Amazing Lifer

When I saw that Jason Zengerle of TNR had written a piece about Harris Wofford, I thought: “Oh, no! Harris died!” But fortunately, that’s not true. It’s a little unclear why Scheiber chose Wofford as the subject of an essay that’s part of TNR’s commemoration of its 100th anniversary, but it’s presumably because Wofford was near the center of action in American politics for what seemed like a century. Indeed, that’s what Scheiber writes about.

During my years in Washington, in which I was perpetually on the periphery of what we called the “national service movement,” I encountered Wofford–who ran AmeriCorps for Bill Clinton after his Senate defeat in 1994–pretty regularly. And as such, I was the fascinated auditor some of those mind-bending only-Harris-Wofford-could-tell-them anecdotes that Zengerle recounts. As he talked about his role in securing MLK’s release from jail, I thought--Lord, how many people in the Clinton administration have personal memories of MLK from the perspective of the Kennedy/Johnston campaign?–and came up with no other names.

And as Zengerle notes, Wofford’s encounters with American political history didn’t end with Clinton: he was the guy who introduced Barack Obama the day the then-presidential candidate gave his famous “race speech” in Philadelphia.

Back in 1981, Wofford published a memoir of the sixties, with the predictable title, Of Kennedys and Kings. I would have to assume he’s working on the other decades now.

UPDATE: Yes, the Jason Zengerle disease strikes me again, as I once again (in the original post) attribute Jason’s work to Noam Scheiber. I swear I’m not doing this deliberately.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.