Friday, March 13, 2015

Senator Wayne Morse

When I was around 9 or 10 we lived in Syracuse, NY. I had a pal named Hibbard Van Buren Kline III. Hibbie's dad was head of the Geography Department at Syracuse University and his grandfather had been the head of the Art Department there. Hibbie's mother's brother was Senator Wayne Morse.

Hibbie's grandfather had given him a terrific collection of antique weapons - rifles, muskets, swords, daggers, bayonets, helmets from the 1700's to WWII. As kids we were allowed to play with them in the house and I learned a great deal about history from those objects, especially the value of actually handling something that someone else had touched back in time. I ended up with a small collection myself that I sold in the 1960's.

One of things I still have, however, is a menu dated April 17, 1957,  from the US Senate Restaurant inscribed and signed by Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. It says "To Ben Davis - I am glad to know that you are a buddy of my nephew Hib Kline. Best Wishes always, Wayne Morse, U.S. S. Ore."

At the time, of course, I didn't really know much about Morse except that he was Hibbie's uncle. In college though I came to know a lot about  Morse and really valued my "encounter" with him on that menu.

As a Republican Senator he was one of six senators that supported criticism of Senator McCarthy's witch hunt of American communists. Morse was so disillusioned with Eisenhower choosing Nixon as a running mate that he quit the Republican party and in 1955 joined the Democratic Party.  In 1960 he tried to run for the Presidency but lost the bid to John F. Kennedy. Morse was one of only two US Senators that voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that allowed Lyndon Johnson to take military action in Vietnam without a declaration of war. Morse spoke out strongly against the Vietnam War at the time I was facing the US draft. He took a lot of criticism for his stand. I treasure that old menu with his inscription on it.

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