Tag: Bill Clinton

25 years ago, a young reporter (me) got a scoop on the president of the United States

25 years ago, a young reporter (me) got a scoop on the president of the United States

Above: At a 1992 campaign rally, John Fletcher directs the Oklahoma Christian University band as the crowd welcomes President George H.W. Bush. (Photo provided by John Fletcher)


By Bobby Ross Jr. | therossnews@gmail.com

During the 1992 race for the White House, I was a young reporter — all of 24 years old — for the Edmond Evening Sun.

In the caveman era before email, the Internet and social media, the Sun was a five-day-a-week newspaper that served the growing suburb of Edmond, Okla., north of Oklahoma City.

That paper started as a tiny weekly in Oklahoma Territory in 1889. By the time I worked there more than a century later, daily circulation topped 10,000.

I covered two main beats for the Sun: public safety and higher education. My daily routine consisted of thumbing through the last 24 hours of reports at the police and fire stations and checking in with officials at the University of Central Oklahoma. UCO is a regional commuter university that — during my year and a half with the Sun — hired popular former two-term Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh as its president.

The headlines in the Sun — robberies, house fires, regents meetings — were “hyperlocal” long before I ever heard anyone use that term.

But a few months into my tenure with the Edmond paper, I got a tip with national significance: The president of the United States was planning a campaign stop in our coverage area — at my alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University.

At that youthful stage of my career, such news represented a major scoop — a chance to beat our main competition, The Oklahoman, then a statewide newspaper with a special, zoned section focused on Edmond and north Oklahoma City.

I rushed to confirm the tip, and when I did, the Sun splashed it across the top of the front page.

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That next week, I produced in-depth coverage of Oklahoma Christian preparing to welcome President George H.W. Bush (there was no need for the “H.W.” at that point).

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Four years earlier, when President Ronald Reagan still occupied the Oval Office, I had written about the then-vice president’s son, George W. Bush, for the campus newspaper The Talon.

The younger Bush had made a 1988 campaign stop at Oklahoma Christian’s Enterprise Square USA. Unfortunately, I wrongly referred to him in print as “George Bush, Jr.” Later in my career, I covered several Bush events for The Associated Press, but I did not repeat the mistake of calling him “Junior.”

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The older President Bush’s rally at Oklahoma Christian — 25 years ago on March 6, 1992 — occurred on a Friday morning.

That was perfect timing for the Sun.

I cranked out my story in time to meet our noonish deadline, and the news landed on thousands of driveways that afternoon. The miracle of the printing press …

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In case you can’t read the text in the yellowed clipping I saved, this was the opening of my story:

By Bobby Ross Jr., SUN Staff Writer

Campaign ’92 came to Edmond in style today as a flag-waving crowd of about 5,000 welcomed President Bush to Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts.

A packed Thelma Gaylord Forum exploded with cheers and chants of “Four More Years!” shortly after 9 a.m. today as the president emerged from a second-floor chapel.

“Thanks to all of you who got up at all hours this morning to come to Edmond from Elk City to Enid and towns all over Oklahoma, and a special welcome to all the students here from Oklahoma Christian,” Bush said.

The president shook hands with Edmond Mayor Randel Shadid and other special guests assembled on stage before stepping to the podium at 9:20 a.m. Twenty-one minutes later, he was off the stage and on his way to Louisiana for another campaign stop.

Smiling, the president told Oklahoma Christian students he had only one question:

“Is it too late to audition for ‘Spring Sing?’ ” he asked, referring to the 500-student musical variety show that kicked off a three-night run Thursday night on campus.

Against a backdrop of 53 U.S. flags and a giant blue banner declaring “Oklahoma Christian Welcomes President Bush,” the president was the height of a patriotic atmosphere of the campaign rally.

Read the full story.

As you may have heard, Bush failed to win re-election that November. While he carried Edmond handily, he lost nationally to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, an old friend of Nigh.

Election night: Reflections of a career journalist

By Bobby Ross Jr.

Matt Curry, a former colleague of mine with The Associated Press in Dallas and now a Presbyterian pastor, tweeted last night:

“What he said,” I immediately replied.

For the first time in many years, I’ll enjoy a presidential election night from the cheap seats — my couch at home — rather than inside a frenzied newsroom or at a campaign watch party.

Twenty years ago, I wrote the local angle story on Bill Clinton’s election for The Edmond Sun, the afternoon Oklahoma daily where I worked for a year and a half. The banner headline on the front page on Nov. 4, 1992: “Bush Wins America, But Loses Edmond.” I still chuckle as I recall George Nigh, the popular former two-term Oklahoma governor, singing to me over the phone after his close friend’s victory:

George Nigh couldn’t be happier.

Larry Stein could be a whole lot happier.

Pat Briley is not as happy as he would like to be, but not as sad as he could be.

“Happy times are here again,” Nigh sang jokingly this morning, relishing the election of not only a Democrat, but a close friend, as president.

But while Nigh savored Bill Clinton’s electoral landslide, staunch Republican Stein lamented George Bush’s devastating loss. Dedicated “Perotite” Briley looked to a future with the Ross Perot movement remaining a live force in American politics.

Nigh, as a former Oklahoma governor, developed many relationships with other states’ top leaders.

However, the newly inaugurated University of Central Oklahoma president formed a special bond with Arkansas Gov. — make that President-elect — Clinton.

Eight years ago, I covered George W. Bush’s final rally of the 2004 campaign in Dallas:

DALLAS — As Monday faded into Election Day, the bitter divide over the presidential race was evident outside President Bush’s late-night rally at Southern Methodist University.

Deep in the heart of Bush Country, several dozen demonstrators supportive of Democratic nominee John Kerry carried signs such as “George W. Bin Laden” and “Bible Toting Liar.”

The demonstrators taunted Bush supporters leaving Monday night’s rally with chants of “One More Day!”

“We want to welcome Bush home and tell him to make himself comfortable because we’re sending John Kerry to Washington,” said Dallas resident Heidi Wanken, mother of a 2-year-old girl and founder of the organization Moms for Kerry.

Bush fans sporting red, white and blue “W’s” and an assortment of “Bush-Cheney” signs had a different message for the president: “Four More Years!”

Police standing in the street kept the two sides from exchanging more than words.

Four years ago, in the reddest of the red states, AP dispatched me (working as a freelancer) to the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s watch party for Barack Obama. This was my small contribution to the 2008 Oklahoma election roundup:

After Obama’s national victory was announced, Democrats who gathered at an election watch party in Oklahoma City danced and waved political signs.

“This is the most electrifying moment in Oklahoma and U.S. state history,” said Kitti Asbery, vice chairman of the state Democratic party.

Tonight, like my friend Matt, I’m sure I’ll miss the journalistic adrenaline rush of election night just a little bit. And the pizza, too.

JFK’s assassination still stirs memories, debate 40 years later

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November 15, 2003, Saturday, BC cycle

Assassination still stirs memories, debate 40 years later

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR. and PENNY COCKERELL, Associated Press Writers

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 1403 words

DATELINE: DALLAS

Moments before President John F. Kennedy’s limousine reached the Texas School Book Depository on that November afternoon four decades ago, Nellie Connally turned to Kennedy and remarked, “No one can say Dallas doesn’t love and respect you, Mr. President.”

“You sure can’t,” he said.

The first shot sounded like a firecracker. The next two were unmistakably gunfire.

At the 40th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, the moments remain frozen in the American psyche, the assassination still a source of fascination for historians, conspiracy theorists and an estimated 2.2 million people who visit Dealey Plaza each year.

“It’s an age-old search for the truth,” said Greg Silva, 39, a Hilmar, Calif., salesman who wasn’t even born when Kennedy died but made it a point to visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza during a recent business trip to Dallas.

For others, the assassination endures as a deeply personal experience – a lingering mix of heartbreak, nostalgia and the lost promise of Camelot. Those emotions are clear at The Sixth Floor Museum.

“If you take people there that are old enough to remember the event, you lose them. They are back with their mother and father, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles,” said Greg Elam, spokesman for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“You can tiptoe away and they’ll never know it because they are back in that experience.”

Continue reading “JFK’s assassination still stirs memories, debate 40 years later”

Enthusiastic Crowd Greets President on UCO Campus

Enthusiastic Crowd Greets President on UCO Campus

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Oklahoman

EDMOND, Okla. — As President Clinton stepped back on stage and waved a final goodbye about 5:15 p.m. Friday, Kerri Schumacher couldn’t help but lose control.

Jumping up and down, the University of Central Oklahoma senior let out a scream and laughed with the kind of excitement usually reserved for lottery winners.

Or people who brush hands with the president.

Moments earlier, Schumacher had stood on a chair and stretched out her arms, the sardine-packed crowd pushing from behind as the president and first lady Hillary Clinton approached.

“There he is,” yelled a woman on tiptoes. “I can see his hair.”

As he moved closer, Schumacher took off her glove and extended her hand. “Hi, Mr. President.”

“Hi” he and then Hillary replied, as the president looked her in the eye and squeezed her hand.

In Oklahoma to commemorate the first anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, Clinton touted anti-terrorism legislation as he addressed thousands of UCO students and other Oklahomans.

Clinton, a longtime friend of UCO President and former Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh, spoke below the historic Old North Tower, the oldest higher education building in Oklahoma.

Read the full story.

Bush wins Edmond, loses America

Bush Wins Edmond, Loses America

Happiness In The Eye Of The Be-Voter

By BOBBY ROSS JR. / SUN Staff Writer

George Nigh couldn’t be happier.

Larry Stein could be a whole lot happier.

Pat Briley is not as happy as he would like to be, but not as sad as he could be.

“Happy times are here again,” Nigh sang jokingly this morning, relishing the election of not only a Democrat, but a close friend, as president.

But while Nigh savored Bill Clinton’s electoral landslide, staunch Republican Stein lamented George Bush’s devastating loss. Dedicated “Perotite” Briley looked to a future with the Ross Perot movement remaining a live force in American politics.

Nigh, as a former Oklahoma governor, developed many relationships with other states’ top leaders.

However, the newly inaugurated University of Central Oklahoma president formed a special bond with Arkansas Gov. — make that President-elect — Clinton.

Nigh and his wife, Donna, have stayed with Clinton and his wife, Hillary, several times in the Arkansas governor’s mansion.

And when Clinton spoke at the Nigh Institute for State Government a few years ago, he spent the night with the Nighs at their former home in Edmond.

Also, Nigh said not many people realize he was one of the founders, along with Clinton, of the Democratic Leadership Council, which has sought a more moderate party with a new thrust for America.

As for Clinton’s character and trustworthiness, Nigh said he found it strange when those traits were questioned.

“I’ve been with him many times socially and politically, and I have nothing but the highest personal regard for him,” Nigh said. “He has always acted properly.”

Given his relationship with the Arkansas governor, Nigh has been mentioned as a possible selection for the Clinton administration.

But after just four months as UCO president, Nigh brushes aside that kind of talk. “That’s not under discussion,” he said.

He pointed out that the nation’s 50 governors twice have been asked to select America’s top administrator at the state level — and both times have chosen Clinton.

“I think he’ll be the best prepared president we’ve had in my lifetime,” said Nigh, 65.

But Stein, an Edmond resident who emceed when President Bush staged a campaign rally at Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts in March, doesn’t see the future through the same rosy glasses as Nigh.

Stein said he hopes Clinton and the Democratic Congress will think twice — and hard — before trying to raise taxes, an action he said everyone expects.

He predicts Clinton will enjoy a brief honeymoon — from the time he raises his arm to take the oath of office until he lowers it — and that the media and the public then will demand action.

“I think there’s a big chance the economy will get together in spite of Bill Clinton getting elected,” Stein quipped.

He attributes Bush’s defeat to no challenge of the Democratic message that the economy had hit a 50-year rock bottom.

As for Perot, Stein said the Texan’s campaign showed what a man worth $3 billion can accomplish when he spends $60 million. Perot’s success “had absolutely everything to do with money,” he charged.

But for Edmond resident Briley, who collected 1,100 signatures to help place Perot’s name on Oklahoma’s presidential ballot, the billionaire’s campaign had everything to do with the people taking power over a gridlock government.

Perot volunteers are excited about their leader’s promise to keep the United We Stand group of millions together and work for change past Tuesday’s election, he said.

Like “Ross the Boss,” Briley and fellow Perot supporters have pledged to work with Clinton for the betterment of the country.

“We may not agree with all the details of his (Clinton’s) plans, but we know we don’t have four years to wait to put our industrial base and economy back together,” Briley said. “We really do want him to succeed.”

But he added: “We do have to get action.”

Bush touts family, economy in campaign stop at Oklahoma Christian

Edmond Evening Sun (Edmond, Okla.)

Published March 6, 1992

Bush Touts Family, Economy

By Bobby Ross Jr., SUN Staff Writer

Campaign ’92 came to Edmond in style today as a flag-waving crowd of about 5,000 welcomed President Bush to Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts.

A packed Thelma Gaylord Forum exploded with cheers and chants of “Four More Years!” shortly after 9 a.m. today as the president emerged from a second-floor chapel.

“Thanks to all of you who got up at all hours this morning to come to Edmond from Elk City to Enid and towns all over Oklahoma, and a special welcome to all the students here from Oklahoma Christian,” Bush said.

The president shook hands with Edmond Mayor Randel Shadid and other special guests assembled on stage before stepping to the podium at 9:20 a.m. Twenty-one minutes later, he was off the stage and on his way to Louisiana for another campaign stop.

Smiling, the president told Oklahoma Christian students he had only one question:

“Is it too late to audition for ‘Spring Sing?’ ” he asked, referring to the 500-student musical variety show that kicked off a three-night run Thursday night on campus.

Against a backdrop of 53 U.S. flags and a giant blue banner declaring “Oklahoma Christian Welcomes President Bush,” the president was the height of a patriotic atmosphere of the campaign rally.

Bush praised “faith, family and freedom,” bashed what he called the “big-spending Congress,” and promised hope for economic recovery.

In addition, he declared the need for America to expand international trade, criticizing rival candidates who espouse protectionism.

He said those candidates “are not waving the American flag, but the white flag of surrender.”

Other candidates may depict America as a nation in decline, “but if you travel anywhere, you will find the United States remains the undisputed, respected leader of the free world,” he said.

Also, Bush pledged to “keep America strong” and resist efforts to cut military spending any more than he proposed in his State of the Union address.

“Now, the liberals have put down the scalpel and picked up a meat ax, and we’re not going to let it happen.”

The presidential motorcade whisked Bush away from Oklahoma Christian about 10 a.m. The president was to fly to Baton Rouge, La., this morning for another rally, followed by appearances later in the day in Jackson, Miss., and Montgomery, Ala.

Bush arrived in Oklahoma from Memphis, Tenn., late Thursday afternoon as Air Force One landed at Tinker Air Force Base about 4:30 p.m.

Thursday night, he made an unannounced speech at the Myriad to regional Wal-Mart store managers and paid a surprise visit to the historic Cattlemen’s steakhouse in Oklahoma City.

At the rally this morning, Bush was introduced by Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, who took the opportunity to jab former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders.

“George Bush didn’t lead marchers against our war efforts or try to evade the draft,” Nickles said, in obvious reference to Clinton. “As a matter of fact, he was a war hero.”

Prior to the president’s arrival, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner J.C. Watts fired the crowd up remembering the pride America shared during the 1980 Winter Olympics when an underdog U.S. ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union.

With that, Watts led the crowd in a brief chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A.”

Speaking of Bush, Watts said, “He’s the right man at the right time in America.”

During Bush’s address, security remained tight with police monitors at the top of OC buildings with high-p0wered binoculars.

Bush’s arrival was slightly delayed from his scheduled time to address. The emcee of the day, Larry Stein of Edmond, led the crowd in chants of “Bush-Quayle,” “We want Bush,” and “four more years.”

Stein said later the president was inside “reminiscing” with OC officials for a few minutes.

Stein admonished the “national media to be nice.”

The event was the “who’s who” in Oklahoma Republican politics with most of the party officials on hand including Bill Price, who ran an unsuccessful bid against Democrat David Walters in 1990.

Walters was not present.

After his speech, Bush again received thunderous applause from the crowd. He made his way through a small portion of the audience shaking hands.

“Hello, Mr. President,” several shouted as Bush passed by.

Two OC students who had served in Operation Desert Storm met the president and shook his hand.

“It was a firm good handshake,” one of the students said.

Other Edmond dignitaries on hand included State Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, councilmember Ron Mercer and Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce president Clint Stone.

(Steve Gust contributed to this report.)

Bush’s full prepared remarks at Oklahoma Christian University.