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Sumter editor describes trip to White House

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 9/14/19

Reflections will reprint the second part of an article from The Sumter Item archives written by Hubert D. Osteen, editor and publisher of The Sumter Daily Item, in 1963 which pertained to his visit to the White House at the request of President John …

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Sumter editor describes trip to White House

Posted

Reflections will reprint the second part of an article from The Sumter Item archives written by Hubert D. Osteen, editor and publisher of The Sumter Daily Item, in 1963 which pertained to his visit to the White House at the request of President John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Osteen was notified March 27, 1963, of his invitation to a White House luncheon. Part one of the article was published in the Sept. 7-8 edition of The Sumter Item and can be read online at www.theitem.com.

"The president is still youthful looking and appears to be in top physical shape. When asked how he kept his weight down when faced daily with so much delicious rich food, he replied that he did not always eat as much as he was eating at our lunch. His dark reddish hair is becoming liberally sprinkled with gray, especially around the temples, but otherwise two years of the tremendous strain of the presidency has not altered his appearance to any noticeable degree.

"The only reference to the racial question was made by the president. He congratulated the newspapers of South Carolina for helping to provide a favorable climate for the admittance of Harvey Gantt to Clemson. He intimated that the newspapers of Mississippi must bear part of the responsibility for the bloody riots that occurred at Oxford when James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi. He expressed concern over the situation in Alabama, where the NAACP has announced plans for a drive for complete integration and the governor has stated that he will resist any form of integration.

"He commented on a recent statement by President Eisenhower calling for a cut in the national budget. He said that Eisenhower promised a balanced budget but came up with a deficit of $12 billion, which would represent about $16 billion at the present time. The national budget goes up in about the same proportion as the gross national product, he said.

"He discussed the Cuban situation at some length. He said it was his belief that the Russians had removed all of their rockets, but if there were still some hidden in caves, it would require about three days to move them out and place them in position for firing, which would give us enough time to take appropriate action.

"From his remarks, I gathered that he is opposed to an invasion of Cuba in order to get rid of Castro and the Communists. But the picture could change quickly if the Russians should attempt to install offensive weapons again. Everything short of an armed invasion is being done to rid Cuba of Castro and Communism, and the steps now being taken are proving effective. Cuba's foreign trade, for instance, is now only about a fifth of what it was when Castro seized power.

"Following the luncheon, the president remained with our group for several minutes, autographing menus and engaging in small talk. When he departed, Pierre Salinger, press secretary, requested that we use no direct quotes from the president, but otherwise there were no restrictions on reporting his remarks. We were then informed that all those who wished to take a tour of the White House could do so.

"A Secret Service agent acted as our guide and took us over two floors of the building. He was well versed in the history of the White House, and the tour proved instructive as well as enjoyable.

"Our group was favored with perfect weather, the temperature in the high 80s and the famed cherry blossoms in full bloom. The trip was well worthwhile, chiefly because it gave us the opportunity to observe the president close up and to talk with him in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

"While I cannot speak for all of my colleagues, I believe the great majority were favorably impressed with John F. Kennedy."