouTube. That day, the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran since 4 November 1979 were freed. Reagan announced it during his inaugural speech, and Jimmy Carter went to Germany to meet the freed men.
Speaking of Carter, of course I can’t remember his inauguration in 1977. It was my 99th day in this life.
If you have read to this point, I thank you. If not, I don’t blame you. I’m going full Porky Pig…THAT’S ALL FOLKS! (at least for now)