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A VIEW from LICK SKILLET by Gerald Largen: Lincoln’s out and Reagan’s in at GOP event

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Well, gentle reader, continuing with our long-standing tradition, we attended the Republican Party’s Annual Dinner last Saturday Evening.

These dinners were previously called “Lincoln Day” Dinners, but this year the name was changed to “Reagan Day Constitution Dinner,” the reason for which is still unclear to your humble servant.

Considering the role played by Mr. Lincoln in the establishment and continuation of the Republican Party, it strikes us as a bit strange that his name should be stricken.

It would seem to us, although we have the greatest respect, admiration, and affection for “The Gipper,” that as a purely partisan matter, the strength of the modern party has much more to do with Mr. Nixon’s adoption of John Mitchell’s proposal for the party to pursue a “Southern Strategy” than anything else.

In fact, Reagan’s election could be credited in large part to this Nixonian plan.

But this is not a matter over which we have any say, but just as we still have trouble calling the old White Store grocery by its new-fangled name of Food City, it is our suspicion that we will continue to think of, and most likely call, these dinners Lincoln Day Dinners.

We first started attending these Republican functions, if memory serves, in 1994 when we were publishing The Standard newspaper.

On that particular occasion we had no reporter available to cover the event so we undertook to do the reporting that night.

The reaction of the organizers of the event were so pleased with the fair shake we gave them in our coverage that we were invited to return annually thereafter, and with the exception of 2010, when ill health prevented it, we have been to every one since, which if we count aright means we have attended 18 such events.

We have been told that our attendance record surpasses most loyal party members.

Despite our well-known strong party affiliation with the opposing party, we have always been cordially received and kindly treated, which fact constantly causes us to wonder why we can no longer expect either cordiality or kindness in the relationship between adherents to the two parties either in Nashville or Washington.

Saturday, however, may well have witnessed the highwater mark of partisan civility and good spirits, for not only were we greeted and well treated by the regular Republican hierarchy, but we were also greeted and well-treated by the Tea Party delegation that was in attendance, as we must relate:

When the Chairlady, Flo (Mrs. Clarence) Charles recessed the proceedings for everyone to get their food, while we were standing around awaiting a good opportunity to get in line, we were approached by a gentleman who suggested that there was someone he wished us to meet.

As we accompanied him, he advised that this was in fact a cousin of ours.

Since any meeting of Roane County Republicans is filled to overflowing with our cousins of one degree or another, (and in fact we had been seated with our cousin Blanche Harvey, who has been a faithful member of the party since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary) we did not know what to expect.

But we were soon at the table where a half dozen or so people were seated and our guide introduced us to Mr. Gary Johnston, our “cousin.”

(For those readers who may have missed it or forgotten it, we have on prior occasions pointed out that as a descendant of Peter Johnston of the Scottish clan of Lockerbie Johnstons, we must perforce be Mr. Gary Johnston’s clansman and cousin.

The reader knows of course that Mr. Johnston is the leader of the Roane County Tea Party, and we had never met previously.)

All the people seated with Mr. Johnston were also Tea Party adherents, and all were most cordial in their greeting. We proceeded to have a civil discussion for a few minutes (cut short by the prospect of not dining if we did not get a move on), which ended with an invitation to attend one of the Tea Party’s regular meetings, which we hope to do at some time.

Despite the fact that a good number of the folks that we expected to see at this meeting for some reason were not there, it was a good group and more than made up for the diminished number by their vocal enthusiasm.

One person who was there with whom we had a very pleasant discussion was our former congressman, Hon. Zach Wamp.

He, of course, was there to lend support to his son, Weston Wamp, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination to take Zach’s old Third District seat, now held by Chuck Fleischman, who was elected last election when Zach chose not to run for re-election, but instead to try for the governorship.

We told him that we had heard Weston when he spoke on Zach’s behalf at an earlier dinner, and that we had remarked at the time that he had all the earmarks of a public speaker that one would expect only in a much older speaker.

This being his first attempt at public office, and running against an incumbent, he faces a tough trial, but he certainly has a fighting chance, and should he not prevail this year, we expect we will see his name on the ballot successfully at some time in the future, if not 2012.

And certainly with a total of four candidates, and the Wamp name he might just pull it off this time.

The reader may not recall that Zach did not win in his first effort when he ran against the incumbent, Marilyn Lloyd, but came back next time and took the seat which he occupied comfortably for several years (16, if memory serves).

We were also introduced to Julia Hurley’s mother, who is a charming lady, and shows where Julia gets her looks and her disposition.

We hope to see more of our old friends next year at the Republican Dinner, no matter what it’s called.
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We have previously told readers that we have been prevailed upon to write our recollections or reminiscences of our long life for the pages of the monthly free paper. The Roane Review.

For those who have so kindly expressed interest, we expect that the next chapter will be available by the time this article is published.

The Review is free and available at various locations, including the Rocky Tops.

Last month’s piece was about my involuntary status as a moonshiner, and this month’s is principally recollections of my paternal grandfather, John David Largen, some of his sayings, and anecdotes of occurrences in his life.