This afternoon while having lunch I caught Andrea Mitchell’s program on MSNBC. Around 1:45 EST she was interviewing Mark Shriver on his book about his Dad, A Good Man. Early in this interview, they started to talk about Sarge and his friendship with Martin Luther King back in Chicago when Shriver was head of the Board of Education for the City. Next, they shifted to Kennedy nomination and the famous spontaneous phone call that JFK made to Coretta King on the day her husband had been tossed into a jail for a civil rights protest. It was a politically risky telephone call by Kennedy, and any one his advisers would have stopped it, had they been in the room. It turned out to be a key political gesture by Kennedy and turned the Black Vote for him that November.
Andrea Mitchell directed the MSNBC conversation this afternoon and Mark went along, agreeing with her as she detailed how it had happened., and all the while I waited for the other shoe to drop. I waited for Mark to raise his hand and say, “But Andrea, what really happened….”
The other shoe didn’t drop.
The other shoe was the fact–reported every-which-way from here to the history books–that Shriver was urged to have JFK call Coretta King by Harris Wofford, then working with Shriver on the Kennedy campaign, and who was also a good friend of Martin Luther King. Shriver took Wofford’s suggestion and ran with it. Harris, who later became Kennedy’s point person on civil rights in the White House, and with Shriver created the Peace Corps before going off in 1962 to become the agency’s first CD in Ethiopia, as well as, the Peace Corps Representative for all of Africa.
Now, it’s a detail, I know. Maybe it is a minor detail. But it was first reported in Ted White’s The Making of a President, way back in 1961, as a key element of that election, and later identified as one of the most politically astute moves of that campaign, or any presidential campaign.
Now, I know Mark is on a roll talking about his new book, and I know, too, that he interviewed Wofford about his Dad, but before all of us lose our collective memories, I just wanted to get that basic fact down on this blog. Harris has done a lot for the Peace Corps, JFK, and all of us who were his first PCVs in Ethiopia.