Tag Archives: William H. Natcher

In Our Time

Martha Potter's letter from Time

Martha Potter’s letter from Time

The inaugural issue of Time on March 3, 1923 introduced Americans to a weekly tradition of news-reading that continues to this day.  At home on State Street in Bowling Green, Martha Potter warmed to the magazine’s format and content.  “I am taking a new periodical ‘Time,’ she wrote her children in 1925, “which comes every week and which I like because it gives the news in short paragraphs, and is a very thin little volume which I can read in a short time.”  She even suspected she could “get some valuable pointers from it” for her letters, which often ran to excessive length.  In 1939, however, Martha was not so enthused when she wrote to Time complaining about some “cuss words” in letters to its editor.  “Such words can indeed be in very bad taste,” replied a staffer, but “when they add color to the reader’s comments, or fit in with what he wants to say, we let them stand.  This will not become a habit, I assure you.”

To get a mention in Time, nevertheless, is to hit the big time.  In a June 15, 1959 profile of Bowling Green native and New York banker Harold Helm, the magazine lauded the “expansion-minded” chairman of the Chemical Corn Exchange Bank, who had successfully engineered a merger with the New York Trust Company to create the nation’s fourth largest financial institution.  After the article appeared, congratulatory letters came to Helm from Kentucky friends old and new, including one who remembered boarding with his parents in Auburn in 1892.

The honor of gracing the cover of Time’s first issue went to former Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon, about to retire from a long tenure in the U. S. House of Representatives.  In a letter to his grandchildren, Kentucky Congressman William H. Natcher told a story about “Boss Cannon,” so nicknamed because of his power as Speaker and as Chairman of the Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees.  It was Cannon, said Natcher, whose fondness for the bean soup served in the House dining room mandated its inclusion on the menu every day, a tradition that continues.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these letters, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Mary Richards Goes to Washington

Mary Tyler Moore and William H. Nat

Mary Tyler Moore and William H. Natcher

The death of Mary Tyler Moore on January 25 reminded many of us how much we miss Mary, Rhoda, Lou, Ted and the gang, but tributes have also recognized her real-life, longtime advocacy on behalf of people with Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes).

Diagnosed with the condition in 1969, Moore became International Chairman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the first celebrity to lend her name to the cause.  She frequently appeared before congressional committees to encourage awareness, research and funding.  In the course of her visits to Washington, Moore became good friends with Congressman William H. Natcher of Kentucky, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for health funding.

Mary Tyler Moore with group of congressmenAmong the many hundreds of photographs in the William H. Natcher Collection, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, are these of Moore’s visits to Washington.  When Natcher died, she was one of many notable mourners who attended his funeral in Bowling Green on April 6, 1994.

For more information on the Natcher Collection, contact us at mssfa@wku.edu.

Mary Tyler Moore

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“This Good Year of 1974”

President Richard Nixon and William H. Natcher in happier times

President Richard Nixon and William H. Natcher in happier times

Facing impeachment for obstruction of justice after attempting to thwart the investigation of the 1972 break-in at Democratic Party Headquarters in Washington DC’s Watergate office complex, Richard M. Nixon resigned as President on August 9, 1974.  In his journal, Kentucky Congressman William H. Natcher chronicled the legal and political drama of what Nixon’s successor, Vice President Gerald Ford, famously called “our long national nightmare.”

Nixon’s alleged crimes were at the center of the storm, but other aspects of the controversy also gained the spotlight.  For example, Natcher recorded on July 24, 1974, that the news media “is very much under trial in this country today and during the past several days television officials are making every attempt to televise the Watergate matters in such a manner as to not be subject to charges of demanding impeachment. . . .”

As they faced mounting evidence of Nixon’s guilt, the political dilemma of his fellow Republicans intensified.  “Jerry Ford,” wrote Natcher on August 1, “has been advised time after time by his close friends to keep his mouth shut now and to sit on the sidelines during this critical period.”  Republican House Minority Leader John Rhodes of Arizona, observed Natcher on August 2, “knows that if he cast[s] his vote for impeachment [as his constituents were demanding] this will place him in a position where. . . he will have difficulty leading his party in the House. . . .  Rhodes knows that after the impeachment proceedings are over, his major duty will be to try to put the wheels back on the Republican Party.”

On August 6, 1974, as an impeachment vote loomed, Natcher heard that Nixon “seriously considered resigning and rejected this move. . . .  The President also discussed. . . the possibility of letting Vice President Ford take over temporarily under the provisions of the 25th Amendment.”  Nixon’s health, as Natcher learned the next day, was indeed an issue: fellow Kentucky Congressman Carl D. Perkins told him that the President “was a sick man and that he had been taking all kinds of harsh drugs for many, many months and that this, along with considerably more drinking than anyone knew about had placed him in a position where he was not physically or mentally qualified to govern.”

Finally, on August 9, Nixon announced his resignation.  Natcher, who believed that Nixon ought to have defended himself in a Senate trial rather than voluntarily leave office, was informed that if the House impeachment proceedings had gone forward, he had been selected to preside.  “It would have been quite an experience,” was Natcher’s classic understatement.

On July 3, 1974, during that summer of political crisis, Natcher had recalled the 1872 declaration of Carl Schurz, the first German-born American elected to the U.S. Senate:  “My country right or wrong; when right, to keep her right; when wrong, to put her right.”  This was “not a bad expression,” he concluded, “and certainly applies in this good year of 1974.”

For more information on William Natcher’s journals, part of the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, contact mssfa@wku.edu.  For more of our political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Political Survivors

Since the Cold War, a feature of the annual State of the Union message is the “designated survivor” status given to a member of the U.S. government.  Should a catastrophic event wipe out the Capitol and everyone inside during the President’s speech, continuity of government would rest in the hands of this individual, who watches the proceedings from a secure, Secret Service-protected location.  This year’s “designated survivor” was Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

In 1966, giving his farewell speech after 22 years in Congress, Kentucky representative Frank Chelf remembered an event that, if not catastrophic, surely rattled the halls of that institution.  On March 1, 1954, four Puerto Ricans demanding independence from the United States fired pistols from the gallery of the House at members of the 83rd Congress.  “When the sound of the last shot was history,” said Chelf, “five of our colleagues were lying bleeding on the floor of this chamber.”  Having just left for a doctor’s appointment, Chelf concluded that the engagement saved his life because “the seat that I had just vacated minutes before, had been completely riddled by two bullets.  It just wasn’t my time to go.”  The same, fortunately, held true of the five shooting victims, all of whom survived.

Departing Congressman Frank Chelf passes the torch to William H. Natcher, 1966

Departing Congressman Frank Chelf passes the torch to William H. Natcher, 1966

Frank Chelf’s farewell speech to Congress is part of the Frank Chelf Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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