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Whistle Stops

Whistle Stops: Adventures in Public Life

Wilson W. Wyatt
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Whistle Stops
    Book Description:

    Wilson Wyatt was Jack Kennedy's presidential emissary to Sukarno in a crisis that might have cost the West the oil of the East Indies and lost Indonesia to the Communist orbit. He headed a mission to North Africa during World War II, managed Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign, and played varied roles on stage and behind the scenes at seven Democratic conventions. He helped guide Kentucky's quiet governmental revolution in the Combs-Wyatt administration, served as wartime mayor of Louisville, launched the nation's postwar housing program under Harry Truman, and today is a leader in Louisville's renaissance.

    Wyatt's candid and informal memoir offers many revealing vignettes of the public figures of the past fifty years -- Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Alben Barkley, Sukarno of Indonesia, Trygve Lie of the United Nations, and a variety of others on the state and national scene. Three chapters are devoted to Adlai E. Stevenson -- the man, the public figure, his presidential campaigns, and his place in the political life of America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6502-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1 A Conversation with Trygve Lie
    (pp. 1-3)

    “Vat is dis business about private practice of law?” asked Trygve Lie in his deep Norwegian guttural. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was on the telephone trying to persuade me to take a position described by him as “the under secretary-general of the United Nations.” It was January, 1947, and I had just that day returned to Louisville to resume my law practice after spending five years away from it—first as mayor of Louisville for four years and then as President Truman’s National Housing Administrator and Housing Expediter. I had exhausted my savings and was convinced that a...

  5. Chapter 2 The Home Front
    (pp. 4-34)

    From my earliest recollection I have always felt the challenge of public life and the conviction that the most important activity of mankind is to participate in the betterment of each generation—expressed in the oath of every Athenian youth “to leave his city better than he found it.” Biography, especially of political leaders, was an early boyhood fascination for me. I had read with avid interest those biographies of public figures in Lord’s “Beacon Lights of History.” By the time I was nine or ten I had already decided I would like to be a lawyer, as the legal...

  6. Chapter 3 The Great American Lottery
    (pp. 35-57)

    To paraphrase Churchill’s oft-quoted statement about democracy, a national political convention may not be the ideal way to choose a nominee for the powerful office of President of the United States, but it is certainly a lot better than any other method that has ever been devised. These quadrennial institutions miraculously crystallize a decision out of the rough and tumble of political turmoil. Several thousand locally selected delegates gather from every part of the nation. Endless speeches are intoned—some historic, many dull. Bands play; leaders confer; cameras roll; reporters quiz; banners are waved; delegates demonstrate and march in the...

  7. Chapter 4 Washington Hot Seat
    (pp. 58-86)

    My term as mayor of Louisville had ended in December, 1945, and I was winding up my affairs without benefit of staff in a temporary hideaway office on the third floor of City Hall. One morning while I was talking on the phone with a friend in New York, a young lady from a nearby office called in to me that I had a long distance call on another phone. I told her I was on long distance and would call back if she would take the number. After completing a leisurely conversation, I stepped into the next office and...

  8. Chapter 5 Talking Sense to the American People
    (pp. 87-114)

    After five years of intensive public life I returned to my profession and launched my new law firm in January of 1947. Except for the excitement of the 1948 convention and campaign my political participation was limited to that of an interested citizen. I was chairman of the Truman-Barkley victory dinner in Washington and took part in both civic affairs and the elections. But my primary concern was in the law.

    Well in advance of the 1952 convention President Truman announced he would not be a candidate for reelection. This left the field wide open. Senator Estes Kefauver became an...

  9. Chapter 6 The Conscience of American Politics
    (pp. 115-144)

    Even though Stevenson had not triumphed in the Electoral College he had won an enduring place in the hearts and the admiration of Americans. Anne and I joined Adlai and Carl McGowan and his wife for a restful vacation at an Arizona ranch. On the second day we took a horseback ride across the border to the little Mexican town of Nogales, where a large crowd immediately gathered to greet Stevenson, who quipped in surprise, “Oh, I ran in the wrong country.” It was typical of the acclaim with which he was greeted on his later tour around the world—...

  10. Chapter 7 Kentuckyʹs Quiet Revolution
    (pp. 145-174)

    “Land of Tomorrow” may well be the poetic meaning of the Indian word from which Kentucky derives its name, but it does little to connote the immediacy, the persistence, the emotion, and the utter unendingness of its political bent. We ascribe the quality of our horses and our bourbon to mundane specifics like limestone and water, but to what can we ascribe our innate, perennial, and preemptive fascination with the art of politics? Perhaps it has its origin in the independent spirit of the early Kentucky pioneer, or in the sometime description of our land as “the dark and bloody...

  11. Chapter 8 Oil Crisis in the Orient
    (pp. 175-206)

    On a Friday evening in 1963 (it was the 17th of May) I was having a pleasant time talking with Barry Bingham at a Newcomen Society dinner in downtown Louisville when I was handed a message that I was wanted for an urgent telephone call. It was the acting secretary of state, George W. Ball. He told me President Kennedy wanted me to come to Washington the following morning for an immediate mission. As George was an old friend, I asked him to tell me the nature of the matter. He said they would explain it to me in Washington...

  12. Chapter 9 Atlantic City and Chicago
    (pp. 207-219)

    In December, 1963, Ned Breathitt became governor at the end of the Combs-Wyatt administration and I returned to Louisville to spend full time with my law firm. As my four-year term of office as Democratic national committeeman from Kentucky lasted through the next presidential convention, I continued to perform the light duties incident to that office. Anne was serving as president of the Democratic Woman’s Club of Kentucky and her political activities that year greatly exceeded mine. We were both chosen as delegates-at-large to the 1964 Democratic National Convention at Atlantic City. The convention was so completely controlled by Lyndon...

  13. Chapter 10 Return to the Hearthstone
    (pp. 220-226)

    The foregoing chapters concern only a fifth of the more than half a century since my school days. The other four-fifths have been spent in the pursuit of my profession from my days as an individual practitioner to our present firm of more than a hundred lawyers. I have always been most grateful to my partners for their tolerance of my periodic excursions into public life, and I am deeply pleased that they share with me the conviction that participation in the public sector and in volunteer service is not only the privilege but indeed the special obligation of any...

  14. Index
    (pp. 227-235)