One of Us
The genesis of my idea for a book on Richard Nixon was a quick and perplexing encounter with him in a corridor of the Capitol at Washington, nearly thirty years ago. I was reporting from Washington for the Winston-Salem Journal, mostly on the activities of the congressional delegation from North Carolina, and I was also getting a useful first exposure to national politics.
The first of the modern civil rights bills was being debated in 1957, and my coverage of its eventual passage gave me a lasting admiration for the legislative mastery of Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, W. Stuart Symington of Missouri, and Nixon--the presiding officer--were all active in the Senate that year, and maneuvering for their parties' 1960 presidential nominations.
One day, after the Senate session had ended and most congressional reporters had left the Capitol, I worked late in the Senate press gallery--the only "office" I had. When I had finished my story, I went down to the "principal floor," on which the Senate chamber is located, planning to walk across the Capitol to the House side and from there to Independence Avenue for a streetcar downtown.
As I came down the ornate staircase outside the closed Senate chamber, Jack Sherwood, Vice President Nixon's Secret Service agent, passed below me in the silent corridor. Not far behind him was the vice president himself. I had then seen him only distantly from the press gallery, but he was and remains an imminently recognizable man.
I was surprised, first, at seeing him at all because as a rookie in Washington I had supposed officials at so high a level to be afforded general immunity to prying public eyes, and, second, because as far as I could see Nixon was walking alone, except for the Secret Service man preceding him. I had observed that____________________