Inaugural Balls

(The last event of a governor’s inauguration is the big dance.  In this tenth, and concluding, segment about inauguration history—Let’s Dance!)

Our new governor might be up late tonight because the celebration will continues well into the night.  After today’s inauguration, there will be dancing.  No matter how late the new governor is up, he’s usually in the office for his first full day of work early, if not bright, the next morning.

Members of the legislature and other important people will get all gussied up, many of them risking their lives (in our view) when they are introduced and proceed down the grand stairway from the second floor to the first floor rotunda.  We have never seen a lady get her toe caught in the hem of her gown as she comes down the stairs but the few times that we’ve jammed ourselves into the crowd and covered the event, we have watched those introductions and parades down the steps with a certain tenseness.

It takes FOREVER to get all of those people down those steps.  And then the new governor and his wife get the first dance before everybody else looks for enough space to approximate a dance.

Here’s a little history of inaugural balls in Missouri:

The first inaugural ball for a head of state in Missouri might have been in March, 1804 when Spanish Governor Carlos deHault de Lassus ran the French flag down the pole in St. Louis and the American flag was first run up, signifying the change of ownership of the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States.  De Lassus was the French-born Spanish Governor, the French never having any government leaders here during the time between the sale of the territory by Spain to France and then the transfer to the United States. Captain Amos Stoddard  represented the United States in that ceremony and was in charge until President Jefferson appointed a territorial governor.

Jere Giffen (who recently died) wrote in her book, First Ladies of Missouri, “De Lassus held a public dinner in Captain Stoddard’s honor.  This was followed by a dinner and ball given by the citizens of St. Louis. The new executive was aware of the requirements of his position and he reciprocated with a dinner and ball open to the public. Captain Stoddard noted in personal correspondence that his entertainment—which might be classed as the first inaugural ball of an American governor in the area of Missouri—cost a total of $622.75.”

There were public dinners that included dancing for succeeding territorial governors but they were not considered inaugural balls as we know them today.

The first inaugural ball of an actual Governor of Missouri might have been January 3, 1853. Giffen wrote that new first lady Martha Price (Governor Sterling Price), who was so sick during the 1852 campaign that some people expected her to die, “was sufficiently strong to move with her children into the executive mansion for the inaugural ceremonies in January, 1853.” The “mansion” in this case was the first house built for a governor, using $5,000 provided by the legislature in 1832.  It was located on the same square or block as the original Governor’s House was constructed in 1826.  The Capitol was originally known as the Governor’s House when state government moved here in the fall of ’26 because it had a two-room suite for the governor to live and work in.  That was fine for John Miller, a bachelor, but not so great for his successor, Daniel Dunklin, who had a family.  Construction was underway in October, 1833 and was ready when Dunklin moved his family to Jefferson City in early ’34. The exact location is unclear, as is the exact location of the original Governor’s House but it apparently was in the area where the present Executive Mansion is located.

Giffen writes, “A large reception, termed by some an inaugural ball, was held by the new first family and attended by hundreds including friends and relatives from Chariton and Howard Counties. One of the first formal entertainments planned by capital city residents for the new first family probably was held in the mansion of Thomas Lawson Price, the first mayor of Jefferson City and a prominent businessman of the time.  According to Jefferson City legend, it was an unbroken custom for many years for the incoming governor and his wife to be received first at the Price home.  Although bearing the same name, the two Price families were not directly related until several years later when the Governor’s son, Celsus, married Thomas Lawson Price’s daughter, Celeste.”   The wedding was at the Thomas Lawson Price mansion.

Thomas Lawson Price was the defendant in an 1846 lawsuit that challenged the legal ownership of the land on which Jefferson City was laid out.  The state, of course, won the suit.  In the early Twentieth Century, the Price mansion was purchased by the state, torn down, and became the site of the present Supreme Court Building.

Inauguration receptions and dances do not appear to have been held at the Capitol until the present building was erected.  Until then, celebratory events were held at the Executive Mansion built during the administration of Governor B. Gratz Brown.  Jean Carnahan, in If These Walls Could Talk, indicates the first inaugural festivities in the mansion were after the inauguration of Silas Woodson on January 3, 1873.

One writer—not present for the occasion, but hopeful that the Mansion and its residents would serve as a model of Victorian propriety—declared the evening “an assemblage of ladies and gentlemen met for the purpose of rational, intellectual enjoyment.”  However, those in attendance found the evening far more robust as sounds of music from a brass and string band filled the house. Inaugural guests delighted in such rollicking dances as the polka and schottische, which had replaced the minuet after the Civil War.  It was reported that dancers swirled “all through the magnificent parlors, waltzing around, through doors, and from one room to another, galloping over people who came in the way, and schottisching recklessly about…until long after the noon of the night.” 

Joseph Folk, a Democrat, was elected in 1904 when Republicans swept control of government into their column. Carnahan wrote:

Like first ladies before her, Gertrude Folk found the traditional reception and ball “a trying ordeal…and a tax on the hands and feet.”  Still she called the event “great fun” and an opportunity to meet people from all over the state.  As the evening grew longer and the fun gave way to fatigue, Gertrude eased her weary feet by abandoning her “new high-heeled slippers…in one corner of the drawing room after the last hand had been shaken!”

Herbert Hadley was inaugurated during a snow storm on January 9, 1909.  Giffen records, “Snow blew into the Mansion as each of the some ten thousand guests was admitted. Mrs. Hadley recalled how her gloves soon became torn with the prolonged handshaking and when she took them off her hand began to bleed, staining the front of her white satin inaugural gown.”   Giffen seems to indicate the event was more a reception than a ball—surely the only way ten thousand people could have visited the place that night.

The Jefferson City Tribune said, “It is said to have been the largest gathering ever assembled in the mansion. As you came down the grand staircase you would stop and look at the great seeting [sic] mass of human beings and hesitate to make the plunge but finally before you could get courage up to step forth, without a moment’s warning you were lifted off your feet and rushed along at such a rate that if the walls had given way under the pressure you would have rushed pell mell into the Missouri river.”  Music was by the Third Regimental Band of Kansas City but because the house was so crowded that dancing was impossible, “some of the young people repaired to the Madison hall and finished the evening in dancing,” a reference to the Madison Hotel, which burned about thirty years later and was replaced by the Governor Hotel, now the Governor Building.

Inaugurations were held indoors in the chamber of the House of Representatives.  The Capitol that burned in 1911 was not a fit place for any inaugural balls as we know them today—which is why post ceremony celebrations were held at the Mansion.

Things were a little straight-laced, compared to today, in 1913 when Elliott Major was inaugurated.  The inauguration committee issued an edict barring “ragging” at the ball, the playing of ragtime music.  Modern dances such as the “bunny hop” or the “bear cat,” or the “turkey trot,” and “all other of the 57 varieties of the terpsichorean art where swaying of the shoulders and other unnecessary movements” are made.

Governor Frederick Gardner was to have been inaugurated in what is now the Capitol’s Resources Museum in 1917 but that area was still unfinished.  He, therefore, held the first outdoor inauguration, an event not held again until Warren Hearnes began the current custom of outdoor ceremonies in 1965.  However, 1917 was the first time an inaugural ball was held in the Capitol.  Barricades limited participants to certain areas to congregate and dance. And organizers cautioned, “During the inaugural ball, only dancers will be allowed on the main floor in the museum.  Spectators will go up in the gallery.  Thirty policemen from St. Louis and Kansas City supplemented the Jefferson City police force with crowd control, security, and making sure the new building was not vandalized.  Three bands performed and champagne was served although Gardner had decreed earlier that he wanted no alcohol to be served during the ball.  Mrs. Gardner quick discovered the mistake but kept quiet about it. Later that year the House and the Senate met for one day in the new building although their chambers were not yet finished.  But legislators were able to say they had served in the new Capitol.

Receptions still were held at the Mansion on inauguration day but Governor Arthur M. Hyde, in a bow to the age of the building (now fifty years old) and the greatly increased crowds for inaugural events scheduled two inaugural balls—one at the mansion and another at the Capitol.  The first inaugural ball in the rotunda was on January 10, 1921.

Governor Baker was the first governor, in 1925, to have the only inaugural ball of the night in the rotunda.  But there was a post-inauguration reception at the Mansion, a practice that continues today.

By the time James T. Blair was sworn in on January 14, 1957, the crowds were so large that two inaugural balls were held—one in the rotunda and the other one two blocks away at the Governor Hotel.

When Warren Hearnes was sworn in on January 11, 1965, a military reception was held at the Mansion and a third dance was added to the inaugural ball festivities.  The now-traditional ball in the rotunda was joined by another dance at the Governor Hotel with a third one in the ballroom of the newly-opened Ramada Inn.

Inaugurations have continued to be held outdoors except for 1997 when Governor Carnahan felt the weather was too dangerous and the parade was cancelled and the ceremony was moved into the rotunda. Joe Teasdale, however, in 1977, held his ceremony outside although a foot of snow the night before caused the cancellation of the inaugural parade and the windchill at noon was minus-45. The inaugural ball did go ahead that night—in the rotunda.

The first Ashcroft inauguration on January 14, 1985 (and the same would happen four years later at his second inauguration) did not feature the new Governor and First Lady having the first dance in the rotunda.  John and Janet Ashcroft, as members of the Assembly of God, did not take part in dancing. Instead, he sat down at a grand piano in the rotunda and played “The Missouri Waltz.”

The Holden inauguration in 2001 created headlines for months.  It included two additional dance floors in large heated tents on the south front lawn of the Capitol.  There were FOUR inaugural balls—the traditional rotunda event, another dubbed “One Bright Future” in one of the lawn tents, the third—the “One Missouri Ball” in the other tent, and a fourth, at the Capital Plaza hotel, was a Children’s Ball that was for children five to thirteen years old that featured a coloring corner, a photo station, an arcade and a sundae bar.  The final cost of all of the inauguration events was $1,039,917.20 (of which $125,400 was state funds).  It was the second-most expensive gubernatorial nomination among the 17 inaugurations from December, 2000-May, 2001 with only Puerto Rico spending more.  Holden did not pay off a debt totaling about $417,000 until July.  Union donations, mostly in June, constituted $51,000, which drew criticism because Holden issued an executive order later that month giving unions more influence in collective bargaining with state workers.  His spokesman denied any impropriety and noted unions had strongly supported Holden throughout his political career.

After those events, the legislature decided not to appropriate state funds for future inaugurations, beginning with Matt Blunt.  Since the Holden inauguration, succeeding governors have taken some pains to note how thrifty they have been.  In fact, the first Nixon inauguration, July 12, 2009, was dubbed the “potluck inauguration” because the planning committee decided to hold a potluck dinner at the Capital Plaza with the committee providing hamburgers and the public was invited to bring home-made desserts.  But that part of the day fell through when city health officials warned there was no way to guarantee the safety of the food that was brought in.

If, by the way, you want to see what many of the First Ladies wore at their inaugural balls, you can visit the Cole County Historical Society, across the street from the Mansion, and see several on display.  They don’t have any of the attire worn by the Governors, but as we all know, there are times—most often weddings—when the outfit worn by the man is of no interest at all for the official record.  What’s so interesting about a tux or a suit?

The society is in the row house  where Governor Brown lived while the mansion was being built.


Every inauguration has its moments

Sometimes things aren’t as well-organized on inauguration day as they seem.   We’ve covered a dozen of ‘em and we’ve read about several more.  It seems they’re always quirky despite the minute-by-minute planning. 

The inauguration ceremony actually is a joint session of the Missouri Legislature.  The President Pro Tem of the Senate is the presiding officer, master of ceremonies, of the event—except in 1965 when the Speaker of the House presided.  That was the first inauguration of Warren Hearnes, who had run against the so-called “establishment” that ran the Democratic Party, and had defeated Lieutenant Governor Hillary Bush.  Former Senate leader Albert Spradling, Jr., recalled for the State Historical Society that Hearnes tried to gain control of the Senate but conservative senators stopped him by electing John W. Joynt of St.  Louis as the Pro-Tem.  Hearnes recalled in a similar interview that he had tried to get one of his campaign supporters, Senator Earl Blackwell of Hillsboro, elected President Pro Tem although Blackwell had been in the Senate only two years at the time.  The veteran senators also rejected Hearnes’ efforts to compromise by having Blackwell named Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The resentment caused by Hearnes’ tactics—before he was even Governor—so antagonized Joynt that  he refused to preside over Hearnes’ inauguration a few days later, leaving the job to Speaker of the House Thomas Graham. 

Three times in the last four inaugurals, a wheel has fallen off. 

We listened back to our recording of the 2013 events to put together this chronology.  Governors are usually sworn in at noon as the bells toll the noon hour at a nearby church. Here’s the chronology of how things fell apart at the critical moment:

11:59:56—band finishes playing “God Bless America.”

12:00;20—12:01:20—The bell at St. Peter Catholic Church tolls eight times.

Long pause.  Finally, Senate President Pro tem Tom Dempsey, the MC, approaches the podium, and just as he draws a breath to introduce the judge to swear in the Governor—

12:02:23—ninth bell (crowd and podium guests laugh loudly) Dempsey throws up his hands and retreats to his seat.

12:02:33—tenth bell

12:02:42—eleventh bell.  Then silence. There is no 12th bell for the noon swearing-in.  Voices on the platform (including Nixon’s apparently) are heard confirming, however, that there had been the 12th bell. Nope. Just eleven).

12:04:18—Convinced there are no more bells, Dempsey introduces St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison to swear in Nixon.

12:04:52—Judge Burlison begins the oath, “I, Jeremy Wilson Nixon…”  Nixon repeats, “I, Jeremiah Wilson Nixon…”

12:05:25—oath completed.   Church bells ring joyously throughout the city. Helicopter flyover.  


Nixon’s first inauguration in 2009 was the second time in three inaugurals when the governor was sworn in early. Master of Ceremonies Charlie Shields, the Senate President pro Tem, noted about 11:45 that the event was running early and the band would play some music to fill time. However after one number he announced the swearing in of the new governor would proceed. Shields said the National Guard, which operates the schedule for the inaugurations, told him through his earpiece to go ahead with the oath-giving and taking.  The swearing-in of Governor Nixon began at 11:52 and the church bells rang early.


The 2005 inauguration went off on time but is remembered by some for the relatively warm weather and for the governor’s attire.

Governor Blunt refused to be sworn in while wearing the traditional tuxedo, which he referred to in an interview with us as a “monkey suit.” 

Blunt used two Bibles.  In his inaugural address he noted that one was the Bible he used each day.  The second one would be given to his son upon his birth. He said it reminded him “that what we do today, tomorrow and across the next four years will help define the future opportunities of every Missouri Child.    

2005 was the second time in recent memory that the new first lady danced in the inaugural ball a few weeks before the birth of the first couple’s first child.  Matt and Melanie Blunt were expecting their first child, Branch, in March.  In 1981, Christopher and Carolyn Bond’s son, Sam, was born a matter of days after the inauguration. 


Bob Holden’s inauguration in 2001 was a scrambled affair and the first time in the dozen inaugurations we have covered that the governor was sworn in early. Supreme Court judge Ronnie White, the master of ceremonies called for the swearing-in of Attorney General Jay Nixon right after the invocation.  The schedule called for the inaugurations of the lesser officials to take place AFTER remarks from former Senator Thomas Eagleton and after the introduction of platform guests.  After Eagleton spoke and the guests were introduced, the other inaugurations took place. 

The event, which had started at 11;15 instead of the usual 11:30 saw the inauguration of lower-ranking statewide officials finished by 11:45.  Rather than wait 15 minutes for the traditional noon-time inauguration of the governor, the ceremonies went right on ahead.  Just as the church bell across the street rang once to signal it was 11:45, Governor Holden was sworn in.  Radio and television stations planning to joining the ceremonies just in time for the noon inauguration of the governor found themselves switching to the Capitol after Holden was well into his address, or not switching at all.  The church bells did not strike 12 because it would have interrupted the speech.  In his press conference after the event, Holden explained that he decided to go ahead with the swearing-in because it was 27 degrees and people were getting cold. 

The early swearing-in caught the flight of four F-15s from the St. Louis National Guard unit unprepared.  The jets, which usually formed up west of Jefferson City and flew over the Capitol west to east were far from being ready when word went out that the swearing-in was taking place and the 19-gun salute was being fired.  The jets wound up flying over the Capitol, more or less on a north to south route with two jets together and two others straggling behind, well out of formation.


Timing of the events leading to the noon inauguration was a problem, too, in 1965, during the first Hearnes inauguration.  Speaker Tom Graham, about whom we referred earlier, recalled in an oral history interview for the State Historical Society that all of the scheduled events leading to the governor’s inauguration had been finished ten minutes early.  He said, “I introduced everybody in sight.  I introduced Governor Dalton and his wife. I introduced my wife. I introduced the members of the House. I introduced the members of the Senate, and then I introduced the taxpayers.”  That killed enough time for the swearing-in of Hearnes to take place at high noon.


The second Carnahan inauguration was moved indoors because of bad weather.  Organizers always have that contingency available, setting up chairs and a special podium in both places.  The move indoors, however, meant less space for people wanting to watch.

The Carnahan inauguration, in 1993, first brought the festival atmosphere which existed in and around the Capitol for the rest of the day after the ceremonies. Carnahan was sworn in using an old family Bible used by his great grandfather, a circuit-riding Methodist minister.  At one time there was a hole in the back cover.  Family tradition held that the hole was worn by the saddle horn of his great grandfather’s saddle.  A new cover was put on the Bible in later years that replaced that worn one. He did not wear a top hat–which is kind of an on-again-off-again tradition for these events.  In 1989, when he was sworn in for his second term as treasurer, Carnahan wore a beaver topper with a long and distinguished history.  But he told us before the inauguration in ’93 that he reviewed the tapes of that event and saw he was about the only person who wore the traditional hat for the ceremony.  Others who had them either left them indoors or carried them. So he decided in 1993 to leave the hat off.  It belonged to his father, former Congressman A.S. J. Carnahan, who served in Congress for 14 years and was the first United States Ambassador to the African country of Sierra Leone, appointed by President Kennedy.

But his father was not the first owner of that distinguished hat.  It originally belonged to Congressman John B. Sullivan of St. Louis, whose wife Leonore became the elder Carnahan’s  successor and served with great distinction in the Congress for many years. 

Some might find a bit of irony in the telling of that story, we suppose.  Anyway, the hat stayed in the box in 1993. 


In 1997, Carnahan wore the beaver top hat—a little bit. We didn’t see him in it in the Capitol. He only wore it for the trip from the Mansion to the Capitol building. 

—As long as we’re speaking of top hats, here’s a little top hat history for you.  In 1969, when John Danforth was sworn in as Attorney General, he was the only one of the state officers who did not wear one.

Thomas Eagleton wore one that day although he refused to wear such a thing in earlier ceremonies.  He had complained that all during his military service his hats had been either too large or too small and he had refused to wear any hats since.

In 1961, when Harry Truman attended John Dalton’s inauguration, he refused to wear a top hat in the parade.  He wore his customary felt hat instead.

The 1961 inauguration as unusual in another respect.  The Lieutenant Governor was not sworn in with the other statewide officials.  Hillary Bush was inaugurated more than two hours later in the State Senate because the Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate.  He told the senators he respected the Senate tradition of “orderly and courteous procedure and the most searching examination into each and every law affecting our citizens.”  He promised to support “full and open debate,” saying “Good laws are not enacted after bearing only one side of a question. Minority views are just as important as the views of the majority. Sound debate often results in a decision acceptable to both sides and thus redounds to the benefit of the state”  

However, several of Bush’s friends from Kansas City missed the event.  The passenger elevators were jammed by the large crowd, so a janitor agreed to let them use a freight elevator.  Fifteen to twenty people crowded in—and the elevator stopped about five feet from the third floor.   Several minutes of door-pounding and prying open the doors finally caught the attention of someone in the hallway who got on top of the elevator car and lowered a chair to the interior.  After about five people used the chair to get out, the car rose to the third floor and stopped normally.  But it was too late for those inside to witness the event. 


One highlight of the 1989 inauguration of John Ashcroft was the opening of the huge bronze doors on the south front of the Capitol.  The doors had been closed for many years.  They had been opened only for very special occasions for about 40 years.  The state had paid $122,000 to repair and restore the doors.  The hinges and frames were rebuilt and the finish to the doors was restored.  The doors weigh 7,200 pounds, stand more than 18 feet tall and are 12-feet wide. It takes seven minutes to get the things open.  The doors are divided into four panels.  the second and third panels–the center panels–fold inward toward the Capitol and lock against the first and fourth panels, which also fold inward to provide a panoramic view up the 30-foot wide grand stairway to the third, or legislative, floor of the building.   At the time the doors were installed, they were called the largest bronze doors cast since the days of Ancient Rome.  


In 1985, Former Governor Hearnes did not attend the ceremonies, saying he had not been invited far enough in advance.  Supreme Court Judge Warren Welliver refused to attend, showing his disappointment that an associate judge of the court was swearing in Governor Bond instead of the Chief Justice.  The Associate Justice that day was Albert Rendlen, former Republican Party chairman (Welliver was a Democrat), who later became a Chief Justice.  While he held that office, he swore in John Ashcroft for his first term.  Ashcroft was sworn in for his second term by Judge Edward Robertson, his former aide that he had shortly before appointed to the Supreme Court.  Robertson, who became the Chief Justice and is now in private practice, did not swear in Governor Carnahan.  In fact, most members of the Supreme Court were absent from involvement in the 1993 ceremonies.  All of them were Ashcroft appointees. 

It is not mandatory that the Chief Justice swear in the Governor.  Circuit Judge Sam Blair swore in his brother, James T. Blair, in 1957.  In 1881, Governor Thomas Crittenden was sworn in by the outgoing Lieutenant Governor, Henry Brockmeyer, because members of the Supreme Court didn’t even show up for the ceremony until Crittenden was giving his inaugural address. 


In 1981, an empty chair was placed on the inaugural platform next to Kenneth Rothman, who became Lieutenant Governor that day.  Rothman had it placed there as a memorial to his father, who had died the year before. 

 In 1977, when Joseph Teasdale was sworn in on a bitterly cold day, Senator Eagleton was sitting on the platform next to Senator Danforth, so wrapped up in a shawl that Sally Danforth had given him when she went inside to get warm that a University of Missouri reporting program reporter mis-identified him as Senator Danforth’s wife. The wind chill factor that day was 45-below, so you know why he was wrapped up so tightly.  The ceremony started in two-below-zero temperatures.  A foot of snow had fallen overnight, causing the cancellation of the inaugural parade.  Despite abysmal conditions—the pianist suffered frostbite on her fingers–Teasdale decided to have the ceremony outside because of the large number of people who had come to Jefferson City–especially from his home town of Kansas City–to see him sworn in.   Many, if not the majority, of them stayed inside the Capitol, however, while the new governor earned for himself the nickname “Freezedale” from uncharitable critics.


 Eagleton figures in a couple of other odd moments on inauguration day.  On the way to the first Hearnes inaugural in 1965, Eagleton—who was to become Lieutenant Governor that day—was seen hitchhiking, dressed in formal attire.  The car being used to chauffer him around had run out of gas a number of blocks from the Jefferson City First Baptist Church, where an inaugural worship service was held.  Another was held there in 1969.  The Hearnes family was Baptist and Betty often sang in the church choir. 

The year Eagleton was sworn in as Attorney General, 1961, the man administering the oath forgot it.  Former Judge Sam Blair, who had administered the oath to his brother Jim when Jim became governor in 1957, said he had sworn-in thousands of persons before, and the oath is really simple as can be.  But he said he suffered a complete mental block, which lasted about four seconds but seemed far longer and left Judge Sam a little shaken.


The scariest inauguration might have been in 1913, when Elliott Major was sworn in.   The Capitol had burned in 1911 and a temporary Capitol was erected just east of the present building.  It was made of stucco, lath and wire.  One account says “it was jammed to suffocation and the structure groaned and creaked under the weight of the crowd.”  There were fears it would collapse until the building architect assured officials it would stand. The building was still there when Frederick Gardner was to be inaugurated in 1917 but officials were afraid to use it.  The situation led to the first outdoor inauguration because the new Capitol remained unfinished enough for an indoor ceremony and nobody wanted to go back into the temporary building.


There were fears in 1881 that the inauguration of John S. Marmaduke might have to be delayed because he developed a severe nose bleed in St. Louis a few days later.  The New York Times reported (Jan 11, 1885) that three doctors worked to solve the problem by trying to keep him “perfectly quiet and free from all excitement.”  The newspaper reported the Marmaduke was at a St. Louis hotel “up in his room nursing his well proportioned nose, which has both nostrils solidly plugged up.”  He did recover in time to attend his inauguration.  However he died in pneumonia in 1887 before the end of his term. 


When Trusten Polk was inaugurated for what became the shortest gubernatorial term in Missouri history, the large crowd in the House Chamber was puzzled why the ceremony had not started.  What the crowd did not know was that nobody had a Bible for Polk to put his hand on when he took the oath of office.  While the crowd waited, a frantic search was underway in the capitol to find one.  Alas! There was not a single Bible to be found in the entire building.  Someone finally came in with one—located at the State Penitentiary!  One newspaper said afterwards that Jefferson City would be a tremendous field for missionaries, noting, “”We fear that the work of legislation can never go on properly in a place where copies of the Good Book are so scarce, and that it will be necessary for other reasons than the high price of board, to fetch the Legislature to St. Louis where, goodness knows, there are plenty of Bibles, whether we govern our lives by the precepts contained therein or not.”

Polk served less than two months before he was elected to fill a vacancy in the U. S. Senate, from which he was later expelled at the start of the Civil War for disloyalty, an interesting irony for a man who said in his inaugural speech, “It will be a never-failing source of gratification to me if I shall be able to contribute in any degree towards inspiring a more sacred reverence for the Constitution of Government under which the several peoples of all the states are united as one people.”  


Let’s see if we get this ceremony right this time. 









Three addresses are important on inauguration day in Missouri.

The ceremony usually is held on the lawn of 201 West Capital Avenue.  Afterwards, the new governor and his family become residents of 100 Madison Street.

Then there is the inaugural address of the new governor in which themes of the coming administration are usually laid out in general terms although there have been times when governors have been pretty specific. And as we look back at some of those remarks, we find some that could be spoken today.

The address of our first governor, Alexander McNair, was delivered September 19, 1820—in St. Louis.  Congress gave Missouri permission in 1820 to elect a state governor and a legislature and to write a Constitution.  Missouri did not become a state, however, until August 10, 1821 after some problems with the Constitution were worked out.  McNair signed the bill on November 25, 1820 moving the seat of government from St. Louis to St. Charles until a permanent location could be picked. The legislators met there for the first time on June 4, 1821.  McNair’s first address after becoming governor is notable for its brevity—only 443 words.  He talked of the “happy change which has taken place in our political affairs,” meaning the transition from Territory to eventual statehood. And he told the lawmakers, “We shall adopt and put a new government into operation, to act with a degree of prudence and deliberation, comporting with the importance of the duties to be performed, as the future character and prosperity of our country in a very great degree depend upon the measures of the first General Assembly.”

McNair’s successor, Frederick Bates told the legislature on November 18, 1824, only about three weeks after his election that the confidence of the people was clear but, as he put it, “I must acquire the confidence of the general assembly before I can, with decent propriety, or with fair prospects of success, submit to them my views of the leading subjects of legislation.” He put forth a few principles, namely that “Justice should be accessible to all…and delays beyond the due forms and deliberations are denials.” And he warned against political manipulation of the judiciary, saying, “The officers of that department…should be placed, if possible, beyond the reach of those temporary excitements, so often discoverable in other classes of our fellow-citizens. An able and upright administration of the laws, is among the first and greatest of political blessings.”

Frederick Bates died before the seat of government was moved to Jefferson City.  The first inaugural address in Jefferson City was delivered by John Miller, who finished Bates’ term and was elected to a full four-year term.  Miller began the practice of combining his inaugural address with what we would today call the State of the State Address when he spoke in what was called “The Governor’s House,” on November 18, 1826.  His speech was 5,537 words long. It was not unusual for future governors’ inaugural speeches for several decades to continue that trend of combining the two occasions.  The continued population growth of the state led him to comment, with pride, that state government revenue was as much as $55,000 to $60,000 a year without any increases in taxes.

Another part of his speech jumps out of the long text because of the election these 190 years later.  Miller said, “The propriety of proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, relating to the election of the President and Vice President, [is] a subject which imperiously demands the consideration of the legislature. That the will of the people shall control the choice of the…Chief Magistracy of the United States is a principle supported by the spirit of the Constitution and held sacred by a large majority of the citizens of the Union.”   But, he said, “it must be admitted that the Constitution in in its letter, in this particular, defective.”  He called on the legislature to urge Congress and legislatures in other states to amend the constitution to make a vote of the people elect the President and Vice-President, and “preventing in any event, an election being made by the House of Representatives.”

He was speaking in the wake of the 1824 election in which neither Andrew Jackson nor John Quincy Adams got a majority of the 261 electoral votes. Two other candidates combined to get 78.   The election was decided by the House of Representatives in favor of Adams although he got 38,000 fewer votes than Jackson, 31 percent of the total to Jackson’s 41 percent.  Missouri had given Adams only four percent of the vote; Jackson 34 percent, and Henry Clay 59.

The day of the terribly-long inaugural address/legislative address ended with James T. Blair on January 14, 1957.  He announced several days ahead of the event that he would speak for only fifteen minutes and would make no recommendations to the legislature in an effort to hold the ceremony to forty-five minutes.  He planned a legislative address a week later and supplemental addresses after that. The practice of separate State of the State and budget messages continued through several succeeding administrations.  Today, the State of the State and the budget message are combined into one address.

With that historical foundation laid, let’s launch a long reflection on more recent and not-so-recent speeches.

Four years ago, Governor Nixon called for cooperation between his administration and the overwhelmingly-Republican legislature, recalling that in his first years in the state senate, there was a Republican governor when the legislature was Democratic and “it was possible to disagree while continuing to advance the common good.’  He hoped his second term would be one in which, “We will put our shared principles ahead of our small differences, and work together…”  But the legislature became even more partisan and their disagreements grew even sharper.  He leaves office as the governor with far more vetoes overridden than any governor in Missouri history.

Nixon’s speech in 2009 was called “A New Day for Missouri,” and was delivered as the country was headed toward the depths of the recession.  He noted Missourians were “united by the common uncertainty of our future.”  But he proclaimed his inauguration marked “a new day for Missouri.  He committed his administration to improving the economy by “making Missouri a magnet for next-generation jobs,” and he promised the state would invest in new technology.  He talked of implementing new policies although he did not get specific.  His speech was filled with generalities, the wording intended to encourage an audience during discouraging times.

Matt Blunt’s speech in 2005 focused on change. “Change begins today, at this hour, in this place,” he said.  Blunt and fellow Republicans had attacked Bob Holden for withholding money from public education during his term to balance the budget in tight economic times.  Blunt had promised he would never balance the budget as Holden had done, proclaiming government was “morally bound” to serve Missouri’s children and their families.  He promised to push for an entrepreneurial climate where good family supporting jobs could be created.  He told the audience the work was beginning to improve the lives of all Missourians, that government had to do a better job of serving the people while remaining frugal and wise.  A few days later he announced in his state of the state speech that he was changing the Medicaid program in ways that cut tens of thousands of people out of it.

In his speech in 2001, Governor Holden called on Missourians to “reach new heights” during the first administration of the 21st century.  His “one Missouri” theme pushed for finding the character to improve health, education, respect for others, job training, better transportation and an improved environment.  But he noted “the greatest barrier we have to building one Missouri is ourselves.”   He noted the state could no longer think of itself as divided by geography (the urban-rural split), by race, by partisan politics—“It’s time Kansas City and St. Louis realize they live in the same state,” he said.  He went on, “The goal of my administration is to unite all Missourians in forging a bright future that holds maximum opportunities for each of us.”

In 1997, Governor Carnahan recalled that in his first term, the state had started reforming its education system, cutting the crime rate and moving people from welfare rolls to payrolls–as he put it.  In addition the state was recovering from its worst flood in recorded history.  “Let there be no doubt,” he said that day, “this administration will vigorously promote education, not just with words, but through plans and hard work that translate into achievement.”  He set a goal of making every youngster computer literate by age 12, and a goal of making sure no company would leave Missouri because of a lack of trained employees. He urged a new partnership between government, business and communities to improve education and education opportunities.

Four years earlier, in 1993, Carnahan said the measure of his time in office would be, as he put it, “How far did he take us toward the next century?  And how well did he help us prepare for the challenges that lie ahead?”

“I want to leave behind tangible achievements–things we can touch and measure–things that will endure–things that will make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. His focus would be on education.  He said he would make it the real test of his governorship.  Carnahan said it would take a revolution with tougher standards for children, teachers, and others.  And he said money must be provided to make it all happen.  Later that year, the legislature passed the Excellence in Education Act, which raised taxes for education.  He wanted a high school graduation rate of 90 percent by 2000, which proved to be unattainable.

He said his second mission would be economic development and promised the state’s first comprehensive economic development plan.  He said it was time to get serious, and smart, about economic development.  “I am convinced that we have the heart and the will to make great progress and do great things,” he said…”Together, if we try, we can claim the future. Let’s take the risk of trying.”

In 1989, John Ashcroft titled his speech, “Independence and Responsibility, Declarations for the 21st Century.”  He called on Missourians to declare independence from ignorance, declare ourselves free from dependence on government, declare independence from a contaminated environment, and declare independence from degrading drugs and pornography.

In 1985, Ashcroft called for a partnership between state government and the people of Missouri to attract new industry, improve education, solve problems of prison and rehabilitation, and fight child abuse.  He pledged the state to improve teacher salaries but called on teachers to improve the standards of our schools.  He said government cannot solve all problems by itself, but government can lead people to work together to solve problems and meet the challenges of the future.

In 1981, Christopher Bond was returning to office saying the nation had seen government that offered many solutions that raised people’s hopes and expectations had grown.  But promises had been broken; confidence in government was weakened.  He called for renewed pioneering efforts in education, crime-fighting, help for the elderly and poor.  It was a short speech, just over three double-spaced, large-type, typewritten pages.

In 1977, Joseph Teasdale promised breaks with tradition, bemoaned lack of public confidence in government and pledged that elected leaders would be servants, not masters.  He told the audience it was the will of God that he be elected Governor. His speech was also relatively short, although longer than Bond’s 1981 speech.  He said in his inaugural he had a comprehensive legislative program he would announce later.  He did, in a speech in the House chamber that lasted one-hour-17-minutes and 46 seconds, the longest State of the State message on the recent record. I timed it.

In 1973, Christopher Bond’s first inaugural speech was longer than Teasdale’s speech.  He recalled his campaign had been based on an issue of trust, rather an explicit promises for explicit policies.  He spoke of trust, integrity, pride, compassion and confidence.  His speech in 1981, though much shorter, was considerably more specific—in general areas.

Warren Hearnes said in 1969, although not directly, that Missourians would probably face a tax increase during his second administration.  He had made good on a promise of no tax increase in his first four years.  But he could not make a similar promise for his second term.   “To do and be better,” he said “is a goal few achieve. To do it we are required to make sacrifices.  Sacrifice in the sense of the giving of a part of those material things which we enjoy in abundance.”   1969 became the year of his battle with Senator Earl Blackwell.  At the end of that fight, Hearnes tasted political defeat on a major issue for his first time.  He noted then that inauguration day might have been the only day in the whole year that the sun shone on Warren Hearnes.

In 1961, John Dalton promised to gear his administration to strict law enforcement and high ethical standards.  He promised a strong study of Missouri’s tax structure, frankly saying, “We will require additional income if we are to make necessary expansions in our services and I strongly feel that these increases should be levied on non-essentials and not on the necessities of life.”  He promised to formulate legislation for increased industrialization of our state, and stronger laws on traffic safety.

Governor Phil Donnelly called for the state to look forward to the obligations and opportunities of a post-war world when he was sworn in for his first term in 1945. Donnelly, who had been in the legislature for twenty-two years before becoming governor, also knew the state faced challenges when the war ended in an American victory.  He knew it would take “hardheaded resistance” by the governor and the legislature from pressure groups wanting the state to spend an eighteen-million dollar surplus generated by a wartime economy. He said it was a “moral obligation” to set the money aside to take care of “some of the damage this war will inflict on Missouri.”  He knew the state’s unemployment compensation fund would be stressed when war industries closed and laid off thousands of Missourians.  He also knew the war had given “immense impetus to the development of peacetime aviation and called for actions to insure development of airports.

Missouri and the nation were well into the Great Depression when former Congressman Henry Caulfield urged the legislature on January 3, 1929, to practice a “rigid economy,” saying, “It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to conduct the state government properly within present revenue, yet it is our duty not to permit our expenditures to exceed the expectant income.  The practice of over-appropriating the estimated revenue on the theory that the Governor will withhold portions of the sums appropriated is not to be commended. I urge you to limit strictly your appropriations in the aggregate to the amount of the estimated revenue. If, not withstanding the amount of the estimated revenue is not sufficient to meet the stat needs, then I respectfully suggest that you should make provisions for an increase in revenue.”

The 1921 inaugural address of Governor Arthur M. Hyde is notable for the history it observed and for a message that might resonate these ninety-six years later. Hyde was the first governor inaugurated in the rotunda of the new capitol.  The first line of his speech noted a historic chance in Missouri: “The men and women of Missouri have spoken.”   Hyde was the first governor elected after women got the right to vote.

He continued: “Their voice was no uncertain one. The pluralities given to the Republican party were the largest ever given to any party in the history of the State. To the party has come complete control of the Legislature. Every elective official is a Republican.”  But he cautioned against self-congratulation or exultation because of the promises made during the campaign. He said, “We have duties to perform, pledges to redeem, work to do. The largeness of our pluralities measures only the greatness of our opportunities and the solemnity of our duty.”

Joseph W. Folk, inaugurated in 1905 after a populist campaign against corruption, was preceded in the inaugural ceremonies by William Jennings Bryan, who was brought to Jefferson City from his Nebraska home to praise Folk’s victory. Folk, in his address, urged the legislature to pass a number of reform bills. One would allow witness immunity in bribery cases (the state had just been through a legislative bribery scandal in 1903), and an extension of the statute of limitations in bribery cases. He said the state should vigorously prosecute the issuance of railroad passes to political figures (the railroads, as the dominant means of transportation, used the passes to exercise considerable influence on lawmakers).  He favored creation of statewide primary elections to end control of the process by bosses and their machine, and direct election of U. S. Senators instead of the then-present system of legislative elections of them.  And he shook up the “business as usual” concept in the capitol by proposing lobbying be made a crime unless the lobbyists registered with the state and did not stay in the capitol for more than thirty hours.

And Folk, a Democrat with a Republican legislature, reminded lawmakers, “Partisanship is a good thing, sometimes, but Patriotism is a better thing all the time…Some of you are Democrats, some are Republicans; all are Missourians. In the discharge of official duties let us be Missourians before we are anything else. Do not forget that you will be aiding the party you may belong to most by giving the public the highest service. You cannot help your party by injuring the public.”

We find an interesting set of circumstances when we go all the way back to January 5, 1857 when Governor Trusten Polk told the audience in the House chamber of the old capitol, “it will be a never-failing source of gratification to me if I shall be able to contribute in any degree towards inspiring a more sacred reverence for the Constitution of Government under which the several peoples of all the states are united as one people…Fellow citizens: I may often go wrong, even while doing the best I can.  When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground.”

A few weeks later Trusten Polk resigned as governor to become a United States Senator.  In 1861, this governor who promoted reverence for the Constitution was expelled from the U. S. Senate for disloyalty.  He spent the Civil War on the Confederate side.

Eight years later, Governor Fletcher knew the war would be ending in a few months. In his speech January 2, 1865, he proclaimed, “Henceforth Missouri shall be an asylum for all nationalities and races and peoples; the repository of wealth, and a theater for the development of the labor and enterprise of the hand and spirit of Industry; and the home of free thought, free speech and a free press, where the prejudices of caste and class have no legal embodiment or political encouragement. She shall be a central mart for the interchange of the products of the North and the South, the East and the West, through the rivers of her great basin and the system of railways centering in her metropolis. She shall be a highway for the commerce of the two oceans, borne by the inland transit lines that carry the freights between Europe and Asia. She shall proffer a secure and guarded repose to all consciences and all religious beliefs, un-tied by any secular control, yet upheld and encircled by a public sentiment upon which faith in God has taken a new hold from the experiences of an unparalleled national preservation.”

Some inaugural speeches resonate through the decades.  Some become just speeches.

Lake Benton

Here’s a little something your chronicler stumbled upon while leafing through an old Journal of the Missouri House.  We thought it might be appropriate to mention on this day after thousands of people spent their last long weekend at Missouri’s biggest vacation venue.

In 1929, when the Lake of the Ozarks was a dream of  Union Electric (for younger readers, that was Ameren before some people developed the field of creating brand names that sound clever but don’t mean much), the Missouri legislature decided the lake that would accumulate behind the dam being built near the village of Bagnell should have a name.  The legislature decided the lake should be named for our second U. S. Senator, Thomas Hart Benton.

But Governor Henry Caulfield, a former member of Congress and a former state appeals court judge, vetoed House Bill 930. There was no override.

I have no objection to the avowed purpose of this bill, that is the designation as Lake Benton, although I personally prefer postponing the naming of the Lake until it shall be constructed, and then perhaps giving it a Sylvan name or an Indian name, or perhaps, the name of the engineer who will build the Dam; but I would not veto the bill on that account.

I do object to that portion of the bill which unnecessarily designates Thomas H. Benton as “Missouri’s greatest U.S. Senator.”  I would not object if he were designated as Missouri’s great Senator or one of Missouri’s greatest Senators. I do not question Thomas H. Benton’s greatness, neither do I assert he is not Missouri’s greatest Senator. I do not, however, believe it proper for the legislature to unnecessarily and without any hearing select one of our former Senators and proclaim him the greatest.  Such a course invites controversy and unnecessarily wounds the feelings and arouses the prejudices of those of our citizens who reverse and love Missouri’s other great Senators. When the legislature convenes again, the construction of the Lake may be at least begun, and if the Legislature still deems it proper to designate the Lake as Lake Benton, I will be glad to join with them provided the objectionable portion of the present bill is omitted.

The legislature took Caulfield up on his offer when it next met in 1931.  One bill was introduced to name the lake for Benton.  Another bill was introduced to call it Lake McClurg, honoring Governor Joseph McClurg (1869-71; governors had two-year terms then), who had had a “Big Store on the Osage” at old Linn Creek, which disappeared under the waters as the Osage River backed up behind the dam.  The present Linn Creek was set up on higher ground by some of the residents of the flooded community.

The House indefinitely postponed consideration of the McClurg bill but on February 12 passed the Lake Benton bill, which stayed in the Senate Committee on public Corporations, Railroads, and Internal Improvements until May 1 when the committee recommended the bill not be passed by the full Senate.   No legislation was introduced in 1933 or afterwards which is why the lake behind Bagnell Dam has the “Sylvan name” Caulfield suggested would be more appropriate.

As far as naming the lake for the engineer who designed the dam:  The dam was designed by the Massachusetts firm of Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation that collapsed in 2000 after a major bribery scandal.

Bagnell Dam is named for the community which, in turn, was named for William Bagnell who moved from St. Louis County to set up a railroad tie business along the Osage. His crews turned trees into railroad ties and then floated them downstream.

Beyond 66 degrees 33 minutes

DSC05246Now I know what the poet Robert W. Service meant.

There’s the land (Have you seen it?)

It’s the cussedest land that I know.

From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it

To the deep, deathlike valleys below.

Some say God was tired when He made it;

Some say it’s a fine land to shun;

Maybe, but there’s some as would trade it

For no land on earth—and I’m one.

One day not long ago, I took a little trip.  It started at 5:30 in the afternoon.  I got back to my motel at 1:30 a.m.   And it was still light enough to read a newspaper.

Everything around me was American.  The people.  The cars.  The signs.  The language.  The money.  But there also was a slight feeling of disorientation. This was a different America.  It was late June but sometimes it felt like October.  It looked like April.  It looked a lot like Colorado but it was so much more than Colorado.


  The mountains were higher.  The rivers were colder.  The valleys were wider, far wider.

One of the lodges where Nancy and I stayed will close on September 20, as would most of the businesses in the town, which will become so buttoned-up that the street lights would be turned off, not to be switched on for six months or so when the town would come back to life.

I had just been to two towns with a combined year-around population of thirty-two far off the beaten path—until a path was beaten to them.

This is Alaska and the last frontier really is here, sixty-five miles above the latitude that marks the beginning of the Arctic Circle.

Sixty-six degrees, thirty three minutes is the latitude that marks the Arctic Circle.


About two million people visit Alaska each year, about three times as many people as live in a state that is larger than Texas, California and Montana combined.  At least that’s what they claim and I am beyond arguing with them.  Less than one percent of those who visit Alaska make it above the Arctic Circle.  So we went and we listened to a man there who has lived a life in that frontier that is so different from our own that this listener could not fully absorb it.

A sign on the Dalton Highway at the Coldfoot turnoff says, “Next Services, 240 miles (380 kilometers).  No more services to the Arctic Ocean Coast.”  The nearest Wal-Mart is in Fairbanks, 270 miles and about six hours’ worth of driving to the south on a partly-paved highway built for trucks taking supplies to Prudhoe Bay, where the pipeline begins.


The truck stop at Coldfoot is the only place for fuel, food, and lodging along the entire highway.  500 miles.  You better have a big fuel tank and plan a very long day without a hot meal if you don’t plan to stop at Coldfoot, which was named by the few miners who stayed behind that first year when hundreds of others got cold feet and headed south.

Our driver on the way from the airport in Coldfoot to Wiseman told us there’s only one highway patrolman in the district, patrolling an area the size of the state of New York.  With only one road going through the area and little population in that region, there’s no criminal activity to speak of so he spends most of his time making sure hunters follow state and federal wildlife regulations. He keeps his airplane at the airport.

Life in Wiseman and in Coldfoot, Alaska is called subsistence living and it better be something a person is completely committed to doing. The odds are long against survival without that commitment.


We met in an old miner’s cabin in Wiseman built in 1946 by a character named Harry Leonard, who had moved into the area in 1932 looking for gold. He died in 1989 at the age of 92.  Harry arrived before there were roads and he and a lot of other folks in Wiseman didn’t cotton to the idea of a highway, even if it was gravel, disrupting their wilderness.

And they sure didn’t want any pipeline.  Harry parked a tractor on what was then the pipeline road back in the summer of ’74 and blocked traffic for six hours, claiming the road was interfering with his mineral claims.  State troopers finally convinced him to leave only to see him barge into a pipeline construction camp the next day, waving a gun around and telling the crews to get out.  An AP story reported, “The matter was settled informally, typical of bush justice.”

It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,

It’s the forests where silence has lease,

It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

The growing season is nearing an end in this region for people like Jack Reakoff, the Wiseman resident who spent the better part of an hour talking to us in Harry’s cabin, remembering days before the pipeline, days before the Dalton Highway, days before any kind of a paved road and who explained how one of the main focuses of living in a place like Wiseman is staying alive.

DSC05307His narrative was nothing like television’s version of reality.  What was so interesting was that he talked about his life within the Arctic Circle the same way we would explain our lifestyles here.  Except we would talk about going to Wal-Mart or the mall for things or watching the grocery ads for bargains on groceries and he talked about spending 18-21 days chopping ten to fifteen tons of wood that keeps his home warm during the long winters, growing almost four-hundred pounds of potatoes in his 24×21-foot garden and the vegetables that will help feed his family (“I have about fifty, sixty pounds of carrots and other root vegetables, lots of leafy green things, lettuces and all that for salads.  There’s no…green, leafy lettuces here in the wintertime so I freeze kale and turnip tops and spinach, stuff like that. And I put that in my 22 cubic foot freezer from late April through late September. The rest of the year the freezer’s turned off. And the freezer stays outside night and day.”), and going out even when it’s fifty-below zero to shoot the protein he and his family will need—moose (he’s allowed one a year), caribou, fox, wolf, bear, wolverine, rabbit, and lynx among the possibilities.

Summer growing season is June and July at this latitude. He plants his crops in May and covers them with plastic to trap the UV heat that allows his vegetables to be showing above ground by June 1.  He store his vegetables in his cellar which is dug into the permafrost and stays at 34-45 degrees.  That’s a trap door in the middle of Harry’s cabin, for example, that led to his cellar.

This particular valley gets about nine inches of precipitation a year. Reaker calls it a frozen desert.  How can he grow so many vegetables, how can the foliage be so green, with so little precipitation?   It’s because the permafrost keeps the water from soaking far down into the soil. It’s why the trees in most areas are so small and thin even though they might be a century or two old—their roots are shallow because they can’t grow through the permafrost and don’t need to do so because the moisture remains near the surface.

And don’t believe some of the stories you hear or that you see on television. “You hear guys sitting in a bar drinking whiskey telling bear stories—The Alaskans have to tell these stupid bear stories which they’ve heard over and over. It’s like a rumor going around in a room. Pretty soon these bears have bulletproof pelts and bullets bounce off their skulls and it takes multiple…rounds to kill one of them.  Anybody who tells you that it takes multiple magazine round is either really poor shot or they’re drunk and they don’t know what they’re talking about. Those bullets do not bounce off of bears and they’re easy to kill,” he told us, later showing a grizzly bear skull with a bullet hole between the eyes.


There’s nothing particularly colorful about Jack.  He’s living in his environment and doing what he has to do to survive there—just as we do in our environment.

That’s just part of the stories we heard about life above 66 degrees 33 minutes.  And there were many more from people below that line.

We think we have our magnificent areas here in the lower 48 in terms of mountains and valleys and scenic vistas.   We found Alaska above and below the Arctic Circle to be all of that and many times more.  Here are some things we did not know before we went:

America’s third largest river system is there—the Yukon, stretching 1,980 miles from British Columbia to the Bering Sea.   Seven of our nation’s ten largest national parks are there.  In fact, the largest one, Wrangell-St. Elias, covers 13,005 square miles.  And the second one, Gates of the Arctic (which isn’t far from Wiseman), covers 11,756.  Each of those national parks covers more area than the other three large national parks in the lower 48, COMBINED (Death Valley, Yellowstone, and the Everglades total just 11,094 square miles.

We visited a temperate rainforest in Ketchikan, where fire danger is always low, and forests in the inland national parks, where the fire danger was always high.  We marveled at the seeming frozen power of glaciers and heard their crackings and poppings and boomings as they ground their way forward.  We even flew out to one, the Mead, near Skagway, and hiked around on it for a while in special spiked overboots.


Glaciers are filthy with the debris of the ground they grind over. If you are familiar with Jefferson City, try to imagine a sheet of ice two-thirds as high as the Gateway Arch stretching from the double diamond interchange on the Whitton Expressway (Highways 50, 54, and 63)  all the way north to the 54/63 interchange across the river, and covering everything east beyond Linn—and moving at five feet a day. Glaciers are forces of nature that can only be experienced by being among them.  Their power—and their vulnerability—leaves one grasping for superlatives.

More than forty percent of the people in Alaska live in one place—Anchorage.  Another four or five percent live in Fairbanks.   The rest are scattered, and we do mean scattered, throughout the vastness of the place.

It’s a long ways and at least three time zones from Missouri to Alaska.  Don’t go there if you want to see quaint and colorful people.  Don’t go if you expect to see the massive herds of  caribou that you see on television (Jack says Hollywood and even some of the depictions on the History and National Geographic Channels don’t reflect reality).


Go and be quiet.  Go and listen.  Go and soak in a place where only one-percent of the land is allowed to be in private hands.  Go to see something gone in our part of the nation.  Go to respond to another Robert W. Service poem:

Have you seen God in His splendors,

            Heard the text that nature renders—

(You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)

The Simple things, the true things

            The silent men who do things?

Then listen to the Wild—it’s calling you.


They have cradled you in custom,

            They have primed you with their preaching,

They have soaked you in convention through and through;

            you’re a credit to their teaching.

But can’t you hear the Wild?—it’s calling you.


Let us probe the silent places,

            Let us seek what luck betides us;

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.

There’s a whisper on the night-wind,

            There’s a star agleam to guide us,

And the Wild is calling, calling….let us go. 


Notes from a Quiet Street—V

Just some observations when we’re not feeling real bloggity.

The words of Alfred Damon Runyon, 1920s New York newspaperman, seem appropriate to recall in this important political campaign year and form this entry’s scripture reading.

“Son,” the old man said, “as you go around and about in this world, some day you will come upon a man who will lay down in front of you a new deck of cards with the seal unbroken and offer to bet he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear.   Son,” the old man continued, “do not bet him because as sure as you do, you are going to get an earful of cider.


Our tour bus stopped at an intersection a few days ago and we spotted this interesting juxtaposition of signs, grabbed our camera, and caught the image just in time.


The signs struck as kind of funny, particularly given the political climate here and the overt efforts by the Humphreys and the Sinquefields to buy elections.  We thought we might congratulate the Alaskans on their candor but then realized the signs were at a parking lot next to the legislative building and it was the parking that was soliciting money.  Yes, the capital city is Juneau but the legislative building is in Anchorage and there are times when the Governor doesn’t want to live in Juneau and the legislature doesn’t want to meet there.

But the signs did make us think.

Fun times are about to start in Cleveland

Donald Trump is holding a nominating convention in Cleveland in a few days.  The Republican National Committee arranged the dates and the venue and the delegate selection process.   It did not, however, arrange for Donald Trump and that’s why this could be the most entertaining national convention in years.

Conventions have degenerated into carefully orchestrated infomercials but this year the orchestration has turned severely dissonant.  We might actually watch this convention.

Governor Nixon has withheld $115 million dollars approved for spending by the legislature after getting a look at state tax collections and deciding they’re not trending in the right direction to support that spending.  Several legislative leaders have done some huffing and puffing about the action.  We’ll see in September if they want to take the responsibility that will go with overriding the vetoes. The problem with overriding the withholds is that the legislature will bear the sole responsibility if the economy continues to struggle and there really isn’t money available to pay the bills. But so what? By then, there will be a new governor and the legislature will have a lot of new faces so it will be THEIR problem.

Overriding the withholds might not mean much other than the legislature saying, “It’s okay to spend the money.”   The Governor can still tell his department directors to be guided by his withholds.  By January, 2017, his successor will have a better handle on the fiscal outlook to decide whether to give his department directors the same message.  Overriding governor’s spending restrictions then amounts to little.  Legislative grandstanding, maybe.

We’ve been kind of quiet for the last few days being increasingly unimpressed by the political commercials we’re seeing.  They either have no real substance to them or they’re pitchforks-and-broadswords and show no qualities that encourage many disaffected voters to have any increased confidence that we have or will have a rational government in Missouri.

The real reason we haven’t had much to say is because we’re trying to figure out what we can say about our two weeks (more or less) in Alaska. Most of those who have taken a look at the place find themselves lacking adequate superlatives to describe what they’ve experienced and witnessed.


Denali, from forty miles away.  The highest mountain in the United States. Some people still call it Mt. McKinley.  As impressive as Denali is, remember this:  Everest is about fifty percent bigger.                                                          —-

We passed through Wassilla.  Saw the former Sarah Palin place.  The only things visible from her house are the railroad tracks, a shopping mall, and a whole lot of trees. We were told she lives in Arizona now.  We wonder if she can see New Mexico from there.

Despite partisan differences

The legislative session ended on February 20th.

In New Mexico.

We were in Albuquerque when the session ended about an hour away by highway where speed limits seem to be optional despite the signs.

Albuquerque Journal Capitol reporter Dan Boyd told readers, “New Mexico lawmakers passed more bills during the just completed 30-day legislative session than they had in a short session since 2010, reaching deals on state spending, criminal penalties and driver’s licenses despite partisan differences.”

The Senate Democratic leader talked about the session having “a more civil tone” than the 2015 session.  The House Republican Floor Leader said, “bipartisanship is alive and well in Santa Fe.”  (For those who have forgotten their fourth-grade civics lessons where we had to memorize all of the state capitals, Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, not Albuquerque.  In fact, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States).

Boyd said New Mexico lawmakers approved 101 bills plus a proposed constitutional amendment reforming the state’s bail system.

Comparing New Mexico’s legislature to Missouri’s legislature is comparing a peach to a raspberry.  But let’s make a little fruit salad today anyway.

New Mexico’s legislature meets for sixty days in the odd-numbered years and thirty days in the even-numbered, or election, years.  This year all 112 members of the legislature are up for election—all 72 Representatives and all 42 Senators.   Democrats control both chambers, 38-32 in the House and 27-15 in the Senate.

Bipartisanship is much easier when the political balance is more in balance.

There are no term limits so that means there are some experienced hands to teach the newcomers how to respect the system and how to respect each other to whatever degree respect can be given in these bile-filled political times.

Missouri has 197 members of the legislature (34 in the Senate, 163 in the House for those not fully civically literate), with two-thirds majorities on the Republican side in each chamber.  All of the House seats are up for election this year and one-half of the Senate seats.  Missouri has term limits, meaning experienced hands are lacking when it comes to teaching the newcomers how to respect the system and how to respect each other, etc.   The bile level appears to be higher in Missouri than in New Mexico.

Our legislature met for 72 days last year and will do about the same this year.  Monday, February 29th, was the thirtieth day of this legislative session in Missouri.

The internet site, Legiscan, says 2005 bills have been introduced in Missouri this year. Nine have passed in the first thirty days.  Its figures show 145 of the 2135 bills introduced last year were passed in a session that lasted twenty percent longer than the 2015 session in New Mexico.

Legiscan counted 138 measures on which work had been “competed” in New Mexico out of 1013 introduced for the thirty-day session this year and 232 out 1731 in the sixty-day session last year.  We haven’t waded too deep into the New Mexico process to determine why Boyd and Legiscan have different numbers but we suspect a slightly different definition of “measure” might be involved.

New Mexico has about 2.1-million people and Missouri has about 6.1 million.  Apparently, Missouri therefore needs forty percent more legislators and sixty percent more legislative days every two years to pass fewer bills while enjoying the benefits of much higher partisanship.

It surely can’t be because we have more people.

This is a possible reason for sessions that are short in New Mexico:  Members of New Mexico’s legislature are not paid salaries.  They get $165 a day per diem, adjustable according to the federal rate, a good reason to get business done expeditiously so legislators can get back home to real jobs in the real workplace with real people.

Missouri’s lawmakers, as we have noted previously, make about $36k a year plus per diem no matter how long they stick around the Missouri Capitol.

We do not offer an opinion of which system is best for the people of each state.  One seems clearly more advantageous to legislators and those who influence them.  We’ll let you decide which system better serves the people who live and work outside the Capitol.

We recall, however, that earlier this year one of Missouri’s legislative leaders opposed shortening sessions because it would leave the executive branch more in control of state government.  Some might find that a rather peculiar observation.

But we wonder if the shorter, lower-paid, legislative sessions in New Mexico are one reason the state is known as “The Land of Enchantment.”

Show Me State

The generally-accepted version of how we came to be called “The Show Me State” is that Congressman Willard Vandiver, who represented a district in southeast Missouri, used the phrase in a speech to the Five O’Clock Club in Philadelphia.  There are other stories about the use of the phrase but the Vandiver version is the conventional wisdom.

One of the pleasures of digging through historical records is the discovery of things other than the object of the search.  While we were going through the papers of Governor Herbert Hadley (1909-1913) while researching the latest book on the Missouri Capitol, we came across this letter from Hadley to George W. Eads at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on February 11, 1911.  Eads had asked Hadley a couple of days later about the origin of the expression, “I’m from Missouri, you have to show me.”  Hadley didn’t much like the expression although he reconciles himself to it by the end of the letter.

The incident referred to in your letter did not arise from any objection upon my part to this expression.  The question was as to whether Missouri should be known as the “Show Me” state, and if not by that name, by what name it should be known.  It was suggested by Mr. Curran, the Immigration Commissioner, that a prize might be offered to the one suggesting the best name for the State.  In the discussion that followed, I stated in a newspaper interview that I preferred the designation “Pioneer State,” for the reason that the Missourians had been the pioneers in the development of the country west of the Mississippi.  I also stated that I had never been particularly enthusiastic over the expression “I am from Missouri you have got to show me,” as it had in it as much of a suggestion of the incredulity of ignorance as of hard-headed inquisitiveness.  However, it was apparent from the discussion that there was quite a general satisfaction throughout the State with the expression in that it was supposed to carry with it the suggestion that the Missourian did not propose to have anything “put over” on him.

Viewed from this standpoint, the impression and the designation which has been applied to the State is not uncomplimentary or unsatisfactory.  I do not know the origin of the expression.  I remember to have read a newspaper story in which it was stated that it originated in one of the Southwestern states by a cow boy who had a habit of using this expression which soon became general in the community and gradually spread throughout the country.  But whether this story is true or not, and wherever the expression came from, it is evident that it has come to stay. It stands as a protest against shams, pretense and hypocrisy. It signifies the conservatively aggressive attitude of the people of this State against that which seems to be wrong or presents the appearance of having a “joker” in it.

That’s the definition Governor Hadley felt the motto had in 1911.  How much does it still apply today?  Might be something to discuss at the coffee shop or the salad bar someday.  Or maybe it’s a high school or college debate topic.

Your faithful scribe has thought about Hadley’s interpretation from time to time and isn’t sure which side to take.  But the discussion would be fun.

Regardless, “Show Me State” is better than some of the other unofficial state mottos we’ve had.  The one we’re glad did NOT make it to our license plate is one from the nineteenth century.

The Puke State.

I have an amendment

Representative Bart Korman, a Republican from High Hill, has introduced a bill defining sex between lobbyists and legislators or legislative staff as a “gift” and requiring lobbyists to list such gifts along with the more usual tickets to sporting events, meals, booze, and other favors in their reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.  He says his bill “will improve the integrity and transparency in our process.”  It is also the most titillating proposed law in many years.

One weakness is that it is not clear whether the legislation requires a report to be filed for each “gift” or if the filer has to file during each filing period if the gifting is continuing, and whether a report should be filed with the giving ends,  much as a report is made when a campaign committee or continuing committee shuts down.

Some people would be exempt.  Lobbyists who are married to legislators would not have to report the amount of gifting that goes on within their marriage (although, apparently, any gifting on the side would have to be reported).  And if the two started exchanging gifts before they became lobbyists or legislators or legislative staff member, they’re not required to file a report, either.  So if you are a lobbyist who is a friend with benefits with someone who becomes a member of the legislature, you can continue to exchange gifts without reporting.

In other words, celibacy should not be a penalty for the companion of a lobbyist who is elected to the legislature or a legislator whose FWB becomes a lobbyist.

This is a great example of compassionate conservatism but we think it can be improved.

THE SPEAKER:   Gentleman from the 164th.

GENTLEMAN: Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I want to thank the Gentleman from the 42nd for this fine piece of legislation that will drive thousands of Missourians to the Missouri Ethics Commission’s internet site. I think that website is not used nearly enough by citizens who should want to know more about the people wanting their money and their votes. However, I think we can make those reports more likely to draw public attention to the commission website and make the reports more, uh, valuable to the public with a few minor changes.  Therefore, I have an amendment.

THE SPEAKER:  Send it forward

(Doorman takes amendment to clerk).

THE SPEAKER:  Read the Amendment.

CLERK:   House Amendment Number One to House Bill Number 2059, page three, Section three, line 67, by striking the last sentence reading, “The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall not require a dollar valuation,” and substituting thereto the following language: “The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall require for each instance a dollar valuation, including but not limited to the cost of any meal, movie or other show or attraction, wine or other drink, limousine, carriage ride, or other forms of conveyance including but not limited to merry-go-rounds and airplanes affiliated with the gift, and any special clothing purchased or provided for the exchange of said gift. 

Further amend said bill with the following:

(4) The Missouri Ethics Commission shall require such information to be filed for each instance on a special form designated as Form 50, said form to also include the following information:

            —Was it as good for you as for the giver/recipient?

            —On ten-point basis, rate quality of giver.

            —On ten-point basis, rate quality of the receiving experience

            —Approximate length of time from beginning to end of gift exchange including any unwrapping. ______ hours ____minutes (approximations accepted)

            —Number of gifts given in 24-hour span ____

—Description of any restraints used (additional pages supplementary to the form are allowed).

—Mark one:  Daylight ___    Night ___

—Mark one:  Lights on ___ ­­­­Lights off ___

—Indoors ___ Outdoors ____

–Feathers?  Yes ___ No ___

—Were mirrors involved?  Yes ___ No ____

—(If applicable) Kind of vehicle in which gift was given

—(If applicable) Room in Capitol in which gift was given

—(If applicable) Description of non-Capitol room in which gift was given

—Description of any toys that facilitated exchange of gifts (use back of form if necessary.)

—Describe position(s) of the gifting parties during the time of the exchange (Additional pages supplementary to the form are allowed.).

—(If applicable) Describe any medications or other special applications that made the gift possible or of greater experience including but not limited to fruit and whipped cream (additional pages supplementary to the form are allowed.). 

—Number of participants:  two ­­­­­­­­­___   three ­­­­­­___Not to boast, but ­____

—Gift given to someone of different gender? Yes ­­­___ No ___ 5th Amendment ­­­___

—Was safe gifting exercised?  Yes ____  Uh-oh____

And renumbering following sections accordingly.

THE SPEAKER:  Gentleman from the 164th , Would you like to explain your amendment?

GENTLEMAN:  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I think the amendment is self-explanatory. As I said, I think it will encourage more people to find valuable information on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.  I move the adoption and will welcome any questions.

Get over it and fight back

St. Louis Rams merchandise has become St. Louis Rams memorabilia.  Look for big markdowns in sporting goods stores for jerseys that say “Gurley” on the back.  Don’t bother calling Stan Kroenke and the National Football League all kinds of nasty names. They don’t care and while you’re thinking up creative new epithets to apply to the situation, time is a-wasting. 

Mayor Slay wants to pout and says he’s through with the NFL.  And Offensive Line Coach Nixon says the league talks out of both sides of its mouth.  Get over it.  There are worse things than hearing the NFL say St. Louis is not an NFL town.  One of the worse things is accepting it.  There’s got to be a better answer to the NFL blasting St. Louis as “inadequate” than saying “am not!”

There’s a line in Meredith Willson’s Broadway musical of years ago, The Unsinkable Molly Brown “Nobody wants me down as much as I wants me up.”

St. Louis will survive and thrive without a pro football team. They’ve done it before.

But if St. Louis wants a replacement NFL team, it has to regroup immediately and be aggressive.  And go get the Oakland Raiders.  

The Raiders are the odd man out in the Los Angeles sweepstakes. They probably feel bruised, too. Speculation already is being offered that the Raiders will move to San Diego to replace the Chargers, who are likely to become Kroenke’s alternate-weekend tenants in his new stadium in a Los Angeles suburb.  St. Louis needs to nip that San Diego talk in the bud. After all, the NFL has dissed San Diego, too,. And there are all kinds of good reasons fans should be going to St. Louis Raiders games sometime in the future and some good reasons why the Raiders should want to play in St. Louis.

We know the Raiders don’t want to be in Oakland.  Heck, they’ve already left it once to go to Los Angeles from 1982-1994 and (believe it or not) decided to return to Oakland.  So we know the Raiders have shallow roots.  They also share a stadium with the Oakland Athletics, a team that once was the Philadelphia Athletics before they were the Kansas City Athletics and then the Oakland Athletics.  And the city of Oakland has refused to commit any taxpayer funds for a new football stadium.

Think of some other NFL history.  Think of the great Chiefs-Raiders rivalry.  Think of the marketing opportunities that could come if that rivalry was a cross-state rivalry that would make the annual Governor’s Cup competition TWO regular season, inter-divisional contests, not just an exhibition game.   

Stadium?  St. Louis already has one. It’s domed so the first Chiefs-Raiders game could be played in the sunshine early in the NFL season in Kansas City and the second one could be played as a season-concluding, everything is on the line on a frigid day game—indoors. 

Remember that Stan Kroenke felt the dome could be a top-tier stadium worthy of keeping the Rams in St. Louis if it got a $700-million upgrade, which now looks like an offer that shouldn’t have been refused.  So instead of the Raiders moving to Los Angeles to play in a $1.9-billion dollar stadium they wouldn’t be able to call their own, they could move into the domed stadium in St. Louis that would be upgraded to top-tier quality and they would be the only football  tenants.  And St. Louis can be an NFL city again with a Kroenke-certified top-tier facility for a price that is in NFL terms reasonably sane, not the financial disaster Kroenke claimed the riverside stadium would be.  

The team could keep its “Raiders” name because it would be appropriate to St. Louis.  Let’s not forget that Lambert-St. Louis Airport was once a world-class airport until a corporate RAIDER named Carl Icahn got his hands on TWA and messed around with it until TWA disappeared into American Airlines and the St. Louis hub just disappeared.  Don’t forget that some folks in Los Angeles might think of St. Louis as a city that pulled a raid on LA and took the Rams away to begin with.  We could probably find other examples of raids (including prohibition times in the city once called “Anheuserville” by some critics).   

 ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez, who covered the Raiders for eight years, says the NFL has declared San Diego and St. Louis “non-viable” for an NFL team (which might preclude the Raiders from moving to San Diego if the NFL is consistent).  He suggests San Antonio and Portland, Oregon might take a run at the Raiders.  But the “non-viability” of St. Louis  was based on comparisons to Los Angeles and the St. Louis plans for a new stadium that raised questions about financial viability from the NFL.  But if Oakland WANTS to move to St. Louis to play in a stadium renovated the way Stan Kroenke would have found acceptable—-well, we know the NFL is sometimes not a synonym for “consistency.” 

Don’t waste time crying in your foreign-owned beer, St. Louis.  Regroup.  Raid the Raiders. Convince them you’re much better than what they have and what they get can continue to improve.  And start squirreling away cash for the entirely new stadium you know will have to be built someday. 

IF, however, the name of the game is to spend an INSANE amount of money for a new stadium, then do something that fits with the city’s history and spreads the costs around.  Such as?

A new stadium OVER the Mississippi River, not next to it.  

Don’t bloody your nose snorting over this “impossible” idea.  One hundred and forty years ago or so, there were plenty of people who told James B. Eads that his idea of a bridge over the Mississippi of the kind he proposed to build was impossible.  Eads, not being an engineer, saw no reason to listen to his critics.   His impossible idea is now one of the symbols of St. Louis. 

There was a time when the idea of building a 630-foot stainless steel arch on the riverfront was ridiculed.   Yet, there it is and the city and the federal government are spending a lot of money to rehab it and the area around it.  It has turned an eyesore of a riverfront into one of the world’s great entrances to a city.  

A stadium over the river.  It would never work, you say, because it would weigh too much.  Not if you built it out of carbon fiber and industrial grade aluminum (if industrial grade aluminum is good enough for the Ford F-150 built in Kansas City, it’s good enough for a footballs stadium at St. Louis) or titanium.  What an engineering marvel that would be!   What an international symbol of a city forging a new technological identity in the 21st century it could become!  

The Eads Bridge is a 19th century symbol.  The arch represents the 20th century.  The stadium over the river would say so much about the 21st century people that we are, and it would be right in the middle of the nation, a draw for thousands, maybe millions of people, to see and visit on the other 41 weekends a year. 

Why build it over the river?  To spread the costs around.  Think of the Stan Musial Bridge.  Missouri didn’t pay for all of it.  Illinois paid for some of it.  Another Missouri-Illinois project that could lead to immense economic development on both sides of the river would revitalize both St. Louises and their surrounding areas would offer economic opportunities that would make the Lumiere Place and the Alton Belle casinos look like penny arcades when it comes to economic benefits. 

Need an example?  The Kansas Speedway has been a huge economic development success just across the border from Kansas City.  And every time something new happens in that area there should be increased embarrassment on the Missouri side because our legislature had a chance to provide incentives for that track to be built near the Kansas City airport.  Legislative shortsightedness cost Missouri big-time then. St. Louis suffered the same disorder with the Rams (the same way it did with the Football Cardinals).  Time to get a new prescription.    

Sure, you’d have to consider what would happen in flood times.  But that’s an easily-addressed matter, really.  This is a time for boldness, not bruised egos.  Floods?  A small, occasional annoyance.  They can be dealt with.   

It’s halftime and St. Louis trails but the game is not necessarily over.  Coach Slay and offensive line coach Nixon need a stirring clubhouse speech. 

“There’s no time to sit around licking wounds.  They’ll heal anyway.  Get a couple of stitches, put a piece of tape over it, put the helmet back on, and get out there.  We aren’t playing for tie and we’re not going to accept a loss.” 

In the end, the city still might be on the short end of the fight but there’s no dignity in getting knocked down and deciding to pout on the canvas instead of getting up to punch back.