15 January 2008

Three Presidents Visit Humboldt County

News of Bill Clinton's visit tomorrow has me wonderin' how often we get visits from this pols of this stature in the hinterlands of northern California. A few quickie Google searches begs the following question: Has it really been 38 years since a US President found his way to Humboldt County?

As near as I can tell, not since August 27, 1969 when President Nixon (before The Fall), former President Johnson (Lyndon, not Andrew), and then-Governator (and future president) Reagan gathered in a 300 acre redwood grove a few miles off the highway in the newly minted Redwood National Park, have we witnessed American royalty this high up the north coast. (And those of you who've been here much longer than me, please, don't hesitate to correct my attempt at county history.)

For 'twas on that cloudless August afternoon that three presidents - past, present and future - deplaned at the Arcata Airport, took the short drive up Highway 101, breezed through the little town of Orick to dedicate the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Lady Bird herself had already visited the area in November of '68 to formally dedicate the National Park. This day's visit named this one grove of ancient redwoods in honor of the former first lady and her "Beautify America" efforts.

August 27th just happened to be LBJ's 61st birthday, and for the occasion the Nixons had flown Lyndon, Lady Bird, and the girls all out to San Clemente for a roast beast feast, a lemon birthday cake decorated with yellow roses and bluebonnets, and a 19"bonsai tree with its requisite "Bonsai for Beginners" handbook. Tossed in were a couple hours of meetings between the two presidents and dastardly notable Nixonites Kissinger, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman.

After lunch, the party retired to Air Force One, trusting the military's finest designated drivers to find their way northward the redwood coast. It was not a direct flight however. The revellers pit-stopped at Orange County's El Toro Marine Corps Air Station to pick up Governor Reagan, the good Reverend Billy Graham and soon-to-be House Majority Leader (D) Hale Boggs , better known today as the father of NPR's Cokie Roberts.

A signing ceremony, a few quick, mostly forgettable remarks (check 'em out here if you like), and some great pictures of three American presidents, side by side, literally, in our neck of the woods. I know we can all go on about the three President's debatable "greatness" as we will about Bill and Hillary when their run is done, but a great day for the county nonetheless (or at least for our local historians and chambers of commerce).


For the record, Herbert Hoover visited the county on a few occasions after his presidency ended in '32, including a night camping under the redwoods on Bull Creek as well as occasional fly fishing forays on Redwood Creek and nights at the Orick Inn on his way to his private fishin' cabin on the Klamath.
Were there others?


EkoVox said...

Good post. Your blogs a good one.

Carol said...

It is indeed. Greg linked your blog to our blog this morning.

Bob Flame, Ranger said...

Thanks y'all. I've enjoyed both your blogs for a while now. I'll try to keep pace with the quality on both your sites as I meander my way among other Humboldt writers.