Prophecy at O’Hare
Part of my job in the early sixties, when I was working for United Airlines in the old terminal at O’Hare Airport, was to meet and greet any VIPs who might be traveling through Chicago.
One day I met up with Stuart Symington, the powerful Democratic senator from Missouri whom quite a few were thinking of as a future presidential candidate. He had some time on his hands between connecting flights, so I suggested we go up to the bar, run by Marshall Field’s and now long gone.
He accepted my offer, and while we were on the way, I saw coming toward us down the nearly empty corridor a tallish man with a splayed-foot walk, wearing a fedora. It was Richard Nixon. Symington and Nixon of course knew each other well and they stopped to chat. It turned out that Nixon also had a while before his flight, so Symington invited him to accompany us to the bar.
Nixon’s popularity had recently reached its nadir. He had lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy and then lost again when he ran for governor of California. Plus, after losing in California, he had made his famous remark that the press wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore, which allowed the press to kick him around some more.
Anyway, we went up to the bar, ordered drinks, and talked for about 20 minutes. Or rather they talked; I kept my mouth shut as I figured they wouldn’t be interested in my thoughts on national affairs. Then it was time for them to go. I paid for the drinks; they both thanked me graciously, and we left together.
I tarried outside the bar and watched them walk off in different directions. I thought: There goes Symington, who may become the most powerful man in the world, and there goes Nixon, who’ll be only a footnote in history.