My favorite story about presidential valets (grammar note before you get your blood pressure up, “presidential” is only capitalized when it is part of a formal title, like the name of an event, like Presidential Inauguration – it is not a proper noun unto itself so in this usage, small p – which reminds me, gotta take out the new dog – be right back).
Let us start again. My favorite story about presidential valets comes from Laura Bush’s book. She says that her husband President George W. Bush met his two, yes two valets, he went to his father, President George H. W. Bush, and said, “I don’t think I need a valet. Sr. answered, “Don’t worry, you get used to it.”
George Washington’s valet, William Lee, was the only slave freed in Washington’s will. Actually, the first three President’s valets were slaves, including James Madison. Paul Jennings was his valet, and wrote a book afterwards, titled: A Colored Man’s Reminiscence of James Madison.
President Lincoln’s valet, William Johnson died in January 1864. Upon his death, Lincoln arranged for a burial at Arlington National Cemetery and paid for the headstone. Since then, the duties of a presidential valet… I am trying to think of a polite way to say it … how about, “range in scope”? Colonel Arthur Brooks had a serious grip on the job, serving Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.
This is George E. Thomas, valet to President Kennedy.
He dressed President Kennedy for many occasions, including his funeral. Thomas came from Berryville, Va. (pop. 1,645 in 1960). As he stepped out of the plane in Dallas, President Kennedy joked to Thomas, “You know George, I think this is a bigger town than you come from.” Thomas and “John F” (as Thomas referred to the President as) began their relationship in 1947, and it lasted 16 years until JFk’s death. Thomas was a character who loved books every bit as much as John F, who played in Friday night poker games that were famed for their high energy. and who handed out $5 bills to the children in Berryville. Thomas was I-V-Y, he never wrote the book about his employer’s indiscretions that would have made him relative gazillions.
FDR’s valet, Irvin Henry McDuffie, or “Mac” – was superstitious. In Miami in 1933 an assassination attempt was made on the then President-elect Roosevelt, after which Mac took off Roosevelt’s tie and said, “No sir, Mr. Roosevelt, this is one tie I won’t let you wear again. ” Mac, who did everything for Roosevelt EXCEPT pick out his clothes, had juice. He was wrongly detained by Brazilian police in 1936, missed boarding the USS Indianapolis (the presidential ship) so the navy’s USS Chester was sent back to get him.
Of all, though, I think my favorite valet was the aforementioned Sargeant Moaney. In John Eisenhower’s emails, he quotes Moaney (who stayed with the family after Eisnehower’s death) as telling Mrs. Eisenhower, “I ain’t workin for you; I’s takin care of you for the gennul.”