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MY BRUSH WITH HISTORY

Bob, Dick, And Harry

February 2024
1min read

When a President Holds a Grudge

 

In 1953, when I was an 18-year-old messenger at the Associated Press and a freelance photographer for the Brooklyn Daily , a stroke of luck put me on the inauguration stand in Washington, D.C., with a four-by-five Speed Graphic camera in my hands as Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as thirty-fourth President of the United States.

A young freelancer’s lucky shot, autographed by Eisenhower, Nixon, and Hoover.
 
© bob goldberg2006_2_75

In 1953, when I was an 18-year-old messenger at the Associated Press and a freelance photographer for the Brooklyn Daily , a stroke of luck put me on the inauguration stand in Washington, D.C., with a four-by-five Speed Graphic camera in my hands as Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as thirty-fourth President of the United States.

The photo editor at the Daily had assigned me to cover the inauguration and had arranged for me to pick up a press pass in Washington. Officials there told me that most of the passes had been given out, but they would see what was left. I was given a pass making me a member of the inaugural party and another admitting me to the inaugural platform. I arrived early and made my way to the stand.

I knew that something had to be wrong, because all the other photographers were stationed in front of the platform. When I tried to leave, though, a Secret Service man stopped me and told me I was where my pass entitled me to be.

Truman, ever inscrutable.
 
© bob goldberg2006_2_75a

As it turned out, that inaugural ceremony was unusual because it featured four Presidents, not the customary two: Eisenhower, of course, plus the outgoing President Harry S. Truman, former President Herbert Hoover, and Richard M. Nixon, the new Vice President, who would become our thirty-seventh President 16 years later.

Of the photos I took, one appeared the next day in the Daily , and three more went out on the AP wire. Shortly thereafter I went to work full-time for the Associated Press; I spent the next half-century as a photographer.

As the years went by, I occasionally covered an event that brought me into contact with one of the men who had been on the platform, and each time I would take along a print of my photo so that I could have it autographed. In 1961, when former President Truman came to New York City to attend a political dinner celebrating Mayor Robert F. Wagner’s election to a third term, I tried to get my final signature.

Mr. Truman listened while I explained how I had managed to take the picture and how I had obtained the autographs of the other three Presidents. But when I asked him to sign the picture, he bristled.

Jabbing at the image of Nixon, he said: “I wouldn’t sign a picture with that son-of-a-bitch Nixon in it. He called me a traitor.” Then, clenching his fist, he growled, “This is what I’d like to do to him.” My camera was primed and I got a second photograph of President Truman, doing what he did best: giving ’em hell.

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