Archive for the ‘Lyndon Baines Johnson’ Tag

Feast of Eugene Carson Blake (November 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  My Copies of the Presbyterian Books of Confessions, from 1967, 1985, and 2007

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The Book of Confessions (1985, 2007), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)



U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Ecumenist, and Moral Critic


Boasting about our heritage of freedom, we allied ourselves with some of the worst dictators all over the world, as long as they were, in our judgment, anti-communist.  We have justified all sorts of immoral political acts either because we thought they would weaken communism or (even a more immoral excuse) that since the communists were doing them, so must we….These, and other such actions, have been occasioned far more by fear of communism than by concern for justice.

–Eugene Carson Blake, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 554


Eugene Carson Blake comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Blake came from Midwestern Presbyterian stock.  He, born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 7, 1906, was a son of Lulu Blake and Orville Prescott Blake.  Our saint graduated from Princeton University with a degree in philosophy in 1928.  Then he taught the Bible, English, and philosophy at Forman Christian College, Lahore (then in India; now in Pakistan), for a year (1928-1929).  Next, Blake studied theology at New College, Edinburgh (1929-1930).  He matriculated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1930 and graduated two years later.

Our saint, ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) in 1932, embarked upon his ministerial career.  He was, in order:

  1. the assistant pastor (1932) then the senior pastor (1932-1935) of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas (Reformed Church in America), New York, New York;
  2. the senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Albany, New York (1935-1940); and
  3. the senior pastor of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Pasadena, California (1940-1951).

Blake left parish ministry in 1951.  He served as the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1951-1958).  As such, he helped to execute the merger of the PCUSA with The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) to form The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  Then he served as the President of the Stated Clerk of the UPCUSA (1958-1966).

Above:  The Logo of the UPCUSA

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

On the ecumenical front, Blake also served as the President of the National Council of Churches (1954-1957) then as the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (1966-1972).

Blake’s ecumenism led to the founding of the Consultation on Church Union (1962-2002), the predecessor of Churches Uniting in Christ (2002-).  In 1960, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, California, he preached a famous sermon.  Our saint advocated for the merger of The UPCUSA (1958-1983), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), The Episcopal Church (1789-), and the United Church of Christ (1957-) into one denomination truly both Catholic and Reformed.

The Consultation on Church Union included ten denominations in 1967:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the Evangelical United Brethren Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  7. The Methodist Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  8. the Presbyterian Church in the United States (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983).

The successor organization, Churches Uniting in Christ, consciously confronts racism.  The members are:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the International Council of Community Churches,
  7. the Moravian Church in America,
  8. the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Methodist Church.

That anti-racism is consistent with our saint’s legacy.

Blake was active in the Civil Rights Movement.  On July 4, 1963, he went to jail for trying to integrate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, Baltimore, Maryland.  The following month, he was prominent at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he had helped to organize.  Our saint was one of speakers at that great event.  And, at the World Council of Churches (1966-1972), Blake led a global anti-racism program.

Blake’s opposition to the Vietnam War earned the ire of two Presidents of the United States of America.  He became persona non grata with Lyndon Baines Johnson (in office 1963-1969).  Richard Nixon (in office 1969-1974) had a list of 576 enemies, subject to official harassment, such as tax audits and F.B.I. investigations.  “Enemies” included actor Paul Newman (1925-2008), journalists Daniel Schorr (1916-2010) and Mary McGrory (1918-2019), and U.S. Representatives John Conyers (1929-2019) and Ron Dellums (1935-2018).  That list also included Blake.  Newman described being on Nixon’s enemies list as a great honor.  Schorr, whom the F.B.I. investigated, spoke to Nixon at a social occasion years after Nixon left office.  The journalist referred to that investigation.  The former President, apparently not apologetic and repentant, replied:

I damn near hired you once.

Blake was in very good company on Nixon’s list of enemies.

Blake also helped to make the United Presbyterian Book of Confessions and Confession of 1967 possible.  The first edition of The Book of Confessions debuted in 1967.  The emphasis on reconciliation in Christ in the Confession of 1967 was consistent with our saint’s work.

In Jesus Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.  He is the eternal Son of the Father, who became man and lived among us to fulfill the work of reconciliation.  He is present in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue and complete his mission.  This work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the foundation of all confessional statements about God, man, and the world.  Therefore the church calls men to be reconciled to God and to one another.

–From the Confession of 1967, quoted in The Book of Confessions (1967), 9.07

In retirement, Blake worked for Bread for the World.  Feeding starving people was consistent with decreasing poverty, another social justice issue and long-time cause of our saint.  He had worked on economic and social development at the World Council of Churches, too.

Blake, aged 78 yeas, died in Stamford, Connecticut, on July 31, 1985.  By then The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States had merged to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in 1983.

Blake got more right than wrong–a daunting task and a great accomplishment.

I am an ecumenist.  Denominational structures exist because of human nature.  We in the Universal Church should, of course, strive to reduce the number of denominations via well-reasoned and feasible mergers.  And, when organic union is not feasible, perhaps cooperation is.  So be it.

I am also an Episcopalian.  I have definite Roman Catholic tendencies.  What passes for corporate worship in most of Protestantism leaves me uninspired.  I want to ask:

Do you call this a proper liturgy?

My denominational Plan B is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in full communion with The Episcopal Church.  This is a good fit, given the historical relations between Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

Blake’s proposed United Presbyterian Church-United Church of Christ-Methodist Church-Episcopal Church union was not feasible.  For example, in 1993, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published its most recent Book of Common Worship.  It was a vast improvement over The Worshipbook–Services (1970), incorporated into The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972).  Many Presbyterians objected to the new Book of Common Worship.  It was too Episcopalian, they said.

A denomination has a character.  Some denominations are better fits with other denominations than with others.

Blake issued his proposal at a different time.  Most Christian denominations in the United States of America were growing in membership, for example.  Also, The Episcopal Church had yet to bear the full fruits of liturgical renewal in 1960.  Nevertheless, his vision for a more united institutional church has become more relevant when, in the United States of America and the rest of the Western world, “none” has become the fastest-growing religious affiliation.

Sadly, Blake’s foci on reducing poverty and racism are more germane than ever.  Related to them is another one of his favorite themes.  We need reconciliation with each other and God more than ever.  Reconciliation is difficult to achieve when mutually hostile camps cannot even agree on what constitutes objective reality.


Loving and righteous God, who transcends all religious denominations,

we thank you for the faithful ministry, social witness, and legacy of your servant, Eugene Carson Blake.

May we also seek to bring the world closer to the high calling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God,

and embrace our brother and sister Christians in other denominations;

for your glory and for the common good.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:9-18

Psalm 133

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

John 17:20-26









Political Empathy and Wisdom (and the Absence Thereof)   2 comments

On the Duty of a President of the United States to Be the Consoler-in-Chief

May we praise those elected officials and candidates for elective office who act wisely and with empathy as we condemn those who act to the contrary.  And, when the time to decide for whom to vote arrives, may we reckon wisdom and empathy as credit to those who possess them, just as we properly lambaste and vote against those who lack them.

I realize that empathy is not a constitutional requirement for Presidents of the United States, but I also argue that voters the right to insist upon it.  Presidents with whom I have generally agreed with with whom I have generally disagreed have mastered the role of Consoler-in-Chief.  In the wake of a hurricane in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lyndon Baines Johnson carried a flash light one night and knocked on doors, to greet his fellow citizens in distress.  Ronald Reagan consoled the nation after the explosion of the Challenger.  He used Peggy Noonan’s words, of course, but he had empathy.  Besides, Presidents have had speech writers for a long time.  Bill Clinton was a fine Consoler-in-Chief after the terrorist attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Barack Obama led the congregation in “Amazing Grace” at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, after the racist shooting there.  Excelling as Consoler-in-Chief used to be a standard part of being the President of the United States.

Donald Trump is a self-absorbed and immature little man.  He should think about the country and the world first, not about himself.  The contrast between he and Joseph Biden is stark.  Biden, who has buried his first wife and some of this children, understands grief.  When he says he knows grief, he speaks accurately.  He also speaks with empathy.  Biden looks presidential.  He is already the Consoler-in-Chief.




The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 8: Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns (2001)   7 comments

Above:  The Headless Biker

All images in this post are screen captures.


Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired August 25, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-111


Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Paul Lane as the Headless Biker

Mark A. Shepherd as Nitro

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Casey Biggs as Dick Blanston

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Sanford Bookstaver

Above:  Tucker Burns and Kristen Martin

Brief Summary

At midnight each day, for a few days, a headless motorcyclist wearing a jack-o-lantern helmet beheads a person with an annoying job that makes the lives of ordinary people miserable.  The first three victims are, in order, an employee of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, a meter maid, and a tax auditor.  The episode begins with the execution of the meter maid.

Tucker encounters Kristen Martin again as both of them join the gaggle of journalists at the scene of the meter maid’s beheading.  The lead detective in the case is Hector Garibaldi, who misses many vital clues and becomes a recurring character.  At the crime scene, Kristen asks Tucker if he thinks alien head hunters are responsible.  He jokes, “Nah!  LBJ kicked all the alien head hunters off the planet once they got Jayne Mansfield.  Bad scene.”  Kristen replies, “Cute.”   They agree to share leads.  Sharing leads leads to dating during the episode as Tucker focuses on romancing Kristen, thereby allowing the investigation to fall to Wes and Grace.

Grace had been working on a story about a scientist who claimed to be cloning the Rat Pack, minus Joey Bishop.  Allegedly, the cloned Rat Pack would be ready to start performing in Las Vegas by the end of the year.

In the archives, Wes and Grace uncover a plethora of legends about headless horsemen, bikers, et cetera, from all around the world.  Wes explains that some of these headless spirits merely wreak the same kind of havoc they did in life.  He continues, “Many people think this legend explains the Reagan era.”

Wes and Grace uncover a lead about a Hell’s Angel (Clarence, known as “Hellboy”) accidentally decapitated a few years prior.  They interview Clarence’s brother, Nitro, who sells motorcycles.  Nitro tells Wes and Grace that Clarence, a veteran of the U.S. invasion of Panama, got drummed out of the Army for reasons related to conduct, then became a bounty hunter.  Nitro also tells our heroes from the World Chronicle that Clarence enjoyed frightening children by wearing the jack-o-lantern helmet.  Nitro affectionately describes his late brother (whose skull he later admits to having kept) as “a whore-monger, a gambler, and a drunk.”

Shortly thereafter, Wes and Grace attempt to save the life of the third victim, a tax auditor.  They succeed, however, in locating the Headless Biker’s lair.  Then the call the police.  Detective Garibaldi proves to be useless.

Wes and Grace uncover a vital clue:  all the victims have sequential driver’s license numbers.  They would use the Rosetta Stone to hack into the DMV’s computer, to identify the next possible victim.  Why not?  The Rosetta Stone does interpret extraterrestrial languages.  Yet, as Wes explains, “nobody screws with the DMV.”  Fortunately, Vera the sex-starved receptionist has a former boyfriend who works at the DMV.  She uses phone sex to get the essential information for Wes and Grace.

The next possible victim is Dick Blanston, a cable guy.  Wes and Grace get to him just in time for the Headless Biker to drive into the apartment.  They take Blanston to relative safety at the offices of the World Chronicle, but the Headless Biker drives into the tabloid’s headquarters.  Wes and Grace hide with Blanston in the elevator, but the Headless Biker abducts Tucker and leaves a note (written in blood) threatening to kill Tucker unless our heroes deliver Blanston by dawn.  Blanston, from Hell (literally), takes the file on the case of the decapitations.  Off-screen, he beats up Nitro and takes Clarence’s skull.  Then Wes and Grace visit Nitro.

Clarence is the Headless Biker.  He is also still a bounty hunter.  Blanston and the other victims are prisoners.  They are souls of discord who escaped from the eighth circle of Hell.  The soul of discord who got a job at the DMV set up everyone else with new identities and with sequential driver’s license numbers.  Clarence is working for Satan, I guess.

Kristen ceases to deny the existence of a biker after she and Tucker witness him exit the offices of the World Chronicle.  However, Kristen denies that the Headless Biker is headless, for she saw him wear a helmet.

Blanston goes to the Headless Biker’s lair.  Wes, Grace, and Nitro meet him there.  Nitro rides a motorcycle and wears a jack-o-lantern helmet.  Blanston tosses the skull to that cyclist, who removes his helmet to reveal that he is Nitro.  The Headless Biker returns Tucker, safe and sound.  Then Clarence drives up and decapitates Blanston.  Nitro tosses the skull to Clarence, who removes he helmet, puts the skull on, then puts the helmet back on.  Nitro says his farewell to Clarence, who drives off and never beheads again.  Next, Nitro thanks Wes and Grace for helping him find closure and offers each one a deal on a motorcycle.  Then he, in a good mood, rides away.

The useless police, tipped off by Kristen, show up.  Kristen is glad to see that Tucker is alive.  They are now boyfriend and girlfriend.

Above:  Ruby Rydell

Character Beats

Grace does not know who the Hessians were.

Donald Stern is an expert in retrofitting space stations.

Tucker decided to become a journalist because of the example of his grandfather, a reporter.

Kristen decided to become a journalist because of the example of Lois Lane.  (Was Lois Lane a good reporter?  How sharp were her powers of observation?)

Great Lines

Wes:  “Who wouldn’t want to ice a meter maid and a DMV clerk?”

Wes:  “I knew an elementary school education would come in handy.”

Wes:  “Now, I know what you’re thinking:  It’s impossible, you know, Germans making war and all that.”

Kristen:  “Why do all men think that women want to be Lois Lane?  And don’t get me started on Supergirl.”

Wes (at Dick Blanston’s door):  “We know you’re in there watching reruns of Suddenly Susan, buddy.  Open up now.”

Above:  Detective Hector Garibaldi, N.Y.P.D.


This episode marks the first appearance of Detective Hector Garibaldi, a police officer yet hardly one of New York’s finest.  The journalists at the World Chronicle are better detectives than he is.

Donald Stern is in Russia, helping the team retrofitting Mir.  Apparently, the crash of the space station into the ocean on March 23, 2001, was a cover story.  (March 23, 2001, was in the recent past in the present day of this episode.)

Wes and Grace once chased a disembodied hand down the Holland Tunnel.

On the other hand, Wes finds going to New Jersey creepier than chasing a disembodied hand.

Kristen Martin begins continues down the path of struggling with the possibility of the world be a stranger place than she assumes.

How many other escaped prisoners from the eighth circle of Hell work in annoying jobs?  And which bounty hunter(s) will pursue them?

Above: Kristen Martin Sees the Biker, Whose Existence She Had Just Denied


I detect open hostility to the Department of Motor Vehicles in this episode.  I understand this.  In Georgia, we have the ironically-named Department of Driver Services.  I have my own story about that agency, staffed with Vogons.  (Yes, I have read Douglas Adams.)

This episode is worthy of watching many times, and not just for the swipes at the DMV.

Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns is not the first episode of a television series to feature a headless motorcyclist.  I know of one other, Chopper (1975), from Kolchak:  The Night Stalker (1974-1975).

Nothing in this episode is gratuitous.  The camera cuts away (sometimes to shadows) at certain moments.  Leaving some details to one’s fertile imagination suffices.

I binge-watched this series and made mental notes before I commenced this rewatch project and started making written notes in preparation for blog posts, such as this one.  The Chronicle would have been a different series–whether better or worse, I cannot say for sure–had Tucker stayed with Shawna Fuchs.  Take my word for that, or do not, O reader.  But do watch the series, if you wish.

Casey Biggs played Damar, an intriguing character, on Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.

Mark A. Shepherd portrayed attorney (later President, briefly) Romo Lampkin on the Ronald D. Moore reboot of Battlestar Galactica.




The Seventh Party System   1 comment

Above:  Alexander Hamilton, First Leader of the Federalist Party

Image in the Public Domain


I am convinced that the United States of America has been in the Seventh Party System since or shortly before January 20, 1993.  As a teacher of U.S. history on the college level, I think about various matters of the past, especially when students’ questions prompt me to do so.

First a brief review of the first six party systems is in order.

The First Party System was the Federalist-Jeffersonian Republican divide, with parties forming during George Washington’s administration.  The national Federalist Party did not field a presidential candidate after 1816, but not all Federalists became Jeffersonians, some of whom had begun to sound like Federalists by that point.

The Second Party System grew up around Andrew Jackson in the 1820s.  His supporters were Democrats, and his opponents merged into the Whig Party in the 1830s.  Before that, however, they were National Republicans and Anti-Masons, the latter of which gave us the presidential nominating convention in 1831.

The Third Party System emerged in the middle 1850s, in the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).  The Whigs came apart, as did the Democrats to a lesser extent, and the Republican Party emerged with a platform which included opposition to the expansion of slavery but not support for immediate abolition of that damnable peculiar institution.

The Fourth Party System began after the 1896 general election, in which Republican William McKinley won a landslide victory.  The Republicans controlled the presidency for all but eight years (the Woodrow Wilson Administration, 1913-1921) through the end of the Herbert Hoover Administration (1929-1933).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated the Fifth Party System, during which the Democratic Party controlled the presidency for all but eight years (the Dwight Eisenhower Administration, 1953-1961).  This system ran its course until the 1968 general election and the election of Richard Nixon, who employed the notorious “Southern Strategy.”  Lyndon Baines Johnson was correct; he gave the South to the Republicans when he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Sixth Party System began with Nixon and ended with George H. W. Bush.  Republicans controlled the presidency for all but four years.  Jimmy Carter, the sole Democratic president (1977-1981) during this system, was hardly an FDR-LBJ social programs type.

The Seventh Party System, I am convinced, began with the Clinton Administration or during the campaign of 1992.  This fact has become obvious to me only in hindsight.  (Historical analysis does require the passage of time.)  Here is my case:

  1. None of the presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016) has been a landslide, certainly not in the popular vote.
  2. Regardless of the identity of the President, about half of the population seems to hate his guts.
  3. A vocal proportion of that livid portion of the population entertains unfounded conspiracy theories.  For the record, Vince Foster did commit suicide.  Nobody murdered him, so there was no murder for the Clinton Administration to cover up.  Also, the George W. Bush Administration was not complicit in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011; a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, was the birthplace of Barack Obama in 1961; and Osama bin Ladin is dead.  One can, however, find websites arguing against all these propositions.  This means nothing conclusive; once I found the website of the Flat Earth Society.
  4. Vitriol, unvarnished hatred, and unapologetic indifference to objective reality has become increasingly politically acceptable.  The abuses of power (and threats of them) commonplace in third world countries have entered mainstream political discourse in this country.

Also, for the record, Barack Obama is neither a Socialist nor a Communist.  There are Socialist and Communist Parties in the United States, and they do not mistake him for one of their sympathizers.

It is long past time to lower the political temperature and retire over-the-top charges which distract from the serious issues of the day.  We have a nation, one which has lasted for more than 200 years.  Childish antics do not honor the highest ideals upon which our founders created the United States.

How should we, as citizens, respond when the lunatics take over the asylum?  How should we respond when the temporary occupant of the Oval Office spews a combination of venom, rumors, and falsehoods casually, thereby degrading his office and the country, yet labels documented journalistic stories “fake news”?  How should we respond when many of our fellow Americans, members of a cult of personality, affirm  whatever Il Duce with bad hair utters and tweets?  How should we respond to the American Il Duce‘s fondness for authoritarian leaders?

Donald Trump is a domestic threat to the United States.  Trumpism is a domestic threat to the United States.  We should recognize these truths and utilize the constitutional methods available to us to resist both.

I derive some comfort from the realities of demographic changes, which will usher in the Eighth Party System, as soon as more people of certain demographic categories vote in sufficient force consistently.





Updated on November 7 and 9, 2016

Updated October 9, 2018


Feast of Gerald and Betty Ford (July 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford at the Republican National Convention, 1976

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-08487



President of the United States of America and Agent of National Healing

husband of


First Lady of the United States of America and Advocate for Social Justice


The long national nightmare is over.  Our Constitution works.

–President Gerald Ford, August 9, 1974




With this post I merge two feasts.  Doing so is consistent with one of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  That goal is to emphasize relationships and influences.

The Fords were decent people who did much to leave the United States of America better than they found the country.  They were what the U.S.A. needed immediately after the presidency of Richard Nixon.




Leslie Lynch King, Jr., entered the world at Omaha, Nebraska, on July 14, 1913, as his parents’ marriage was crumbling.  When Leslie, Jr., was two weeks old his mother and father separated; they divorced before the end of the calendar year.  Dorothy Ayer Gardner King and her young son moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be close to her parents.  On February 1, 1916, Dorothy married paint salesman Gerald R. Ford.  Leslie, Jr., informally Gerald, Jr., for a long time, legally became Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., on December 3, 1935.  In the meantime he had worked in the paint store, become an Eagle Scout, and been a fine student and athlete in public schools then at the University of Michigan (1931-1935).

Ford rejected opportunities to become a professional football player, opting instead to coach boxing and varsity football.  His busy work schedule delayed his admission to Yale Law School until 1938.  While at Yale Ford found time to work on the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Wendell Willkie in 1940.  Our saint, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1941, practiced law in Grand Rapids, where he also taught business law and worked as a football line coach at the University of Michigan.

Ford served in the military during World War II.  In April 1942 he became an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.  After teaching physical fitness at the pre-flight school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ford transferred to the U.S.S. Monterey in 1943.  He served in the Pacific Theater and nearly died.  Lieutenant Commander Ford received an Honorable Discharge in February 1946.

Ford returned to Grand Rapids, where he resumed the practice of law.  Politics beckoned, however.  So did love.




Elizabeth Ann Bloomer, born at Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 1918, was also contributing to society.  She grew up in Grand Rapids, where her father, Stephenson Bloomer, had died when she was 16 years old.  Betty graduated from high school, taught dancing to children, worked with troubled children, studied dancing under Martha Graham, and worked as a fashion consultant in a department store.  Betty also married William C. Warren, an insurance agent, in 1942.  Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic and a cruel man.  That marriage ended in divorce in 1947.

Gerald and Betty married at Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, in 1948.  They remained husband and wife until Gerald’s death in 2006.  The couple had four children from 1950 to 1957.




Isolationism in foreign policy was a Republican tradition, one Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., and Robert A. Taft practiced.  There was also an internationalist wing of the Republican Party, however.  In 1948 the U.S. Representative for the district containing Grand Rapids was Bartel Jonkman, an isolationist Republican.  Ford, whom World War II had transformed into an internationalist, successfully challenged Jonkman and won the general election in the fall.

Ford, whose ambition was to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, remained in the U.S. House until December 1973–for a total of twenty-four years, eleven months, and three days.  He, a member of the Appropriations Committee for most of that time, was a much-respected and well-liked member of that chamber.  Ford described himself as

a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy.

Perhaps Ford went overboard with his fiscal conservatism.  (A good idea, taken too far, becomes a bad idea.)  One biographer, looking back on Ford’s presidency, described him as the kind of man who would help a poor child individually then veto a school lunch bill.  Nevertheless, Ford was always a decent, compassionate man.  Our saint, who served on the Warren Commission, became the Minority Leader in 1965, opposed much of the domestic program of the Johnson Administration, and was skeptical of President Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s military escalation in Vietnam.




In October 1973 Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, guilty of illegal perfidy, resigned as part of a deal with Attorney General Elliot Richardson.  Meanwhile, the Watergate scandal, of President Richard Nixon‘s creation, was rapidly consuming his administration.  Nixon, under the terms of Amendment XXV (1967) of the Constitution, nominated the respected and popular Ford to fill the vacancy Agnew had created.  Many of those in Congress who voted to confirm Ford as Vice President knew they were also selecting the next President of the United States.

Ford was Vice President of the United States from December 6, 1973, to August 9, 1974–nine months and three days.  At first Ford was skeptical of the allegations against Nixon, his old friend.  Yet, as evidence piled high, Ford became skeptical of Nixon then turned against him.  On August 6, 1974, at a Cabinet meeting, Nixon said he would not resign, despite the certainty of imminent impeachment in the House of Representatives and the long odds of avoiding conviction and removal from office in the trial in the Senate.  After that meeting Ford told Nixon,

I can no longer defend you.

Two days later, when Nixon, for his own reasons, announced his resignation, he regretted having appointed Ford to the Vice Presidency.




On the morning of August 9, 1974, Nixon said farewell to the White House staff and left Washington, D.C.  If he had not resigned, his fate would have been conviction and removal from office in the Senate trial; the margin would have exceeded the Constitutional minimum of two-thirds.  At Noon, at the White House, Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath of office to Ford.

Ford was the President of the United States from August 9, 1974, to January 20, 1977–two years, four months, and eleven days.  Perhaps he was in an impossible predicament, given the widespread distrust of the presidency and of Washington officialdom due to the combination of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.  Two successive Presidents from different parties had self-destructed politically.  Both had lied to the public.  One had committed criminal acts.  Meanwhile, a Vice President had also committed criminal deeds and had to resign.  The country needed a decent, honest man as the President of the United States more than ever.

Ford and his appointed Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, were Republicans of a sort that was becoming endangered; they were fighting an uphill battle against the more conservative Goldwater wing of the party.  (For that matter, Senator Barry Goldwater, a libertarian, Western Republican, found himself outflanked by social conservatives in the party during the Reagan Administration (1981-1989).  Some of his libertarian views made him too liberal for certain social conservatives in the mold of the Moral Majority.)  Ford was too liberal for many Republicans and too conservative for many Democrats.  He, with the help of Rockefeller, survived a challenge by Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.  At the end of the year Ford narrowly lost the general election to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia.  Ford and Carter actually had much in common, in terms of policies.

Ford, as President, struggled with major global issues that affected other world leaders also.  During the Ford Administration South Vietnam collapsed faster than even North Vietnamese generals expected.  Ford was instrumental in the admission of 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees into the United States.  They and their descendants have contributed to American society.  Financial troubles, such as those related to inflation and energy crises, also occurred before and after the Ford Administration and affected the world, from Australia to England.  The Helsinki Accords (1975), which attracted criticism from both Reagan and Carter, proved to be historically important, for they held the Soviet Bloc accountable for violations of human rights.

There was also consistency with the Carter Administration.  Carter, for example, took Ford’s negotiations regarding the Panama Canal to the treaty stage.  Carter also made human rights an emphasis in foreign policy.  Carter Administration diplomacy in the Middle East, culminating in the Camp David Accords (1979), built on diplomacy from the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  Also, Nixon and Ford had done much for diplomacy with the Peoples’ Republic of China.  The Carter Administration opened full diplomatic relations with that country.  Furthermore, Ford had issued an amnesty for Vietnam War-era military deserters and draft dodgers; Carter issued a pardon.

Ford’s pardon of Nixon (September 8, 1974) ensured defeat in the election of 1976.  Ford insisted that the pardon, which carried with its acceptance an admission of guilt, was in the best interests of the country–to help with the healing process.  Vindication of this position came in 2001, when he won the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In December 2006, shortly after Ford’s death, biographer Lou Cannon, speaking on National Public Radio, said that our saint

had a practical mind and a noble heart.

Ford applied both of those during his years of public service.  The Nixon Administration had been an imperial presidency.  Ford, in contrast, was an unpretentious, humble man known for his innate decency.




Betty Ford was controversial.  She, a feminist, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, a position her husband shared.  Unfortunately, that proposed amendment failed to become part of the Constitution.  Betty also held a libertarian (pro-choice) position on abortion and a non-libertarian position on gun control.  Two of her greatest contributions to the country as First Lady pertained to the cancer and mental illness, both of which came with stigmas attached at the time.  (There is still a stigma attached to mental illness.)  Betty shared her diagnosis of breast cancer.  She, like Rosalynn Carter, the next First Lady, spoke out in favor of psychiatric treatment and discouraged stigma related to it.  May we recall that, in 1972, Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern had to drop his first running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, from the ticket because Eagleton had once undergone psychiatric treatment.  Furthermore, with regard to cancer, the stigma related to varieties of cancer was a topic in medical dramas of the 1970s.




The Fords left the White House on the morning of January 20, 1977.  Gerald, nearly Reagan’s running mate in 1980, had not become wealthy in elected and appointed offices.  As a former President of the United States he made real money, giving speeches, writing books, and sitting on corporate boards.  He and Betty also befriended the Carters after the Carter Administration ended.  Ford had both agreed with and criticized Carter from 1976 to 1981, but they found much common ground during the 1981 flight to Egypt, to attend the funeral of Anwar el-Sadat, the assassinated President of Egypt.

Betty, as a former First Lady, continued to help others.  She admitted her alcoholism and entered a treatment program.  Then, in 1982, she founded the Betty Ford Center at Rancho Mirage, California.

Today we know that addiction is a matter of altered brain chemistry.  It is not merely a matter of bad morality and a weak will.  Science argues against old attitudes and stigma in this case.  Nevertheless, old attitudes that disregard the scientific evidence (such as brain scans) persist, so stigmas remain.

Former President Ford remained an honorable man to the end.  He, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, was a class act.  He advised Bill Clinton to confess during the Lewinsky scandal.  Clinton sought the counsel then declined to heed it, at least when Ford offered it.  In 2001 Ford announced his support for marriage equality for homosexuals, thereby arguing against homophobia.  A few years later he quietly opposed the Second Iraq War during the George W. Bush Administration.  The Republican Party moved past Ford.

The former President died at Rancho Mirage, California, on December 26, 2006.  He was 93 years old.

Betty, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991, lived until the age of 93 years also.  She died at Rancho Mirage on July 8, 2011.




Mere decency and political civility are virtues that seem to be in short supply in the United States of America in 2018.  The examples of Gerald and Betty Ford remind one of a contentious time when those virtues were more plentiful.  One might legitimately disagree with one or both of them on certain policy issues, but one should acknowledge their great decency and respect their service to the country.  One should join with Jimmy Carter, who at the inauguration in 1977, thanked Gerald Ford for doing much to heal the country.  The wound of Watergate have never healed; they have run that deeply.  The shadow of Watergate, as Bob Woodward has called it, has fallen across all Presidents after Nixon.  The wounds of Watergate have proven too deep for any President or combination of Presidents to heal completely, one should admit.  Yet one should also acknowledge that Ford did his part honestly, humbly, and honorable.

One should also give all due credit to Betty Ford, especially for calling on people to put away harmful stigmas.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants Gerald and Betty Ford,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, and Lester Pearson (August 16)   5 comments

H2O 2004 01

Above:  Canadian Houses of Parliament, from H2O (2004)

A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD



Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (1956-1967) and Prime Minister of Canada (1957-1963)



Premier of Saskatchewan (1944-1961) then Leader of the New Democratic Party (1961-1971)



Leader of the Liberal Party (1958-1968) and Prime Minister of Canada (1963-1968)


Today I add to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days three Canadian statesmen who, despite their political differences, were each partially responsible for creating the national health care system.

Our story begins, however, with Prime Minister Richard Bennett (1870-1947), who led his country from 1930 to 1935.  In 1935 he, the leader of the Conservative Party, was seeking another mandate.  The Prime Minister proposed a set of social programs, including national medical insurance.  Bennett lost the election and his proposal died.  Within a few years, however, a Baptist minister (whom some accused of being a Communist) influenced by the Social Gospel picked up the torch.


Above:  Tommy Douglas

Image Source =

Thomas Clement Douglas (1904-1986), son of Thomas Douglas and Annie Clement Douglas, was born in Falkirk, Scotland.  The family immigrated to Canada when he was six years old.  His father, an iron moulder, suffered from an injury which almost led to the amputation of one leg.  Douglas, whose future depended greatly on his father’s ability to earn a living, became convinced that quality health care should not depend upon one’s ability to afford it.  The family returned to Scotland during World War I then went back to Canada.  Douglas, shaped by the Social Gospel and by social injustices (many of them economic), earned his B.A. at Brandon College, Manitoba, in 1930 (the same year he married Irma Dempsey), and is M.A. at MacMaster University in 1933.  Then he became pastor of a Baptist congregation at Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Politics beckoned Douglas.  He ran unsuccessfully for the provincial legislature on the Farmer-Labour ticked in 1934.  The following year he ran successfully for the federal House of Commons as a candidate of the Co-opearative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a Fabian Socialist party.  Douglas, elected to a second term in 1940, resigned four years later to run successfully for Premier of Saskatchewan.

The CCF, founded in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, was an outgrowth of Progressivism.  It received much support from trade unionists, farmers, and urban intellectuals.  Causes the CCF supported included:

  1. Clearing slums;
  2. Electrifying rural areas;
  3. Establishing public works programs;
  4. Socializing financial institution and public utilities;
  5. Creating national health insurance;
  6. Establishing pensions for disabled people;
  7. Subsidizing affordable rental housing;
  8. Supporting agricultural prices; and
  9. Passing a national bill of rights.

Many of these goals became realities in governments led by Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker and Liberal Lester Pearson.

Douglas, Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, instituted important and historical reforms.  He granted public employees the right to bargain collectively.  The Premier’s administration granted equality of access to public places and ownership of property regardless of race, creed, color, or nationality.  And, in 1947, the provincial government began to offer a variety of insurance programs (including medical).

In 1961 the CCF ended its existence; the New Democratic Party (NDP), more moderate than the CCF, took its place with Douglas as the first federal leader.  He, returned to the House of Commons in 1962, remained there through 1979, except for a brief gap in 1968-1969.  Douglas, who left the national leadership of the NDP in 1971, received the honor of the Order of Canada in 1980.  The staunch defender of civil liberties died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1986.

Diefenbaker 1926

Image in the Public Domain

Now we turn our attention to John Diefenbaker (1895-1979), a man who defended his opinions vigorously then acknowledged that those fellow countrymen who disagreed with him were also loyal Canadians.  National unity mattered greatly to Diefenbaker, as did how decisions which governments and corporate boards made affected common people.  “Dief the Chief” was a Western populist whose principles made him unpopular with elements of his political party, the Progressive Conservatives.

Diefenbaker, born at Neustadt, Ontario, in 1895, was son of William Thomas Diefenbaker and Mary Florence Bannerman Diefenbaker.  The future Prime Minister, who moved to the Fort Carlton region of the North-West Territories with his family in 1903, relocated with them to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, seven years later.  He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with his B.A. in 1915 and with his M.A. the following year.  Diefenbaker served in the Army in 1916 and 1917 then entered law school, graduating in 1919.

The Saskatchewan attorney entered political life.  In 1925 and 1926 he ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons on the Conservative Party ticket.  In 1929 and 1938 Diefenbaker ran unsuccessfully for provincial offices.  Yet, from 1936 to 1940, he led the provincial Conservative Party.  And from 1940 to 1979, he sat in the House of Commons.  Diefenbaker, federal leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (renamed in 1942) from 1956 to 1967, served as Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.

Along the way Diefenbaker married twice.   His first wife was Edna Mae Brower (1899, 1951), whom he married in 1929.  He remarried in 1953, wedding Olive Freeman Palmer (1902-1976).

As Prime Minister Diefenbaker had some important accomplishments.  As a matter of principle he opposed government favors for millionaires.  This policy disturbed many members of the Eastern, big business-oriented wing of his party yet pleased his fellow Western populists.  Diefenbaker, like Tommy Douglas an advocate of a national bill of rights, secured passage of it in 1960.  The Prime Minister led the international movement to isolate the Apartheid government of the Republic of South Africa.  And, in 1961, he appointed a Royal Commission on Health Services.  Three years later the Royal Commission endorsed the Saskatchewan model–mandatory health insurance.  (This had been mandatory in the province since 1961.)

The Canadian Bill of Rights (1960) was a landmark law.  It was the first national legislation to protect human rights and basic freedoms.  This bill of rights lasted until 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms superceded it.

Diefenbaker, a Baptist, died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1979.


Above:  Lester Pearson, July 16, 1956

Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron
Credit: Duncan Cameron / Library and Archives Canada / e007150483

Mikan number 3727308,3727311,3840421,3727310,3840420,3727308,3840408,3840418,3840414,3727312

The final luminary in our Canadian triad is Lester Pearson (1897-1972), Diefenbaker’s frequent political adversary.  Pearson was born at Toronto, Ontario.  He, the son of a Methodist pastor, attended public schools at Peterborough and Hamilton.  Pearson served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.  His military service ended when a bus ran over him and the Corps sent him home.  Then Pearson attended the University of Toronto (B.A., 1919) and Oxford University (degrees in 1923 and 1925).  Next he worked as a Lecturer (1924-1926) then as an Assistant Professor (1926-1928) of History at the University of Toronto.

Then Pearson commenced his career as a diplomat.  He, married to Maryon Elspeth (1901-1989) since 1925, became a first secretary in the new federal Department of External Affairs in 1928.  This led to a series of diplomatic postings and service on two royal commissions then a stint as Secretary (later Counsellor) of the Canadian High Commissioner’s Office in London.  Pearson, nearly the first Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), served as the first Ambassador to the United States in 1945-1946.  Next, in 1946-1948, he was the Undersecretary of State for External Affairs.  In 1947 Pearson served as Chairman of the UN’s Political and Security Committee; he proved instrumental in the partition of Palestine in 1947.

Then, in 1948, Pearson entered politics, his arena for the next two decades.  The future Prime Minister, a member of the Liberal Party, joined the House of Commons and became Secretary of State for External Affairs.  His diplomacy continued–he was ever a diplomat–into political life.  In 1956, during the Suez Crisis, Pearson proposed the creation of a UN peacekeeping force, thereby aiding British and French withdrawal from Egypt.  For this he won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.  In 1957, with Diefenbaker’s rise to the office of Prime Minister, the Liberal Party became the main opposition party.  Pearson led that party from 1958 to 1968, when he retired from public life.

Pearson became Prime Minister in 1963.  He led two successive minority governments (1963-1965 and 1965-1968).  His tenure was eventful.  In 1965 Pearson signed the Canada Pension Plan (similar to Social Security in the U.S.A.), something for which Tommy Douglas also advocated.  Pearson also presided over the centennial of Canadian confederation in 1967.  Of great importance also were two other laws.

In 1966 the Government of Canada created Medicare–socialized medicine–via the Medical care act.  This accomplishment also had the fingerprints of Richard Bennett, Tommy Douglas, and John Diefenbaker all over it.

Flag of Canada Pre-1965

Above:  The Flag of Canada, 1957-1965

Image in the Public Domain

And, in December 1964, Parliament voted to change the national flag, switching from a flag with the Union Jack prominent in it to the current banner, the one with the maple leaf symbol.

Flag of Canada Current

Above:  The Flag of Canada Since 1965

Image in the Public Domain

This was not a universally popular decision.  John Diefenbaker, a defender of Canada’s British heritage, opposed the new flag.  He spoke of the two founding nations of Canada–Britain and France–and of how the flag should show both heritages.  The former Prime Minister also spoke of the Canadian soldiers who had died fighting under a Canadian flag with the Union Jack on it.

Pearson, ever the diplomat and mediator, tried to resolve a variety of disputes, sometimes unsuccessfully.  In 1965, for example, the Prime Minister, in a speech at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, criticized U.S. policy in Vietnam and suggested that, if the United States were to halt bombing in Vietnam, there might be an opening for a negotiated settlement.  President Lyndon Baines Johnson took great offense and invited him to Camp David.  There the President demonstrated his displeasure by grabbing the Prime Minister’s lapels and scolding him.  Canada, Johnson said, did not do its fair share to spread freedom around the world, so Pearson had no right to criticize U.S. foreign policy.  The Prime Minister came away from that encounter convinced that the President was a bully and that the United States was not a senior partner but a nation to view from a distance.  Pearson’s subtle description of the encounter to his cabinet was to recount

the story of a British policeman giving evidence at a murder trial.  “My Lord,” the policeman told the judge, acting on information received, I proceeded to a certain address and there found the body of a woman.  She had been strangled, stabbed and shot, decapitated and dismembered.  But, My Lord, she had not been interfered with.”

At Camp David, the Prime Minister concluded, he had at least not been

interfered with.

–Quoted in Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant:  Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (New York, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998), page 259

Pearson, a member of the United Church of Canada, died at Ottawa, Ontario, in 1972.

I have been pondering and studying Canada for years.  It is an interest which many people do not understand.  This interest has led me, however, to learn of these great men–statesmen, really–who left Canada better than they found it.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, and Lester Pearson,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60