Archive for the ‘Katzenbach’ Category

2015 BIO Conference

Bio-Logo_Black2-500x193Yesterday, the Biographers International Organization (BIO) got off to a great start with pre-conference activities including information sessions at the Library of Congress, a docent-led tour of the Library of Congress by yours truly, and a lovely welcome reception at the home Kitty Kelley. Other biographers in attendance included BIO President Brian Jay Jones, Vice-President Cathy Curtis, Barbara Burkhardt and Robin Rausch (conference co-shairs), Douglas Brinkley, Evan Thomas, Nigel Hamilton, Mike Lennon, and more.

At the reception, Thomas Mann received the Biblio Award, which is given annually to an archivist, or librarian, who has gone above and beyond in assisting biographers with their research — providing essential assistance as we endeavor to tell the stories of people’s lives. Although Tom retired in January after 33 years at the Library of Congress he can be found in the main reading room on Saturdays, where he still assists researchers, just in a volunteer capacity. He is one of the many treasures at the Library and many attending last night’s reception could attest first-hand to his helpfulness, myself included.  Oxford University Press recently published the fourth edition of his book Oxford Guide to Library Research. It’s a great resource for writers.

Today the BIO Conference gets underway at the National Press Club with Evan Thomas and Douglas Brinkley discussing the Art and Craft of Biography. Taylor Branch will deliver the luncheon keynote address. He is the recipient of this year’s BIO Award.

And in between there are a host of workshops including the one below. It’s my first speaking engagement about my biography of Nicholas Katzenbach. It’s not done yet, but getting closer. If you have not registered for the conference, it’s not too late as they are accepting on-site registration. For more info click the BIO tab in the blog header. Hope to see you later!

Writing About Someone You Know 

11:00AM–12:15PM LOCATION: BLOOMBERG

Writing a biography is never easy, but does it make a difference if you know your subject? Perhaps you’re writing about a family member, a neighbor, or a former boss. Maybe you’ve met your subject in the course of researching and writing. Does a personal connection help smooth your path when it comes to approaching sources and gaining insights? Or does familiarity create its own pitfalls? How can you take advantage of your privileged position while still holding onto your artistic independence?

Moderator 

Barbara Burkhardt ’s William Maxwell: A Literary Life (University of Illinois Press, 2005; paperback, 2008), a biography of the longtime New Yorker editor and novelist, received praise in The New York Times, TLS, The Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among other periodicals. She subsequently edited Conversations with William Maxwell (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). Burkhardt is associate professor emerita of American literature at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she was named University Scholar in 2007. A founding member of BIO, she has served on the BIO board for three years as its secretary. She is at work on a biography of Garrison Keillor under contract to St. Martin’s Press.

 

Panelists 

Beverly Gray , who once developed 170 low-budget features for B-movie maven Roger Corman, is the author of the best-selling Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking. Tastefully retitled Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers, it is now available (as both e-book and paperback) in an updated and unexpurgated third edition. Gray has also published Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond. She teaches online screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program. Her blog, Beverly in Movieland, covers movies, moviemaking, and growing up Hollywood-adjacent.

Michael Lennon is president of the Norman Mailer Society. He teaches in the Wilkes University low-residency M.F.A. program and is the author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Most recently, he edited Selected Letters of Norman Mailer (Random House, 2014). He also wrote the introduction to the new illustrated Taschen edition, JFK: Mailer’s “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” His work has appeared in the Paris Review, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Provincetown Arts,  Creative Nonfiction, New York, and Playboy, among others.

Amy Schapiro is the author of Millicent Fenwick: Her Way, a biography of the New Jersey congresswoman best remembered as the pipe-smoking grandmother who served as the model for Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury character Lacey Davenport and whom Walter Cronkite dubbed the “Conscience of Congress”. Schapiro is currently working on her next book, Leading Justice: The Life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach. She has appeared on C-Span/BookTV, NPR, WOR, and WABC.

Selma

UnknownBelieve it or not, I didn’t think about my new year resolutions until a few days after the ball dropped in Times Square. Once again, “the year of the book” tops my list. Here’s hoping that 2015 is the year I finally finish writing the Katzenbach biography. It’s particularly frustrating to sit on the sidelines as debate rages over the new movie Selma and the ensuing controversy of LBJ and his support, or lack thereof, for voting rights. Katzenbach and I talked about Selma and he made it very clear that Voting Rights was a priority for the Johnson Administration with or without Selma.

Like many, I’m anxious to see the movie and glad that today’s generation will have an opportunity to bear witness to the violence that was unleashed on Bloody Sunday – March 7, 1965 – in Selma, AL. There is no controversy about whether the movie portrayed what happened that day accurately, and the two subsequent marches on March 9 and March 21; the latter of which fulfilled the original goal to march from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

One thing is clear, this movie has gotten people talking about history and facts, what biographer doesn’t love that!

June 11, 1963

June 11, 1963 - Stand in the School House Door

June 11, 1963 – Stand in the School House Door

I woke up this morning and eagerly flipped through the pages of The Washington Post (yes, the hard copy).  I was looking for something commemorating this day, June 11, in history. I didn’t find what I was looking for in the print version so I went to The Washington Post online and found an interesting AP story about Peggy Wallace Kennedy who has spent her life living in the shadows of her father, segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace.

It was fifty years ago today that Wallace came face to face with Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach over the integration of the University of Alabama. The photograph capturing the stand in the school house door is one of the most iconic images of the civil rights movement  (see my post from June 11, 2011) https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/the-stand-in-the-schoolhouse-door/.

Tuesday, June 11, 1963 started off tense in Alabama. Later that day President Kennedy was forced to mobilize the National Guard to insure that two African-American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, were able to register peacefully at the University of Alabama. But as that day turned to night violence erupted shortly after midnight.  Civil rights activist Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own driveway in Jackson, Mississippi as his wife and children looked on in horror.

Their nightmare was just beginning shortly after President John F. Kennedy gave a watershed speech on civil rights in which he equated civil rights as a moral issue for the first time. “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” said President Kennedy, “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” A year later the Civil Rights Act was passed to do just that, but President Kennedy never lived to see that day nor did Medgar Evers or many other foot soldiers in the civil rights movement. My fear this morning was that history was being forgotten. But by the end of the day I learned otherwise.  To mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s civil rights speech the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library announced the launching of a new website that documents  “the 1963 civil rights narrative … drawn principally from the Kennedy Library archives.” Thus history lives on.

 

A Gathering to Honor Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach

ImageLast week on the summer solstice, June 21, the Katzenbach family held a memorial service in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University to celebrate the life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach. Everything about the memorial was an apt reflection of the man who passed away on May 8, 2012 at the age of 90.

His quick wit, sense of humor, and decency were on display for all to see through the memories of his friends and family. There was so much laughter in Richardson Auditorium that day that if you didn’t know better you would have thought you walked into a comedy club not a memorial service.

It was only fitting that the memorial was held at Princeton University, his alma mater, and an academic institution for which he cared deeply about, spending years on its Boards of Trustees and also providing pro bono legal services on occasion. Former Princeton President Bill Bowen was the first to pay homage to the man no longer among us. “He was truly ‘one of a kind’: a gentle giant of a man, as kind, compassionate and humorous as he was brilliant,” said Bowen.

Following Bowen were three lifelong friends, all of whom had known Katzenbach for a half-century or more – Herb Sturz, Jack Rosenthal, and Ward Chamberlin, the latter of whom had known Katzenbach since their teenage years at Exeter. He regaled the crowd with stories of a European adventure they took following high school graduation. They went on a biking tour of France and wouldn’t you know it, it happened to coincide with the Tour de France. The boys tried to ride ahead of the pack (avoiding several miles and towns on the route) so they could arrive at the next layover ahead of the cyclists, but hoping to be mistaken for them.

One of the most memorable stories was told by Jack Rosenthal. He recounted a visit Katzenbach made to the LBJ Ranch in which President Johnson took his guests deer hunting. Katzenbach was not thrilled about the prospect. He was not a hunter. “And then,” as Rosenthal told it, “inspiration struck. Katzenbach said, ‘Mr. President, as much as I’d like to shoot a deer, I don’t think I should, I don’t have a Texas hunting license.’” This was particularly problematic given his position, as attorney general and he didn’t want to violate the law. LBJ responded, “You know, I never thought of that.” Both Katzenbach and a deer were spared.

The three friends were followed by Katzenbach’s four children, as different as can be, but all inherited Katzenbach’s wit and knack for storytelling. The last of his children to speak was his daughter, Mimi. Her theatrical background and stage presence commanded attention. She explained why there was a Bloodgood Maple tree on the stage. The answer can be traced to the Revolutionary War and Katzenbach’s namesake, Dr. Nicholas deBelleville.  As she said, goodness flowed through his veins. During the Battle of Trenton, Dr. deBelleville ordered both sides to carry their wounded to a bloodgood maple tree in the middle of the battlefield and he treated them all. “Like his namesake on the battlefield,” said Mimi, “Dad did not discriminate among those who are wounded in the fight for freedom and justice.”

After the service everyone retired to the Prospect House, a Victorian mansion in the center of campus, which once housed Princeton University presidents such as Woodrow Wilson. At the Prospect House friends, family and colleagues from as far back as Katzenbach’s days in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to his tenure as general counsel at IBM, and beyond, mingled and reminisced about the man who not only impacted the hundreds in attendance, but also this nation.

A Gathering to Honor Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach

Last week on the summer solstice, June 21, the Katzenbach family held a memorial service in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University to celebrate the life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach, former attorney general. Everything about the memorial was an apt reflection of the man who passed away on May 8, 2012 at the age of 90.

His quick wit, sense of humor, and decency were on display for all to see through the memories of his friends and family. There was so much laughter in Richardson Auditorium that day that if you didn’t know better you would have thought you walked into a comedy club not a memorial service.

It was only fitting that the memorial was held at Princeton University, his alma mater, and an academic institution for which he cared deeply about, spending years on its Boards of Trustees and also providing pro bono legal services on occasion. Former Princeton President Bill Bowen was the first to pay homage to the man no longer among us. “He was truly ‘one of a kind’: a gentle giant of a man, as kind, compassionate and humorous as he was brilliant,” said Bowen.

Following Bowen were three lifelong friends, all of whom had known Katzenbach for a half-century or more – Herb Sturz, Jack Rosenthal, and Ward Chamberlin, the latter of whom had known Katzenbach since their teenage years at Exeter. He regaled the crowd with stories of a European adventure they took following high school graduation. They went on a biking tour of France and wouldn’t you know it, it happened to coincide with the Tour de France. The boys tried to ride ahead of the pack (avoiding several miles and towns on the route) so they could arrive at the next layover ahead of the cyclists, but hoping to be mistaken for them.

One of the most memorable stories was told by Jack Rosenthal. He recounted a visit Katzenbach made to the LBJ Ranch in which President Johnson took his guests deer hunting. Katzenbach was not thrilled about the prospect. He was not a hunter. “And then,” as Rosenthal told it, “inspiration struck. Katzenbach said, ‘Mr. President, as much as I’d like to shoot a deer, I don’t think I should, I don’t have a Texas hunting license.’” This was particularly problematic given his position, as attorney general and he didn’t want to violate the law. LBJ responded, “You know, I never thought of that.” Both Katzenbach and a deer were spared.

The three friends were followed by Katzenbach’s four children, as different as can be, but all inherited Katzenbach’s wit and knack for storytelling. The last of his children to speak was his daughter, Mimi. Her theatrical background and stage presence commanded attention. She explained why there was a Bloodgood Maple tree on the stage. The answer can be traced to the Revolutionary War and Katzenbach’s namesake, Dr. Nicholas deBelleville.  As she said, goodness flowed through his veins. During the Battle of Trenton, Dr. deBelleville ordered both sides to carry their wounded to a bloodgood maple tree in the middle of the battlefield and he treated them all. “Like his namesake on the battlefield,” said Mimi, “Dad did not discriminate among those who are wounded in the fight for freedom and justice.”

After the service everyone retired to the Prospect House, a Victorian mansion in the center of campus, which once housed Princeton University presidents such as Woodrow Wilson. At the Prospect House friends, family and colleagues from as far back as Katzenbach’s days in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to his tenure as general counsel at IBM, and beyond, mingled and reminisced about the man who not only impacted the hundreds in attendance, but also this nation.

Katzenbach Memorial – University of Alabama

Marina Roberts provides opening remarks at the Nicholas Katzenbach memorial service held in front of the school house door

The Tuscaloosa forecast for Monday, June 11, 2012 was not good. Thunderstorms were predicted and threatened to wash out the Nicholas Katzenbach Memorial Service sponsored by the Mallet Assembly, an honors program at the University of Alabama. An alternate location indoors was identified, but it wasn’t needed. At 6:30 p.m., as the memorial service got underway, the hot Alabama sun beat down on the crowd gathered for the ceremony outside Foster Auditorium, the site of the historic confrontation between Governor George Wallace and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach exactly 49 years ago.

Marina Roberts, the Mallet Assembly President and brain child of the event, opened the memorial. She recounted how a few short weeks ago she didn’t even know who Nicholas Katzenbach was. It was Mallet Faculty Advisor, Professor Billy Field, who told Marina about this remarkable man after Katzenbach passed on May 8, 2012. The more Marina learned about Katzenbach, the more Marina wanted to do something to honor his life and the role he played in the integration of the University of Alabama.

“When we think of the infamous stand in the schoolhouse door, too often I think we forget that George Wallace was not the only man standing up for something that day,” said Roberts. “I find it a little sad that we remember this moment with an emphasis on the governor playing into the prejudice of his constituents, and not on the magnificent effort made by common people to work with one another, to tear down the barriers that impede them, to empower each other, to open doors and to walk through them. For me, this is why we must remember Nicholas Katzenbach – there will always be impediments to progress and human equality, but it is imperative that we recognize our own power in these situations to push against these obstacles and to overcome them.”

The next speaker was another student, Jonathan Thompson, who gave an equally eloquent speech on the importance of Nicholas Katzenbach, Vivian Malone, James Hood, and the freedoms we enjoy today.

June 11, 1963 – Stand in the School House Door

He was followed by University of Alabama Law Professor Bryan Fair who provided a recap of Katzenbach’s life before, during, and, after the Wallace confrontation and what Katzenbach meant to him. “I acknowledge and understand that I stand on his shoulders,” said Fair, “knowing that his fight against the tyranny of segregation paved the way for me and others to join a previously all-white faculty and staff. I believe the University of Alabama is a better place today because Katzenbach and others faced down segregation.” And that sentiment was a theme carried throughout the program.

Poetry read by local author Jennifer Horne, and civil rights anthems sung by a local choral group were moving touches, especially if you heard their beautiful voices. The choral group was led by Director Willie Williams, who shared how on the day he earned his Master’s degree at the University of Alabama, there was one thing he needed to do after graduation, and that was to stand in the school house door which paved the way for him and countless others.

Mallet faculty advisory Billy Field also recounted personal experiences from his Alabama childhood in the 1960s. He described the prejudices his family experienced when they drove across the country with Alabama license plates in the summer of 1963. Based on that experience Field learned to tell people he was from Florida rather than his sweet home of Alabama. Stories like that brought history alive and helped provide the backdrop of the sweeping changes that resulted from the ciil rights movement.

Two statements were also read at the memorial. The first from Attorney General Eric Holder, whose future sister-in-law, Vivian Malone, was one of the two students who integrated the university. “For me, for my colleagues across the Department of Justice, and for students across this campus and around the country, Nicholas Katzenbach’s example continues to serve as a source of inspiration.  And I am grateful for your efforts both to honor his achievements and to build upon the work that defined his life and distinguished his service to our Nation.”

The second statement was from the Katzenbach family who shared how important their father’s work at the Justice Department was to him and to the nation. “Our father always had a special place in his heart for the University of Alabama. Back in the 60’s, when the nation struggled with the turmoil of integration, he, and the rest of the men and women at the Department of Justice, knew that real equality could only be attained when the best of the colleges and universities throughout the South opened their admissions to Americans of all races. He and his colleagues understood that education did more than create opportunities. It established a commonality of purpose and a dedication to achievement … Our father took great pride in fighting for his country, fighting for justice and fighting for opportunity and aspirations for all Americans. At a time now, when we can all see so many struggles continuing even in this modern world, he believed it was always important to remember how far we have come on our journey together, and how far yet remains to be traveled.”

Vivian Malone               Malone-Hood Plaza

I was the concluding speaker and shared my experiences of my first visit to the University of Alabama. Exactly five years earlier on June 11, 2007, I marked the 44th anniversary of the stand in the schoolhouse door. Back then I was the only one there in contrast to today. The air was swampy, the building deserted, and the crowds gone. The only reminder of the segregationist ghosts of yesterday was a plaque denoting this place, Foster Auditorium, as the “Site of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”

In the five short years since my previous visit, the area outside Foster Auditorium has been transformed into the Malone-Hood Plaza, dedicated in 2010. In the center is the Autherine Lucy clock tower recognizing her efforts, albeit unsuccessfully, to integrate the university in 1956.  The other big change is that Foster Auditorium is no longer a dilapidated building. It too, has undergone a massive renovation and now houses a state of the art basketball court. And in the lobby, the ghosts of history’s past have since come alive with an interactive touch screen about the integration of the university and the key players.

James Hood
Malone-Hood Plaza

While much has changed on campus in the last five years, not to mention the last 49 years, the memorial service itself demonstrated that one person can make a difference.  We saw that with Vivian Malone, with James Hood, and with Nicholas Katzenbach.  And we saw that with Marina Roberts who a few weeks ago didn’t even know who Nicholas Katzenbach was, yet learned about his mark on her university, state, and nation, and organized a fitting tribute to commemorate Katzenbach’s life.

The service ended with a moment of silence and then the playing of Taps by Brittany Hendricks in honor of Katzenbach’s WWII service and quest for freedom.

Katzenbach made a difference not just here, but through the fabric of our society and it was his passion for justice and the enforcement of the law that helped make the dreams of a many a reality.

——

As a footnote, the storm managed to stay away, but just as the program wrapped up, the winds kicked up, the sky turned ominous, and the heavens let loose. How the university managed to remove all those chairs in seconds I have no idea. In a matter of minutes, winds were whipping, branches down, and the rain cometh. Mother nature somehow managed to cooperate and kept the storm at bay until the ceremony ended. It is under this dark cloud that Taps was played, a solemn end.

University of Alabama

Today I’m heading to Tuscaloosa to speak at the University of Alabama’s Memorial Service for Nicholas Katzenbach which is being held today, June 11, the 49th anniversary of the stand in the school house door. If you are a new blog follower check out my post from last year about this historic confrontation and the lengths the federal government went to insure that the University of Alabama was integrated. Tune in tomorrow to read about the memorial service which was planned by the students inspired by Katzenbach’s life.

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/the-stand-in-the-schoolhouse-door/