Every fourth year, January 20 assumes special significance as Inauguration Day in the United States. Not only does it signal the beginning of a new presidential term, it marks the culmination of months of planning for countless parties, receptions, dinners, balls, teas, concerts, luncheons and other assorted schmoozes as well as the inaugural ceremony itself, all of which the political elite flock to attend.
Monroe County native Pearl Carter Pace (1896-1970) participated in and helped to plan many such functions. Before becoming the first woman in Kentucky elected to the office of sheriff for a 4-year term, she had taught school, worked in several family businesses, married and had 3 children. After her husband died in 1940, Pace threw her energies into state Republican politics. In 1953, she became a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s War Claims Commission, and her chairmanship of that body in 1959 made her the second-highest ranking woman in the Administration. She worked tirelessly for many other political and civic causes in both Kentucky and Washington.
Preserved in the Pearl Carter Pace Collection at WKU’s Special Collections Library are invitations, programs and correspondence relating to presidential inaugurations from 1949-1969, but principally for Eisenhower in 1953 and 1957. These materials provide a close-up view of the scramble to reserve accommodation and transportation to the inaugural events, create lists of invitees, arrange seating, and secure admission to the most-coveted Washington functions. As Republican National Committee chairwoman for Kentucky at the time of Eisenhower’s first inauguration, Pace obtained tickets for a Middlesborough constituent, who responded with elation at the prospect of attending this historic event. “It was the most wonderful Christmas gift a Kentucky woman could have been afforded,” she declared, and hoped that on the appointed day she would be near enough “to see our great President take his solemn oath of office.”