Conventions attract our attention

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This week it’s the Democrats turn, and coverage of the party’s national convention begins. I watched a good bit of the Republican convention last week, but my real fascination has always been with the usually more raucous party.  Remember what Will Rogers said, “I am not a member of any organized party; I’m a Democrat.”

I would have to say the Democratic Party is in my genes. My grandfather, John S. Juett from Williamstown, served two terms in the Kentucky Legislature before I was born (1940-44) and in 1940 was a delegate to the convention from the 5th District. That was the convention that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term.

In 1948, Pawpaw (as he was known to dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren), was an assistant sergeant at arms to the convention, particularly notable as Hubert Humphrey introduced civil rights as part of the Democratic platform. This brought about the beginning of a change in the Southern vote, as many leading Democratss of the time left the party to form the Dixiecrats, among them that fervent segregationist Strom Thurmond.

Pawpaw stayed with Harry Truman and the party. My Aunt Jane says that somewhere  there is a newsreel that shows her father in a white linen suit leading a floor demonstration for Alben Barkley to be the vice presidential nominee. He was.

This was also the first televised national convention. Scenes are available on YouTube.com.

Grandmother went with Pawpaw to the convention in Philadelphia. I grew up thinking the trip must have been to Washington, D.C., because of the snow globes she brought  back to each of us. How the snow would swirl about the Washington Monument. I think one of my brothers has one yet.

As a youngster I watched as Dwight Eisenhower became the Republican nominee. And like most of America, I, too, “Liked Ike,” the WWII hero. I sometimes wonder if he would be a Republican today as I read about what he believed in and wrote about.

I remember Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver running on the Democratic ticket in ’56. Then in 1960, I was in high school and the nominees were Kennedy and Nixon. We had debates in school and wore political buttons.

I was living in the deep South at the time, but I seem to remember most of my friends wanting to be on the Kennedy side of the debate.

While in college, I had a fascination with Barry Goldwater, but it was fleeting, and so kept my allegiance with Lyndon Johnson, though I was not quite old enough to vote for him.

I was on the road with a friend in 1968, taking one last little trip before returning to our teaching jobs in Baltimore. We heard on the car radio to what was happening in Chicago and were frantic to get to a motel so that we could watch on television. We  pulled in at the first place we came to. It was our misfortune to have checked into a road side semi-dump, where we had to put a quarter in a box to watch 15 minutes of TV.  Can you imagine? We were not traveling on an interstate but just a two-lane road in rural Connecticut on that evening.

Of course, we had followed the Republican Convention closely too, as our former Judge-Executive in Baltimore County and current Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew was chosen to run on the ticket as Richard Nixon’s choice for vice president.

I still watch the conventions, but I miss the old free-for-alls of past years when every state nominated a “favorite son,” and it often took several roll calls to arrive at a nominee.

Floor demonstrations went on for hours. Funny signs and funny hats predominated; eloquent speeches delivered that are shown over again on CNN. And one speech, noted only for its long-windedness, made a laughing stock of the deliverer until he stood four years later to give his acceptance speech.

I hope we have a good convention this week, but with teleprompters and carefully scripted programs, I might just get bored and have to watch “Honey Booboo Child” on cable. Now there’s some excitement!


Jarrett Boyd is the retired director of Carroll County Public Library.