I suppose we’re all familiar with the line, “And they say that chivalry is dead!” It is, of course, delivered in an ironic tone, by way of affirming the negative, namely that chivalry is not only dead, but long dead. Well, dear reader, I have news for you: As long as Jimmy Symington, author of this marvelous collection of anecdotes and stories, remains alive—and may he remain alive for many years—chivalry is not dead. Keep reading...
Not another memoir by another elder statesman, this is an anthology of remarks, statements, credos, assertions, declarations, pronouncements, asides and bon mots, the verbal gleanings of four score years and counting.
My Grandfather Symington served as a judge on the Baltimore City Supreme Court in the 1920s and liked to top off his day with a drink—the caveats of Prohibition notwithstanding. As president of Baltimore’s white-shoe Maryland Club, he would indulge this penchant in the company of the club steward, William Marshall.
One of my early missions as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy was to pay a courtesy call on the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover—not at Bob’s request to be sure (the two were never close) but at the insistence of my father who considered it a prudent initiative.
This was the ominous condition that the Governor of Mississippi told the Attorney General of the United States must be imposed. In September 1962 Robert Kennedy had phoned Ross Barnett to inform him that James Meredith, an African American having met all the requirements for admission to the University of Mississippi, would arrive at the campus to register at a certain date and time, accompanied by U.S. marshals.
In February 1961, as deputy director of the newly constituted White House office of Food For Peace under George McGovern, I was dispatched to survey the food needs of our neighbors to the south. At my first stop, Caracas, I was described by its newspaper, El Comercio, as “El joven con poco barbe” (the beardless youth).
In October 1966 President Johnson presided over the seven-nation Manila Summit Conference. Its purpose was to brief the heads of state of South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines on the conduct of the Vietnam War and to secure their support for its continuance. The briefing was presented by General William Westmoreland, the trim and bemedaled commander of the U.S. forces.
Abe Fortas, lead partner of the Washington law firm of Arnold, Fortas & Porter, handed me to review—fresh off the press—the voluminous Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I had become an associate of the firm during the 1960 presidential campaign, then took a leave of absence in 1961 to launch Food For Peace and then to work for Attorney General Robert Kennedy. I had returned to the firm in 1963 and was at my desk when word came of the unspeakable tragedy in Dallas.