If I had been given an exceptional first name, my life would have been quite different. Just look at those who have been more fortunate.
Over the last century we have been exposed to the likes of Omar, Everett, Winston, Adlai, Dwight, Estes, Averell, Hubert, Lyndon, Julian and Emanuel.
For World War II enthusiasts, the name Omar Nelson Bradley and Dwight David Eisenhower are unmistakable in any recap of that great undertaking by the Allies. Omar, who after the war gained his 5th star, joined his longtime friend, Dwight, with the recognition of having the title, General of the Army. Omar went on to become the 1st chairman of the joint chiefs of the armed forces. Dwight, in 1952, was elected President of the United States.
Everett, Julian and Emanuel had a great deal in common during the late 1950s and early 60s. Everett McKinley Dirksen was a standout in the U.S. Senate if for no other reason, other than his wonderful base voice, which made him so recognizable. More important, in June 1964, he would join with Rep. Emanuel Celler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in moving the 1964 Civil Rights legislation into law.
Julian Bond was a major player in the Civil Rights Movement and an inspiring figure for Everett and Emanuel. Not unlike many of his fellow civil rights workers he opposed the Vietnam War and was quite involved with the era’s major civil rights organization, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. What is not too well know about Julian, was that in 1968 he was the first African American to have his name entered at a major political convention (Democratic) for vice president -- 40 years before another unusual first name, Barack.
The 1968 political period also brought two unusual first names to the fore, Lyndon and Hubert -- President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey. They were direct opposites -- even coming from opposite ends of the country. Lyndon was from a small town in Texas while Hubert came from and an even smaller town in South Dakota. What they did have in common was to secure the passage of the civil rights legislation. Hubert helped deliver the bill as a U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
I could be wrong, but you don’t much hear the name Winston being given as a first name these days. I don’t know why. The Winston here, of course, is none other than Winston Churchill, the World War II leader and Prime Minister of Great Britain. I have included this legendary figure, some might say why, if he is British? Let’s not forget he was the son of an American born mother.
Adlai Ewing Stevenson was in many ways the quintessential public servant. He came to Washington, D.C., in the early years of the FDR administration and returned again during World War II. But what put his unusual first name before the American masses, was in 1952 and 1956, when he ran as the Democratic candidate for president against the formidable "Ike." Adlai, the professorial public servant, with so unique a first name, conducted his presidential campaigns with the highest degree of civility, so sorely missed today.
Averell was not his first name but instead his middle name. Nevertheless, it was his middle name that he chose to use during his long years of public service and business career. He was enlisted in service to a half dozen presidents beginning with FDR and ending with President Johnson who selected William Averell Harriman to head up the negotiating team that brought an end to the Vietnam war.
For last, I have chosen what I believe to be the most uncommon of first names, Estes. I am referring to the famous crime-busting U.S. senator from Tennessee, Carey Estes Kefauver, who also chose to use his middle name during his public life. For those of us who grew up in the early days of TV the news was dominated by the U.S. Senate hearings on crime in America. In center screen was Estes asking hard questions as he led the Senate investigative hearings, week after week.
Webster’s American Biographies lists 3,082 bios. I chose 11. What a listing of exceptional first names is contained in the 1984 edition.
I have resigned myself to the fact that with a first name, Donald, there is very little chance of my having any aspirations for national office. I have also given up on any hope of seeking state or local political office. I was just not given the right first name. What is required to be a national leader has little to do with one’s pedigree, experience, or wealth -- it comes down to what’s in a name.
Don Keelan is a Banner columnist..