Peyton Walters grew up on a farm in Polk County. He attended Sam Houston State University. Upon graduating, he worked for Shell Oil Company, received his surveying license and later went on to work for a private business in Livingston. Walters was county judge from 1967-1972 and in that position he had occasion to meet Charlie Wilson who was running for state representative of the district including Polk County. The two men became friends and Charlie asked Peyton to work for him. Peyton Walters worked for Charlie from the local office as his district manager, in the mobile office, and, finally, also in Washington D.C. as Wilson's third and last Administrative Assistant.
Ian Foley worked as a delegate to the state democratic convention in 1968 when Wilson asked him to work for him during the legislative session of 1969. Foley stayed on for six years helping Wilson with policy research, campaigning, arranging speaking engagements, and working with constituents.
Ray Henson was a neighbor of Charlie Wilson in Lufkin, Texas. He was one of Wilson's friends that knew him on a more personal level.
Charles A. Schnabel Jr. was born in San Antonio, Texas, on February 14, 1932. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Bacteriology and a M.A. in Public Administration. Schnabel served the Texas Senate as the Reading Clerk to the Texas House of Representatives. He was promoted to serve as the Secretary of the Senate and held this position for twenty-three years. He began his career with Charlie Wilson as his second Administrative Assistant from 1985 until 1991.
Delores Thomas was born in Prescott, Arkansas, and moved to Texas in her late childhood. She went to Jeff Davis High School in Houston and then to San Jacinto Junior College and later attended the University of Houston. Thomas married and moved to East Texas where she and her husband lived in Timpson. She created the R.S.V.P. (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) that covered twelve counties and was managed by the Deep East Texas Council of Government (D.E.P.C.O.G.). Thomas's program worked with elected officials and was employed by D.E.P.C.O.G. It was through R.S.V.P. and D.E.P.C.O.G. that Thomas met and befriended Charlie Wilson. R.S.V.P. offered seniors an opportunity to volunteer, and working for Charlie Wilson was the most popular volunteer opportunity that she could offer. In 1992, after retiring and moving to Colorado, Thomas received a call from Charlie Wilson asking for her to move back to Texas and be his campaign manager. She managed Charlie's last two campaigns in 1992 and 1994. The Thomas's remained close friends with Charlie until his death.
Bill Marshall was born in Bryan, Texas, on September 23, 1946. He attended and graduated from Brazosport High School and attended the University of Houston to study engineering. After a year Marshall transferred to Stephen F. Austin State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics. He became interested in politics at a very early age. He started to help campaign for Charlie Wilson while attending Stephen F. Austin State University and, by 1972, Marshall became a district assistant for Charlie Wilson. Marshall campaigned and worked for Wilson until 1977.
Peggy Love was born in Washington, D.C.. At the age of five, she and her family moved to northern Virginia (the Falls Church area) where she attended St. James Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, and Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. Love began working in Washington, D.C., in 1970/71 for the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. From there, she worked several years for Congressman Wayne Hays. Love worked as a caseworker for Charlie Wilson from 1976-1984. Since then, she worked for the Air Force Surgeon General (1984-1989), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (1989-2002), and the Environmental Protection Agency (2002-2009). Love continues to live in northern Virginia and serves as a consultant and lecturer.
Lorri Donnahoe was born in 1952 in Kentucky, but grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She was influenced by her father and grandparents who were very interested in politics. She moved to Lufkin, TX, in 1988 and worked as a caseworker at the Texas Department of Human Services. She began working for Charlie Wilson with Social Security casework in 1993 until he resigned.
Norma Butler was born in Bryan, Texas, in 1948. She had seven siblings and attended Kemp High School. In 1979, Butler moved to East Texas and shortly thereafter began working for the Deep East Texas Council of Government. Butler then changed jobs, working for Charlie Wilson in his district office as a caseworker for Veterans Affairs.
Interviewer's Name: Archie P. McDonald.
Interview Date and Location: The interview was conducted on March 25, 2011, on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Context Notes: Interview and transcription completed in conjunction with the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas (Spring 2011).
During the course of the interview, several speakers spoke at once. Also some interviewees whispered among themselves which can be heard in the audio. The door opens a couple of times and a member of the technical crew unwraps a plastic cover close to the recorder. Laughter obscures what is said at some points.
Tapes and Interview Record: The original recordings of the interview and a full transcript are held by the East Texas Research Center, R. W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Transcription Notes: The policy of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project has been to eliminate false starts and crutch words from transcriptions when determined not to affect the meaning and flow of the spoken word. Obviously, and admittedly, this is a subjective endeavor and all care was taken to maintain the integrity of the interview.
The interviewer Archie P. McDonald is identified as McDonald. Peyton Walters is identified as WALTERS, L. G. Moore is identified as MOORE, Ian Foley is identified as FOLEY, Ray Henson is identified as HENSON, Charles A. Schnabel is identified as SCHNABEL, Delores Thomas is identified as THOMAS, Bill Marshall is identified as MARSHALL, Peggy Love is identified as LOVE, Lorri Donnahoe is identified as DONNAHOE, and Norma Butler is identified as BUTLER.
MCDONALD: Good afternoon and welcome to this concluding session of this day of oral history for the collection of Charlie Wilson over in the resource center (East Texas Resource Center). For the record, my name is Archie McDonald and I'm the historian who's worked here at SFA for quite a long time. We're recording this afternoon in the Cinematography building on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. Uh, in the room with us now are, in addition to technical staff, are other historians from the department. Dr. Scott Sosebee, I see, Paul Sandul, Perky Beisel is back there and Ms. Portia Gordon is also with us. And also for the record then, I'm going to ask each of you to identify yourselves and tell us, I mean very briefly at this point, what your role was in the life of Congressman Charlie Wilson. And we'll start with Peyton here since he's on my right.
WALTERS: Peyton Walters. I started out as a swamper and ended up as a swamper but was district director for twelve years and chief of staff for six.
MCDONALD: Excuse me. Before we go on, one more thing. Please designate if you worked in the district or you worked in Washington or both as Peyton just did.
MOORE: L. G. Moore. Former regional director for the Operating Engineers Union, AFL-CIO who got to know Charlie back in early sixties and, uh, with him through whole career. My involvement was labor.
MCDONALD: Was labor. Yeah.
FOLEY: I'm Ian Foley and I worked for Charlie for six years, four years in the state Senate and two years in Congress and was district assistant in Conroe.
MCDONALD: Okay. Good. Ray.
HENSON: Ray Henson. I'm merely a voter and a back door neighbor to Charlie after he retired. I was, voted for him forever, forever. He helped me and I helped him.
MCDONALD: Wish you could again.
SCHNABEL: Charlie Schnabel. I was Secretary of the State Senate when Charlie was a state Senator for six years and then his chief of staff in Washington for six years.
MCDONALD: Okay. Delores.
THOMAS: Delores Thomas. I was a friend of Charlie's since about 1972. Personal friend. Later worked as his campaign manager in the, in the '92 and '94 campaign.
MARSHALL: I'm Bill Marshall. I was a district assistant in Lufkin, or district director as they call them now. I worked the first five years Charlie was in office. I was to stay in the district.
LOVE: Peggy Phillips Love. I worked for Charlie for eight years in his, in his Washington, D. C. office. I did casework and health legislation. I told folks I was taking care of his constituents while he was taking care of the freedom fighters. [laughter]
DONNAHOE: Lorrie Donnahoe. I worked in the district office for four years taking care of the home folks.
MCDONALD: Good. I want to talk about that later. Norma.
BUTLER: Norma Butler and I worked for Charlie in the Lufkin office for fourteen years.
MCDONALD: Okay, now I'm going to twist that question just a little bit with one word: why? Peyton, why did you work with Charlie?
WALTERS: I considered Charlie the best legislator we had and a man of destiny and I wanted to be a part of that.
MCDONALD: Okay. L. G., different relationship but same sort of question. What, what was -
MOORE: [interrupts] Well I think one thing that became pretty obvious to me was when Charlie was serving in the Senate and Hannah (Congressman John H. Hannah) I think was in the House -
MCDONALD: [interrupts] John Hannah.
MOORE: - and, uh, the Texas AFL-CIO would publish their voting record of all the senators and how they voted on labor issues and so forth. I continued to watch the voting record and Charlie and Hannah would have 85, 90, 95 percent voting record for labor but with very few, not that many union people in the district. I went to him and said if you're going to continue to vote with us cause you are going to get beat because there were opponents using that, in the pockets of labor. So it became very obvious to me that Charlie was a different animal. That he knew what he wanted to do. He knew what he believed and he was going to vote that way because he thought it was the right way. He said to me one day, I said, "How are you gonna explain it? Go on and explain it to the homefolks that it's good for them too?" I was captivated by Wilson in that if you read books, political books of great leaders and political leaders, Caro (Robert Caro) books on Lyndon Williams, I mean Lyndon Johnson and you read all of that. There was something different about Charlie Wilson. When you look at Charlie's wars and you see how he managed to wire all that together with a belly dancer on one hand and a congressman with a big ego from up in Ohio who he took on the trip. Get him to buy the deal. To me that's a genius. I love Charlie a lot for it and I miss him every day.
MCDONALD: That was Doc Long, the congressman who had the key to the -
MOORE: [talks over] That's it.
MCDONALD: - to the appropriations. Ian.
FOLEY: Charlie hired me out of SFA in 1969. I was supposed to just work one session and ended up staying with him six years and enjoyed every minute of it.
MCDONALD: Any particular anecdote connected with that you could share?
FOLEY: Oh, I don't think I'd better. [laughter]
MCDONALD: Ray, why did you support him? I mean you were a neighbor, I know, but beyond that.
FOLEY: Well the first reason I supported his was when he first ran for the Senate. Of course I was living in Orange, Texas. Being a native of Lufkin but I had lived in Orange for the five years previous to 1965 and didn't get to vote for him or know him but when I moved back to Lufkin he was running for the Senate and he impressed me with his ability to, to not make himself the issue. That this is your position. You vote for this. Not, you're not voting for me. Vote for this and he reminded me at the time a whole lot of Lyndon Johnson. They just both had the same political charisma and I just fell into him and became a fan of his. And of course I met him firstly. He did me several favors over the years. Of course I, I always like the humor side of Wilson. I told this this morning. One of his earlier campaigns, his movie alluded to his swagger and he was working nursing homes in East Texas and getting voters, he swaggers into one. An old-timer was sitting over there in a wheel chair. Charlie runs over there and shook his, stuck his hand out and said, "Hi, I'm Char - Do you know who I am?" And this guy says, "No but if you go right up there to that desk, they can tell you." [laughter] And he took things like that in stride and turned 'em into an asset.
MCDONALD: I hope there's a place in a few years where I can go for that same [unintelligible]. Charles.
SCHNABEL: Well, actually, I was elected as secretary of the Senate and so Charlie was one of the thirty-one votes that elected me but then I, I kinda became, uh, the law enforcement collection between Charlie and the Austin police force. [laughter]
MOORE: Thank you. [claps]
SCHNABEL: - and, uh -
MCDONALD: Now we're going to break the ice.
SCHNABEL: - that, uh, I had the county attorney's wife on my staff and the district attorney's wife on my staff so I could communicate and help Charlie when he was in these -
SCHNABEL: - situations. How we got to Washington is he bribed me. He called me and then he made me and then he bribed me with money to come to Washington and, uh -
MCDONALD: Money works.
SCHNABEL: I didn't think my wife would want to but she turned out wanting to do that and so I found myself in Washington.
MOORE: You did a hell of a job.
MCDONALD: You did and you shared a number of experiences with him particularly when the Afghanistan/mujahedeen connection came along and we all read about that in George Crile's book and we know that you had a good close relationship and someday we'll let you tell us a little bit more about the police department. [laughter] Delores.
THOMAS: Well I uh, have known Charlie a long time as friend but Peyton started using some of my volunteers to work on the mobile office and I kind of got involved with him with the campaigns.
MCDONALD: [talking over] The RSVP.
THOMAS: - RSVP, the Retired Senior Volunteers [Program]. Later I had to retire and move to Colorado and, uh, Charlie called and needed me and that's, I mean, if you've ever known him, if he called you and said he needed you, you would be there.
MCDONALD: So you were very much involved in the campaigns against Donna Peterson.
MCDONALD: [talking over each other] Those were two or her three campaigns.
THOMAS: [talking over each other] Yeah. Most fun I've ever had and hardest I've ever worked.
MCDONALD: Did you find the, the little cassette? Were you the one that found the cassette?
THOMAS: Yes. By god, I didn't know anyone would still remember that.
MOORE: I do. [Laughter.]
THOMAS: Oh, it's like everyone. We all have things we don't talk about.
MCDONALD: [laughter] Well no, no, today we have to talk about it a little bit. Did that just come anonymously in the mail or did you find it under the desk or what?
THOMAS: Well someone told me if I walked a certain place, I might see something that would interest me. As far as I remember.
MCDONALD: Well, okay, I won't probe that any further but just for the record I'll say I'm referring to an incident in that congressional campaign in which a cassette with some incriminating kinds of information on it regarding Charlie's opponent was contained and then shared with the media and may have had some -
THOMAS: [interrupts] Well I'll tell you what it wasn't shared by Charlie.
MCDONALD: No. I know that.
THOMAS: He would not do it.
MCDONALD: It, uh -
THOMAS: I was ready to but he was not.
MCDONALD: Well let's talk a little bit more, just for a second about that campaign. That, that was an opponent that really worried him.
MARSHALL: [talking over] What year?
THOMAS: [talking over] '92
MARSHALL: [talking over] '92?
MCDONALD: [talking over] That was an opponent that really worried him. I mean he, uh -
THOMAS: He was scared to death of her. Uh, for one thing she was dynamite good looking and she could debate the pants off of him and he knew that but still . . .
MCDONALD: [interrupts] And tried to match the military.
MARSHALL: Was she the one he appointed to the Naval Academy? Is that the one?
THOMAS: West Point.
MARSHALL: Did he appoint her to West Point?
HENSON: I don't think so. No.
THOMAS: I don't think so.
MCDONALD: I don't know that. I don't know one way or the other but I don't think so. But anyway, she tried to match his military strengths, if you can call it that in politics, with her own. She was a helicopter pilot -
MCDONALD: - over at West Point. Uh, well, okay. Bill?
MARSHALL: Uh, I got involved with Charles Simpson who was a professor at SFA and um, I talked with, with Charles. I said, "We need to go campaign for somebody." I'd just graduated from Stephen F. Austin. I was working in Lufkin and he said, "Well, I have the candidate we're gonna talk to," and he said, "We'll talk about it." And so then I was introduced to Charlie. Ian, Ian was around at that point and, uh, I liked Charlie's vision. I liked his, as I've later learned or would put it, he was a very pragmatic ideologist. I mean, he had -
MCDONALD: [interrupts] In what way?
MARSHALL: He was very pragmatic. He understood there's only so much you can do with your resources and from that you can, you know you develop your visions of how you're going to go but you always have to look at how much of this resource can I use on that to obtain it. And another thing that I look at with Charlie was when we did discuss a lot of things, before I went to work for him, and in that '72 campaign, his plan, and Ian you can back me up on this, his plan was to run against John Tower for the Senate in 1978 . . .
MARSHALL: All of us were lining that up and I'm just hanging my star with his star. I mean, I was hanging myself with him 'cause I saw that vision and Ray referred to him as, you know, very charismatic, LBJ, and Charlie was. And Charlie would confess to his sins with, with okay I did it . . .
MARSHALL: But and all of us have agreed, Charlie's mantra, which I totally agree with, "take care of the home folk," and he never took himself seriously, he took the issues seriously.
MCDONALD: Whenever, when we're coming to some of the people who did some of that. Peggy you said that's what she did. I hope you will both agree with me, I never considered that cynical. I mean, I think that was dead dog serious.
MARSHALL: Oh it was. MANY: [talking over each other]
MCDONALD: And he's not unaware that it's also pretty good politics.
MCDONALD: That's where your practical side will, I think, come back in 'cause as I heard him say one time, "You gotta get elected before you can vote."
MARSHALL: Before you can take care of them.
MCDONALD: You gotta get there before you can do something. Peggy, you want to take us up there?
LOVE: Sure. I got involved with Charlie before working for Charlie. I worked with Congressman Wayne Hayes who was from Ohio and, um, Congressman Hayes was allegedly accused of, he was accused, not allegedly, accused of having a woman on his payroll, Elizabeth Ray, to be his mistress.
MCDONALD: Couldn't type.
LOVE: Who couldn't type and I can attest to the fact that she could type and that wasn't true but Wayne was head of the House Administration Committee. He was a very powerful member of Congress and if, you know, you got on his wrong side, he would make sure things happened that weren't very pleasant for you. And so when he left Congress, I really had a hard time finding a job. I mean, people wouldn't hire me because I worked for him. I wasn't even from his district and of course, everywhere I went I had to give a typing test and do shorthand and it was, it was very, very frustrating and Charlie was the only one that offered me a decent job. And he offered me a job on December 16th and on December 31st I was being taken off the payroll so I didn't, you know, I went to work for Charlie and, you know, once I started working for him, he was - I really liked the way he operated. He liked to work hard and he liked to play hard and Charlie was always an honest guy. You always knew where he stood and in, in doing, the health legislation, he wasn't really interested in that and he, so I had a lot of, let's say, freedom to kind of deal with the issues and of course, I would come up with positions for him and run it by him and I would develop these positions based on what the constituents were saying. And then when it came time to vote on an issue, you'd do a one-pager for Charlie and run it by him and make sure, you know, we were in agreement and, you know, I don't remember a time when we never, when we ever disagreed on an, an issue. But I enjoyed the fact that he put, he empowered the staff. And you knew what the rules were, you knew what you had to get done, you knew you had, you had to get your job done. But he didn't really care how you went about doing it as long as it got done and I'm a real people person. I really enjoy helping the constituents and I've got a scrapbook at home with copies of articles and letters and stuff from some of his constituents that I couldn't bring with me but I just really enjoyed it. I just really enjoyed it.
MCDONALD: If you could sometime let Paul just, just take a, what do you call that?
LOVE: A scan?
MCDONALD: Yeah and -
LOVE: I was gonna try to copy some of them when I get home. Send them down.
MCDONALD: That would be very much appreciated. Were you there during Charles Simpson's period or -
LOVE: Yes. In fact, Charles Simpson interviewed me for the job.
MCDONALD: And Larry Murphy?
MCDONALD: Who was for the record retired military officer, Navy, if I remember.
WALTERS: Navy captain.
MCDONALD: And, and did an awful lot of constituent work and, I mean, for constituents with the Washington agencies and so forth. [whispering by some interviewees can be heard]
LOVE: Yeah, in fact, when I worked for Charlie, I was going to undergraduate school at night. I tend to do things backwards. I went to undergraduate school and law school at night and Larry used to help me with some of my calculus and stuff that was just kind of, on lunch hours -
LOVE: We'd get together because he was really good at all that stuff and he's like, "Peggy, I don't understand why you don't understand this." But yeah, but Larry was -
MCDONALD: So you were in the Longworth Building?
LOVE: I started off in Longworth and then we went to the Rayburn Building.
MCDONALD: Okay, the Longworth office was dark.
MCDONALD: The paneling and the wood and so forth was dark and I think you can substantiate here for us. Those offices aren't nearly as large as they appear, are presented in the movies.
LOVE: No, no, no. They are not. They are not.
MCDONALD: They're, they're, they're smaller and crowded and to some degree people are sitting on top of each other in some of the work areas.
LOVE: Yes. Yes.
MCDONALD: And that's something that I think a lot of people - My prejudice is they all think that all college professors are millionaires because of the houses they live in the movies so I just wanted to get that on the record. Lori, what, uh, the question if you've forgotten is why did you work for Charlie? What attracted you -
DONNAHOE: I went to work to replace a caseworker in the district office. Prior to working for Charlie, I worked for Texas Department of Human Services as a caseworker and I came to work with Charlie's office in referrals and information and resource for people who needed help. So when there was an opening, Charlie's office contacted me and I went to work helping the home folks. And it was a great opportunity because you could reach more people and you did, like Peggy said, have a lot more freedom in how you did your job and he did expect us to work hard. He did expect us to answer every phone call and every walk-in but the way you got that done: just do it. Think outside the box and make it work.
MCDONALD: You know, L. G. said a moment ago that Charlie had a, was reminiscent of LBJ. And when he was the AA (administrative assistant) for Bob Kleberg that his deal.
MCDONALD: And he let some people go because they were letting that slide. I guess, I guess that's, if you want to stay around, that's a good rule to follow. Norma, you were mostly in the district, right? So -
MCDONALD: What got you connected with Charlie and why did you work for him?
BUTLER: I didn't know a whole lot about Charlie because I'm not from East Texas but I was working for DETCOG (Deep East Texas Council of Governments) along with Delores Webb and Charlie had a position available. Minority rep he wanted to fill and she made the recommendation.
THOMAS: Smartest thing I ever did, I think. [laughter]
BUTLER: It was pretty scary because I think he was going into a campaign at that time and there was a sentence "job security" during then. [laughter]
BUTLER: So I, you know, was kind of afraid to take the position but after accepting and working with Charlie and for Charlie, best experience of my life.
MCDONALD: That reminds me of, Peyton help me here. The black man who worked in the Lufkin office?
MARSHALL: Inez Tims.
WALTERS: Inez Tims.
HENSON: Inez Tims.
MCDONALD: Inez? I always remember Inez because he was so special.
MARSHALL: Oh absolutely.
MOORE: He was a key.
FOLEY: He sure was.
MCDONALD: Well let's talk a little more about him. What's the rest of the name? I had forgotten.
MARSHALL: Inez Tims.
THOMAS: That was his name.
HENSON: He was a practicing Christian.
FOLEY: Tried to get me to quit drinking.
HENSON: He didn't have to tell you he was a Christian. He showed you.
MARSHALL: He was a vegetarian.
HENSON: He was one of the greatest guys.
HENSON: And I told earlier this morning that he, Inez, probably helped remove me of any bias I had, racial bias I had, which we all have 'em or had 'em. He removed that from me. I was a pall bearer at his funeral. Dearly loved.
FOLEY: Tireless worker.
MCDONALD: I know I met him but I didn't have a lot of interaction with him but I've often heard Charlie speak of him with such great fondness and also Simpson too, with such great fondness. Let's establish a little bit more about Charles Simpson. Simpson was a political science instructor here at Stephen F. Austin. Came to us about 1966 or '68, something like that, and was very active in practical politics. Let's put it that way. In Charlie's first campaign for Congress, it was Simpson's wife who actually worked for Charlie in the campaign itself but Charlie is also teaching. He's working very actively, too, and then when Charlie was elected, then he asked Simpson to go to be AA with him in Washington. L. G.?
MOORE: In 1972, I was the - Ran Ralph Yarborough's campaign through some of these East Texas counties and I think it was '72 when Benson beat him, I think. Any way we had the, opened up the headquarters here in Nacogdoches. It was the first integrated campaign headquarters that we'd ever had. It was in the old hotel where Godtel is now. In the lobby.
MOORE: Simpson and his wife came down and would volunteer from the campus.
MCDONALD: Her name, by the way, is Louise. Just for the record.
MOORE: Right. So they would come down and volunteer and help me in the headquarters and that was the first time I ever met Buddy Temple. He and Wilson and Wilson's wife Jerry came over and that was the first time I'd ever met Buddy and that was my first time that I'd worked with Simpson. But I'd watched Simpson and he helped us a lot.
MCDONALD: Again for the record, he's someone we ultimately need to interview. Not only because of his long association with Charlie.
MCDONALD: I think he was the longest tenured of the three AA's.
FOLEY: Yeah L. G. and him equally L. G. and Buddy together.
MCDONALD: I guess you're right about that. And then afterwards he also had the same job with Senator Lloyd Bentsen and then went into a lobbying career that started after that. Well since we've talked about these two non-present employees, does anybody else outstanding come to your mind, you'd like, either in the district or in Washington?
MOORE: I want to tell you a real funny story and Charlie Schnabel could tell them all day long and mine and Peyton's would be very simple compared to his. Schnabel ought to write a book. But I'm president of the Deer Park school board and I was elected and was a school board member and the busing issue was a big, big issue. And I lived, you know, Deer Park was a rich school district and honest people but the Houston Ship Channel runs right through the middle of it and a great tax base so Eckhardt, Bob Eckhardt -
MCDONALD: Bob Eckhardt.
MOORE: - was our -
MCDONALD: Eighth district congressman.
MOORE: - congressman. So my job that day was to pick Eckhardt up and Charlie had just got elected to Congress. So anyway, we were riding over to the school and Eckhardt had his little bowtie on, all fixed up and his hat.
MCDONALD: Likes them
MOORE: I guess Eckhardt was really the only person I ever met that I considered a true, blue-blood intellectual, you know. But I said in making conversation, "How's my friend Wilson doing?" "Oh," he said, "he's just doing great." He said, "He, you know, L. G., there's 435 of us up there and Wilson is the only guy that can strut across the floor as if he was a United States Senator." [laughter]
SCHNABEL: Well my relationship with Eckhardt was to fix the flats on his bicycle. [laughter]
MOORE: Yeah. That's right.
MCDONALD: That's a relationship. I picked him as my congressman 'cause I had John Dowdy up here.
MOORE: Oh, Jesus. [laughter]
MCDONALD: Picked the one I liked. He was the one I liked.
THOMAS: Charlie said John Dowdy had the best campaign song he had ever heard.
FOLEY: Oh he did.
MARSHALL: [singing] Vote D for Dowdy.
THOMAS: He could sing it from start to finish. And did it almost every time we went out. It was so interesting.
MCDONALD: Yeah. One time I helped write a campaign song in, opposed to that.
LOVE: I think it'd be good if you could conduct interviews like this in Washington, D. C. area 'cause there's a lot of, you know, the Angels that live up there. Elaine Lang who was the press secretary. She's got gobs of stories. Candy Shy and Carol Simmons, used to be his secretary and I could go on and on and on.
SCHNABEL: And Amy.
LOVE: And Amy. Amy's actually in Georgia right now but she might be able to fly up and in D. C.'s a lot easier to get to than here and I know [laughter] Agnes Bundy Scanland is there. I mean, no offense I love it down here. And Agnes Bundy Scanland is in Massachusetts but I know sometimes she comes to D. C. for meetings because she [unintelligible].
MCDONALD: Well, Paul is commissioned to raise the money for he and Scott and Perky and I to go up there and do exactly that.
LOVE: I've talked to Paul a bit about that.
MCDONALD: And it will take about a week to do it.
MARSHALL: Al Reinert.
MOORE: You got Charlie here who's in Austin and you've got Barnes that, Ben Barnes up there. Don't you agree Charlie that this would be such a great thing to go to Austin. And I told someone this morning, if you guys gotta raise, really, if you guys gotta raise money because the school don't have it, I would be happy to help you, you guys do that.
MCDONALD: We'd probably have to because I guarantee you when this session is over with we're not going to have it.
MOORE: You're not going to have it. That's exactly right. But I think you could get, if you could get Barnes. You could, couldn't you Charlie?
MOORE: To do it, to head that thing out. I think you could get a -
MCDONALD: Yeah, we'd be glad to arrange that. We've got not a lot of time but we've got time here some this year -
MOORE: I know.
MCDONALD: - and we ought to really, seriously talk about that. Bill, did you have something to say?
MARSHALL: Mine was, Charlie had a press secretary by the name of Al Reinert. I don't know if y'all remember. Ian do you remember Al?
FOLEY: Yeah, he wrote for Texas Monthly.
MARSHALL: He wrote for Texas Monthly.
MARSHALL: He was a colorful press secretary, let me tell you. And when Al left - Do y'all know what franking privileges are?
MARSHALL: Al franked all of his household goods back to the district [laughter] and he put, they came to the Lufkin office and all of a sudden I'm getting all these boxes -
FOLEY: Conroe, too!
MARSHALL: Sent them to Conroe. He came by in his car. He'd already left Charlie. All these, I've got all these boxes here. I'm going, I'm calling Simpson, I'm saying, "What's all this stuff for Reinert?" And he's, "I don't know what it is," but Al had taken all of Charlie Wilson's stamp and stamped all his postage. Franked it back to the district and he came back in his car and picked it all up. I said, "What is all this Al?" He says, "My clothes and my pots and pans." [laughter]
MARSHALL: If he'd ever been caught on that, I'm just, you know -
MCDONALD: Now Leavenworth sounds like a nice place.
FOLEY: The district office was in a radio station in Conroe -
MARSHALL: In Conroe.
FOLEY: - and they saw that stuff coming in.
MCDONALD: Oh, boy.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Tom Baker was the, who was, I think he's on KPRC radio, isn't he?
FOLEY: Yeah, yeah.
MARSHALL: Tom Baker was a press secretary and I'm sure has a few stories but Reinert was a character.
MCDONALD: I don't think I ever met him.
MARSHALL: You wouldn't think he worked with Charlie.
MCDONALD: I may be better off.
FOLEY: He may not be alive.
HENSON: He was not long ago.
SCHNABEL: Paul, Paul Burka would be another one in Austin.
FOLEY: Oh, exactly. Yeah, yeah.
MCDONALD: We're getting a lot of good names for the record. We've got your number and your face here now so if we need -
FOLEY: Babe Schwartz.
MCDONALD: - asking you for contact data and that sort of thing and maybe even just how to spell some of these names because I haven't been too careful with that. Occasionally I remember to do it. Paul's [Paul Sandul, Director of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Prject] saying, "Yes, please," because it's crucial that we get that sort of record as straight as we can. Let me move on a little bit. We scored a little bit already this concept of taking care of the home folks. I want to ask you this because I've already sort of told you what I think about it. Just what did that mean to you? What, why do you think that was so important to him and then what did it mean to you while you were doing this? Peyton, we'll start over with you. Did I, did I cut you off? Norma you got to go.
MCDONALD: Okay. Go ahead.
WALTERS: Charlie had a deep, innate inner feeling for people and when they needed help, he wanted to help. When Charlie came down from D. C., and I know everybody in this room that has picked him up from the airport and brought him to the district has witnessed this. He'd be kind of down. Maybe tired or whatever, but when he got among the people, you could just see the energy rising and the adrenaline. He kept it going and you found it hard to stop him sometimes when you needed to go home and rest a little. But he never turned anybody away that wanted to tell him about their problems and he really had a feeling for the people.
MCDONALD: L. G. any -
MOORE: I think that, you know, and I've spent a lot of time over the years. You know, I, someone told me a long time ago, I think it was Oscar Mauzy, "Never fall in love with a politician because if you do then eventually they're going to break your heart." And I fell in love with Charlie and he never did break my heart because there was something in Charlie that he brought from Trinity, Texas to Annapolis, wherever he had been. Back here. Back to Trinity. He understood that guy cutting logs. Cutting pulp wood. He had seen it. He paid attention to it and he felt that if I'm gonna go ask them to let me do something very few people get to do and that's be our congressman, then I have an obligation to those people to make government the best I can work for them and make it as easy as possible. And when all of a sudden I seen these portable offices showing up in Cushing, Texas or here or there and a guy could go down and upset about his social security or whatever his problem might be. That was as about as good as I've ever seen bringing the government to right to their front door. I think Charlie actually truly believed that the government is us and it's about being sure we help each other and the form of government we use is this and I'm a little bitty part of that. I'm gonna bust my butt. Somebody said Charlie played hard, oh man, did he. Yeah he caused me a lot of headaches before. Not because I was worried about him but because I tried to drink scotch with him. [laughter] And I'm going to end my telling this real funny story about Charlie. I'm in Washington, D. C. working and I called him up and asked him did he want to go have dinner at the Democratic Club. He said, "Come on over to the office" and he told me what time and I go over and he'd just went through that hail storm about his, his relationship with the Playboy girl -
MARSHALL: [talking over] Liz Wickersham.
MOORE: - Wickersham.
FOLEY: Wickersham, yeah.
MARSHALL: [talking over] Charlie, uh, -
MOORE: Liz. So we had the, I don't know if there was anybody left in the office but we had our scotch and we were a few drinks and I brought it up and I said, "Do you ever see her," because I was enamored with her. He said, "Oh, I talk to her every day." Boy he could make you laugh and he could laugh at himself. I said, "Oh, bullshit." He said, "Oh, yeah. You want to visit with her?" He opens up that little door there in that closet and he had a cutout of her. [laughter]
MCDONALD: What did you say, L. G.?
MOORE: I said, "Hello!" [laughter]
MARSHALL: Hello, Liz!
MOORE: Oh yeah, that was Charlie! Charlie was Charlie.
MCDONALD: Well you've introduced another subject. Let's talk about it a little bit.
MCDONALD: Now that it's out on the floor. I didn't meet her but I did meet Elise Ilschenko (Annelise) and I know most of you probably met some of the paramours through the years. [laughter] What are some of the interesting things you can possible tell on tape, that you can share?
MARSHALL: I got a story about Annelise.
MARSHALL: After the '84 elections, we went to Scrappin' Valley. Charlie took all the people that helped in the campaign to Scrappin' Valley and Charlie had a lot of automatic weapons, one of which was an Uzi. And, yeah, we were shooting, I mean, we were shooting Galils. All kinds of weapons. Uzis, captured AK-47s. Fully automatic. These weren't single shots.
SCHNABEL: I brought them back. [laughter]
MARSHALL: Anyway, Charlie's trying to get Annelise to shoot this Uzi and she says, "I don't want to shoot it, Charlie" and he says, "Aw, shoot it" and she says, "I don't want to shoot it," "Yeah, shoot it," "No, no, no." So I know she's very, you know, not wanting to shoot is so I flipped it off fully automatic to semi. You know you got to get a selector switch, so I slipped it down and going, okay. She'll just pull the trigger and one bullet will go off. Charlie saw me get it and in the flip of an eye he put back to fully automatic. She pulled the trigger. Now this thing will shoot thirty rounds before the first empty shell hits the ground and you're through the thirty bullets. And she went like this (waves arm in the air) and there were people over here. It was just, it was just clearing the tree over to our right. I mean, limbs were coming down, leaves were coming down. Charlie looked at me, I looked at Charlie. He just handed me the Uzi and nothing else was said but that was my story. [laughter]
HENSON: While we're on the subject of the AK-47s and the AR-15s, Chuck you said you brought them back. I called Charlie's office on day when he was in the federal building and I asked him if he would go to my son's eighth grade history class and make a speech. He said, "Sure! Come on. Pick me up." I get up there and Charlie comes swaggering out of the, down the hallway and he's got an AK-47 and an AR-15 in his hands. [laughter] And I thought, we're going to school, Charlie. He said, "Oh we're gonna stop by Holsomback, the gun, you know, that red, right-wing gun dealer down the street from me?" He said, "We're gonna take these by there and drop them off. He wants to look at them." [laughter] He hands me the, I can't remember which one it was and First Street is the Main Street in town, and I said, "Charlie, it's against the law to even have one of the these in your possession." "Oh don't worry about it." We went on down to Holsomback's and of course, I got out and got my, did like this. [hunches over with his arms crossed] Took it down there and left it and he told me later that he gave those to A & M. He never could get a clearing. And that Uzi?
HENSON: It's in the bottom of Lake Rayburn.
MARSHALL: It is?
HENSON: He tried to an okay to own it from the ATF and he never could get it done. He even offered to plug it up and he said -
MARSHALL: They took away his, uh, -
HENSON: No, he threw it in the lake.
MARSHALL: No, no, his cane, his cane pistol. Do you remember his cane pistol? It was a .32 caliber cane pistol. It looked like a walking cane.
HENSON: I don't know.
MARSHALL: That one they did take away from him real quick.
SCHNABEL: I still got one.
MARSHALL: You still got one?
MOORE: You got one, Charlie? [laughter]
MARSHALL: They took Charlie's away.
MCDONALD: After his death, did somebody come and get the rocket launcher?
SCHNABEL: I don't know what happened to the Stinger. I think he donated it.
HENSON: I think it went to A & M.
MOORE: Well, the, the night that he had won the election. If I remember Henson correct me and Foley, we were all assembled in Lufkin at the courthouse. That's when the returns would come in and they were posting 'em. . .
MARSHALL: Was that in '84?
MOORE: The first time when he won -
MARSHALL: Oh, yeah.
MOORE: We had had, the Civics Union had furnished the fire power around his house.
MARSHALL: We got that threat.
MOORE: I mean, we had gotten this rumor and I don't know if it was a fact or fiction but anyway we took it seriously that we had a lot of the Wallace people that was involved and they were gonna be in, his wife Jerry, they were gonna break her hand. Shake hands with her and break her hand or do her damage. But so we didn't know if that was fact or fiction and still don't know but anyway we brought some guys from Houston and they was out, camped out in the woods out there and everybody had guns and we were loaded to bat. [laughter] So the night of the return, it was a beautiful night. Arthur Temple, Sr. was standing over there. I think Ray Henson was over here. We were all here. John Hannah was here and the returns were coming in for the winner. And all these guys who had been protecting Charlie was there and you know they didn't leave their guns in the woods so they had their guns and a big old owl lifted from the trees. This is a true story. I did not make this story up. And Hannah looks up and said, "If that owl hoots, half of these people in here are going to get killed." [laughter]
MCDONALD: He was probably right. Delores, you had your hand up a minute ago. I hope you remember it.
THOMAS: I think it was about Annelise. They had a roast for Charlie at Lufkin. Some of you probably remember that and the belly dancers were there.
MCDONALD: Belly dancer.
THOMAS: And I never will forget, she walked across there and slapped the sword out of her hand and out of the belly dancer's and I thought they were going to go at it right there.
MOORE: Well that was for real.
THOMAS: Well Charlie had them separated but that was a little unusual to wind up -
MCDONALD: Well, now to set the scene, this is in the Civic Center -
THOMAS: [talking over] Lufkin
MCDONALD: - in Lufkin and the belly dancer -
THOMAS: Was performing.
MCDONALD: - was a friend. MARSHALL : Sharon
MCDONALD: And he's in a chair all by himself out in the middle of the floor.
THOMAS: Um-hm. That's right.
MCDONALD: And then the performance was for him.
THOMAS: [talking over] All dancing around him.
MCDONALD: And all the rest of us are just kind of standing around wishing we were in the chair.
MOORE: Right. [laughter]
MCDONALD: And so that was, that was the scene. The only thing I ever remember about Annelise, other than she was a fantastically gorgeous woman. She was the first woman I ever saw wearing these speckled stockings and things.
THOMAS: With seven inch heels, at least.
MCDONALD: I think she introduced that to East Texas. I'm not sure.
MOORE: Well, we gotta remember that Charlie, and he was the only one to pull it off, brought the mayor of New York City.
MCDONALD: Oh, I remember that. I remember it so well. You remember the context, L. G.? New York City is in dire financial straits.
MCDONALD: And he brings Eddie Koch. They had been office, virtually office mates in Longworth and -
MOORE: Voted in the Contras together.
MCDONALD: Yes and he made Eddie an admiral in the Toledo Bend League.
MCDONALD: He said, "I want to tell you. Not one penny of federal money was spent building Toledo Bend," and after a pause he said, "It was all borrowed from New York Banks." [laughter]
MOORE: I remember that.
MCDONALD: So he made his point to the home folks again and we're still talking about home folks now. I didn't get totally derailed. We got them out over here. What did that really mean to you, Delores?
THOMAS: Well before I forget this thought.
THOMAS: Ann Richards, that night was so hilarious and she described him to a tee when she said he was the only person she'd ever known who strutted sitting in a chair. [laughter]
THOMAS: Taking care of the home folks -
MCDONALD: I think she talked about John Hannah. She also said John Hannah was the handsomest man in Texas. I heard her say that four times. So I guess she meant it.
THOMAS: But taking care of the home folks made it very easy to be a campaign manager for Charlie because he truly did that and it was not hard to get out and campaign, the issues of what he did in D. C. or the flamboyant lifestyle he had just never came up. They were totally devoted to him.
MCDONALD: And they remembered him at ballot time.
MOORE: Yes, they did.
HENSON: I had an issue one time. The company I worked for quit putting the lump sum value of your 401K and of course, typical, the company way, they said, "The government won't let us do that anymore." Well I didn't buy that so I called, a month or two later I called, I think I might have called Peyton and asked him to look into it and about an hour and a half, I got a call from an Italian guy in Dallas, area director of the Labor Department, U. S. Labor Department, Labor. He said you asked if so and so and so and so and my answer is that no, they don't have to quit putting it on there but some of them chose to do so for a couple of years. I said, "Yeah. Thank you very much. I appreciate you calling me back." He said, "Well before you go, I've got a question to ask you." I said, "Well go right ahead." He said, "What do you know on your congressman?" [laughter] "I know a lot of things but I'm not going to tell them you." But Charlie and his staff, I'll give them credit for it got that done and it would have taken me six months to get an answer. Oh, he said, "I have forty-five requests on my desk ahead of yours and I was told to get yours taken care of."
MCDONALD: I imagine we all, I personally have some experiences like that and I imagine everybody in here either did or they worked with people.
FOLEY: Now he did his own stuff on the casework for a long time. When I went to work for him in 1969 he was doing his own casework and then he decided I'd do it for a while and I thought I have no idea who to call and he said call Charles Schnabel or call whoever and he had a list of people. He knew how to get things done because he knew who to talk to.
MCDONALD: That's important isn't it?
MCDONALD: That's important. Knowing who to talk to.
MOORE: [talking over] That's right.
SCHNABEL: [talking over] The phrase is "it ain't what you know, it's who you know."
MARSHALL: It's not who you know or what you know, it's what you know on who. [laughter] That will really get things done.
MCDONALD: Well that opens up and let's just chase that rabbit just a little bit. Part of Charlie's success let's say in the latter, well in the eighty years, eighties years was his connection with Tip O'Neill. Now, Charlie you were there for some of that, I know. So let's talk a little bit about that.
SCHNABEL: Well, Charlie knew which buttons to push and Tip O'Neill was certainly a button and it's interesting to know how Charlie got appointed to the Kennedy Center. [laughter] Charlie had been on the Ethics Committee when he had an ethics problem and he told Tip, "I'll get off the Ethics Committee if you'll appoint me to the Kennedy Center." Isn't that, is that the way it happened?
MCDONALD: Are you going to tell us why he wanted that appointment?
SCHNABEL: Uh -
SCHNABEL: Yeah and Charlie -
MARSHALL: He'd get free tickets to the -
LOVE: And he could take his women to events at the Kennedy Center and it wouldn't cost him anything.
MCDONALD: That'd be it. Do you remember who was the main congressman who did not attend the State of the Union address in 1980 whatever it was, Peyton? When Ronald Reagan was giving the address?
WALTERS: Charlie. Charlie Wilson.
MCDONALD: Where did he go? Where did he go?
WALTERS: He went to the club. The Lon Club. Wasn't that the name of it Peg?
LOVE: I'm sorry?
MCDONALD: He went to New York to a Broadway show and then to the club.
WALTERS: Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
THOMAS: Oh yeah? [laughter]
MCDONALD: So he had an interesting theatre then, that's what we're saying. [laughter]
FOLEY: Tip O'Neal came to Lufkin.
MCDONALD: Did he really?
HENSON: No, he came to the Woodlands.
MCDONALD: I don't remember that. I remember Mondale coming.
FOLEY: Oh, he was in Lufkin too.
HENSON: I don't remember that.
FOLEY: You don't remember that?
MCDONALD: [talking over] Jim Wright.
MOORE: [talking over] Mondale came remember [intelligible].
HENSON: [talking over] Mondale came to [unintelligible]
FOLEY: [talking over] Maybe he it was the Woodlands.
HENSON: [talking over] It was the Woodlands.
FOLEY: [talking over] Maybe I'm just confused.
HENSON: [talking over] He introduced me to him.
FOLEY: Yeah, you're right. You're right.
HENSON: [talking over] [unintelligible] He was there that night.
FOLEY: Yeah that's right.
WALTERS: [talking over] But Archie he missed another State of the Union when he went to the club and then on the TV guy, about the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Who broke it?
MCDONALD: Marvin Zindler.
WALTERS: Marvin Zindler. He was there and he promised Charlie that he wouldn't put anything on TV and of course he did.
WALTERS: "Where was your congressman when the State of the Union was going on?" Oh Wilson wanted to kill him.
MCDONALD: Well did Charlie have a, he had a friendship with the man who wrote that book?
MARSHALL: Larry King.
WALTERS: Oh yeah.
MCDONALD: Larry King.
SCHNABEL: They were drunk and disorderly a hundred times. [laughter] Every cop in D. C. knew both of them.
MOORE: In Austin, too. Huh, Charlie?
MARSHALL: In Orange, Texas, too. I was with them there one time.
MCDONALD: King was there as well.
MARSHALL: Whoa. Oh yeah.
SCHNABEL: And then Larry King went to drunk school.
SCHNABEL: And quit drinking and he would come talk to Charlie about coming to an AA meeting with him. That Tuesday morning AA meeting at the Capitol.
SCHNABEL: And Charlie wouldn't go. And one time Larry King said, "Don't expect me to carry the casket of a no-good, drunk son-of-a-bitch that wouldn't quit drinking." [laughter] And the only way to get rid of Larry was to say alright I'll come to the AA meeting and Larry King said, "Okay, now I'm going to call you in the morning to make sure you go," and Charlie would go home and take the phone off the hook. [laughter]
FOLEY: There were a couple of writers in Austin, Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright.
MCDONALD: Gary Cartwright.
FOLEY: And Cartwright would go down to Mexico, down below Acapulco, up above Acapulco, whatever I forget where, Zihuatanejo and Cartwright liked to have grass or you know, and uh -
MOORE: Wait, what? [laughter]
FOLEY: So we'd been down in Mexico for a week and were going to clear the airport in San Antonio. I could tell Shrake, I mean Cartwright's kind of laying back a little bit. He was letting everybody clear customs and we clear customs and he says, "Wilson, hang on a second. I need to get something out of your bag." [laugther] Well he reaches in and gets a bag, gets a brick out and can you imagine, can you imagine him trying to explain that wasn't his?
MCDONALD: No, no, no. That would have been a difficult task. Gary Cartwright for the record is a writer of Texas, well Texana, we actually Texas Monthly. Semi-retired now but he's still active.
MOORE: I told this story this morning for the interview but I think for the few people here who may not know it. Some of them. I was working for Charlie and I go home for the weekend and I get a call and he says you gotta turn around and come back up here. We got a real situation. Turned around and went back up there. I think Ian was there, I don't know whether Ray was but Birdwell had threw this thing in everybody's yard that was Charlie's mug shot and I don't think he was drunk. He probably just overslept or something. His hair was all down. And the word had come to Wilson that there was another one coming out that was really going to shake the foundation. So he tells me - Our good friend who just passed away here in Nacogdoches, Duke Braselton had been practicing law in Lufkin and he had represented the wife of Birdwell in a divorce proceeding. For whatever reason, she had, she was spring cleaning and found a box full of love letters from Birdwell's girlfriends. If I remember one was practically, it was just like reading a porno novel. So Duke had made that available to us. Wilson didn't exactly know what we were going to do with this. Well you know that was before cell phones and all the land lines so nobody knew where you were calling from so I just walked over to the phone and I get Birdwell on the phone. I didn't lie to him. I told him what my name was. What my job was and I told him that I thought he was going to give Charlie a real run for the money and I was going to hedge my bets and I wanted to meet him in Conroe and give him some money. Well that's all it took. And so we set up the meeting and I had this guy that worked for me that some of these guys know. He's now gone and you could take him to the best fashion designer in the world and put the best clothes on him and he'd still look like a mafia guy. [laughter] Swarthy. Black greasy headed. He was a pilot and Birdwell was also a pilot so I said come on Jackie you're going with me. And Jackie was a pretty tough one. Anyway we go to Conroe and in the meantime Birdwell has got him a new wife and she had a little girl and they were sitting over on the far side of the coffee shop. Wasn't anybody in there. So he, we, he knew who to look for. We shook out hands and he comes over and sits down with us. Well he and Jackie fly airplanes. So in little bit I said, "Mr. Birdwell I lied to you to get you to this meeting. I am who I told you I was but I'm not going to give you any money. But you've been doing these bad things to our friend Charlie." He said, "You ain't seen nothing yet." I said, "but before you do that, can I show you something that if you continue to do it, we're going to be forced to -" And I picked two or three of the juiciest letters. [laughter] I said, "I think you ought to read these first." And he kept looking over at his wife. He said, "Can we step outside?" I said, "Yeah, we can go outside." He said, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "Start talking about education, social security. The things that matter." I think, Charlie, that there was a special session going on and Charlie was back in Austin. So he agreed that we had a deal. So I got to a pay phone and I got Charlie off the floor. He said, "Are you sure?" [laughter] I said, "If you had seen the look in his eye, it's for sure." [laughter]
MCDONALD: Well we all agreed that there were lots of Charlies.
MOORE: [talking over] Great fun Charlie.
MCDONALD: Lots of different facets to that interesting personality but before Paul starts swinging his finger in the air telling me it's about time, I want to ask one more question. We'll go around. We'll start with Norma back there this time and give the back row a little bit of a chance. With this statement that I wrote down here. Charlie's congressional career extends from the early seventies to the nineties. Discuss you're single most memorable experience while you were working for him. He may be involved in it or not. Either way works but most memorable experience.
BUTLER: Well one of the most memorable experiences, pulling together about five hundred African Americans to have dinner with Charlie one night at the Civic Center. He thought that we'd only get about two hundred. I said, "Well, Charlie we're prepared for five." "Two hundred will be fine, Lady Butler." And sure enough. So I had five hundred showed up and he was delighted. It was a good night.
MCDONALD: And comfortable.
MCDONALD: And, that's good. Lorri? DONAHOE: Gosh, there's a lot of great - What was the question? [laughter]
MCDONALD: Well, I'll broaden it. It doesn't have to be the one but interesting experiences working with or for Charlie.
DONNAHOE: Taking care of the home folks was interesting every day because you never knew what anyone would say on the phone or in person. You never knew what problem or trouble they were going to bring. People do not walk into a district office typically because they're happy so it was interesting to hear all the different stories and get to know the people of deep East Texas. On a personal note, one of my fondest memories is when he learned that my husband served on the Constellation during the Vietnam War. Charlie's last carrier tour was on the Constellation and when he learned that, he said, "Now, Lorri, don't say anything. If I could get Glen on that tour." I said, "Oh, he would love it." "Don't say anything." And sure enough, he got Glen on the carrier tour and he told Glen, "I don't know if I can get Lorri on. Bring her on out to San Diego. You know, worst case, she stays on the beach for a couple of days." But he took Glen and I. We flew out, landed on a carrier, and spent a couple of days and at the time my husband had a ponytail which was not popular with his employer, the U. S. Forest Service, but it was real popular with Charlie [laughter] because he liked people that were different and renegades. So every, on the ship he would introduce my husband as, "This is Glen Donnahoe and he works with the U. S. Forest Service. He's the only one with a ponytail and he served on the Constellation." [laughter] So that was a lot of fun.
MCDONALD: That was the bona fide.
LOVE: I think my best accomplishment working for Charlie was first helping the home folks. There's a senior center and I can't remember the exact name of it. It was here in Nacogdoches and I've got an article that was in the local paper here that I can provide with all the exact details but the director's name was Cheryl. I don't remember her last name but she wrote Charlie a letter and the IRS had passed some legislation and she was supposed to be deducting social security taxes on her employees and her accountant didn't know about the law and she got this letter from the IRS. She owed like $18,000 in back taxes. You know, she said if she had to pay, she was going to have to close the door on the center. Well I wrote a letter to the IRS. Normally we just put a cover letter from Charlie asking to look into it. And I get this letter back from the IRS. It was like three pages and I couldn't understand it and I'm thinking if I can't understand it, I know she's not going to be able to understand it. It seemed like it was conflicting. You know, page one and page three. So I called the IRS, the staffer that wrote the letter and I wasn't getting a straight answers. I felt like she was trying to give me the run around. I'm not the brightest person in the world but I just didn't like the answers I was getting. I can be a pain at times even though I try to be nice. I kept pushing and kept pushing and I ended up talking of the director of the IRS in Dallas and he, I guess he got tired of my pushing because I just wasn't satisfied with his answers and he finally agreed that the letter was a little contradictory and he ended up reversing his decision and the center did not have to pay back taxes. They were going to have to start paying forward which -
LOVE: - was fair. And the director of the center wanted me to come down to Nacogdoches and be interviewed for the local paper because she was just so happy with what Charlie's office had done for her. I said, "That's very nice but I work for your congressman. Your congressman actually is the one that actually made this happen." So Charlie came down and they did this article and it was in the local paper and again I can provide that for you, if you'd like. I got to thinking, once you've fight the IRS and win, you know.
MCDONALD: I'm going to give you a medal.
LOVE: What else can you do?
MCDONALD: I've never known anybody to do that before. That's great.
LOVE: And then on a personal note, when I worked for Charlie, the Navy Liaison Office, they took staffers on tours and I went down with the Navy Liaison Office in Norfolk, Virginia. They took us, they gave us some briefings and show us how the navy operated and a submarine and they took us on an aircraft carrier and when we were on the carrier, they showed us this film. We were in a little IMAX theatre and they showed this film of these planes catapulting off of the carrier and I mean, your heart was just pounding and I know you had the experience and when we get out of the theatre, I went to this commander who was kind of our escort and said, "Do you take staffers on rides on those fighter planes?" And you could see the look on his face like, oh my god because he knew I worked for Charlie and Charlie was on appropriations and Charlie was, you know, a naval academy graduate. He said, "Peggy, I can't make it happen but I can tell you who you need to talk to." So I was referred to the Navy Liaison Office and they told me I had to write, get a letter from Charlie and I asked Charlie and he said, "Sure go ahead. I'll sign the letter." I wrote the letter and a couple weeks later I got a call from the Navy Liaison Office in the Rayburn building and they said my request had been denied. Of course, I was disappointed but I'd kind of expected, you know. I knew it was a long shot. So I went in and told Charlie and he said, "Well, nice try." That afternoon, I got a call from the Secretary of Defense's office at the Pentagon and they're wanting to know when I wanted to fly down to Norfolk for training [laughter] and I'm like, "Excuse me." And they told me the Secretary had approved the request. So I go running into Charlie's office. I thought he'd made a call or something but he said no he didn't. He said, "But Peggy. I figured if anybody could pull it off, you could." So I got to fly the back seat of a fighter plane and at the time, I was the only female staffer on the Hill that had the opportunity to do that. And it was, it was just really, really a lot of fun. So I have Charlie to thank for that.
MCDONALD: Well Paul [Sandul] has given me the signal. I'm sorry we didn't get all the way around to that one but I did want to conclude on anecdote. Peyton you'll have to help me here. The lady in the swing on the porch in the TV spot. Remember the lady?
WALTERS: Ms. Chapman.
MCDONALD: Ms. Chapman. I think that captured the essence of the home folks for me. This was a spot in the campaign and I viewed it with Charlie when he was viewing it before approving it to go and state Senator Roy Blake was with us there and the lady is in the swing and she's telling her story about nearly losing her house except she called Charlie [purposely breaks voice] [laughter] and the voice broke just at that moment. And when Roy Blake saw that, he grabbed him by the arm and asked, "Who is she? Who is she? I want to use her." And Charlie said, "Honest to god, it happened just that way."
SCHNABEL: First take.
MCDONALD: That's a true story and I think that kind of captures the home folks. Well you're all troopers. You're all winners. You've been at this all day and Paul's going to say a few concluding words here in a minute but let me thank you personally. I gave you all one of my cards in the beginning. If I can ever do anything for you and I mean anything, give me a call and email or whatever method is available. I appreciate very much your coming and inaugurating this for us because this is the beginning. Paul. SANDUL: You stole my thunder. This is definitely just the beginning and I want to thank everybody for coming out and participating but I think at this point, two things I really want to stress is help us continue the ball rolling. So contacts and names. I have all your numbers, of course, and I know you so I'll be calling you some more and trying to carry it forward. The other is just some logistics on helping you get back to your cars so we don't really have to record that.