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Dining High on the Hog, 1956-196?


Boy, was I out of my element. But, I felt somebody's gotta do it.

In my job as CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in Washington, D.C. each year. It was a gathering of about 6000 business and professional leaders who met to discuss what's good for the country, and to visit with our elected Senators and Representatives.

Almost every year the President of the United States was a keynote speaker. Regardless of who it was, it was an honor to be in the same room with him. But one of the more interesting events of our visit was the opportunity to have lunch in the Speaker's Dining Room in the Capitol Building. The Speaker of the House was Sam Rayburn of Texas, and some of the Chamber of Commerce Executives from his District apparently had convinced him that this was a good thing to do.

He was a crusty old cutter, and held the Speakers job for decades. Most of the legwork for the luncheon was apparently done by Lyndon Johnson's office. Both were usually present at the luncheon, Sam to say a few words, and Lyndon to shake all the hands.

As I recall, these gatherings continued until after Johnson had become Vice President. At one of the meetings Johnson arrived after we were all seated, with his left hand in a bulging coat pocket. His right hand, of course, available for handshaking, as usual. As he made his way around the table he bent down to speak a personal word in everyone's ear, and as he did, he handed out a book of matches inscribed "The White House." And what he was saying was, "I picked these up for you last night while I was visiting the President."

I suppose these luncheons ended when Sam Rayburn retired. It was an era to be remembered, but I never told anyone at Copperas Cove. They wouldn't have believed me anyhow.

Vic Mathias - July 13, 2005