As a follow-up to my earlier post re my attending the 1972 Republican National Convention, and with this week being the 50th anniversary of that gathering, I'm adding a few more photographs and stories that fellow history buffs might find interesting.
When we returned from Miami in August 1972, I wrote to the White House and asked if they had any photos of the convention for my collection. They sent me a large official White House print of this photo (posted above) of Nixon and Agnew standing before the convention receiving the cheers of the delegates on the last night of the '72 convention. The curious thing about the photo is this: if you look at the bottom right corner, you will see standing together and talking the permanent chairman and vice chairman of the convention: Congressman Gerald Ford and Senator Bob Dole.
I came to know both of them in later years, and at different times I showed each of them this photograph. I asked if they had ever dreamed on that night in 1972 that, at the next convention four years later, it would be Ford and Dole standing before the convention as the GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees. Of course, the answer was positively no--and both were struck by the irony of the photo. (Jerry Ford told me his dream was to become Speaker of the House, and then retire to Michigan; Bob Dole told me he certainly had dreamed that he'd be the presidential nominee at a future convention, but never that he and Ford would be the 1976 nominees.)
The other thing I love about the photo is that you can see depicted on the floor, next to the lectern, a piece of Samsonite hard plastic luggage that is stuffed with gavels. Those gavels were made in the House of Representatives wood shop. You cannot buy one of those House gavels. The only way to get one is for the Speaker to give it to you—and they typically go to a Member of Congress, and usually only after the member presides over debate as Speaker Pro Tem. Apparently, House Minority Leader Ford had made friends with the guy in the House wood shop, because he brought to Miami a suitcase filled with them. Ford had brass plaques placed on each gavel, and then he presented one of them to each of the convention speakers.
I have in my collection one of the gavels that came from that suitcase. I told Ford that I swiped it from the suitcase as workers started to disassemble the hall on the last night of the convention. I also said that I confessed the theft to him freely because
a) the statute of limitations had long passed, and
b) I told him that we were basically co-conspirators in crime, since I knew that he clearly had swiped government property and converted it to partisan campaign use! Our secret was safe because we had the goods on each other. Later, Ford gave me a similar gavel that he had used as chairman of the 1968 GOP National Convention, so today I have both of them on display in my office.