Clinton Visit
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From Clinton Town Meeting
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President Bill Clinton
visited Harrison County on May 22 and held a national town meeting on education

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May 22, 1997
The following articles are from our special Presidential Issue
- The Clinton Town Meeting -

Tight security,
final details
all in place


As final details were being formatted by officials getting ready for today's visit by President Clinton, security matters did not slip through the cracks.

According to Bridgeport Police Sgt. Carl Springer, manpower will not be at a short supply throughout Harrison County.

"There will be more security than you can imagine," said Springer. "We'll be at full force."

Bridgeport's entire department will be working in handling security at the Benedum Airport. Sixteen members are scheduled to handle duties there, while the other four will cover regular tasks.

"We'll be working as a team in which everybody has some sort of description," said Springer.

Airport Manager James Griffith was busy Wednesday, checking and double-checking details with the Secret Service and with organizers of the arrival and departure ceremonies.

Springer also said Marion County will be sending up police reserves to help with traffic. Officials from the Department of Natural Resources and the Fairmont Police Department will provide security assistance, said Chief Jack Clayton.

"They'll be sending about a dozen people," Clayton said. "We'll all be working in conjunction with the secret service."

While the Bridgeport Police will handle the airport security and its perimeter, Springer said the West Virginia State Police will be assisting in various capacities.

"They'll be involved with traffic throughout Bridgeport and Clarksburg," said Springer. "They'll also be handling the intersections and any other details up to Robert C. Byrd."

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department will also be involved with the traffic aspect of things. Sheriff Wayne Godwin said his staff will be handling traffic patterns from the Clarksburg city limits at Topper Club Hill to Robert C. Byrd High School.

He said the department will also have seven officers on hand at the school. The sheriff's department is also working in conjunction with the Secret Service.

"Everything with them is strictly business," said Godwin. "Unless you've been involved with a visit, you have no idea about the precautions that are taken."

Clarksburg's Police Department will handle traffic from the Joyce Street exit off U.S. Route 51" to Topper Club Hill. Chief Gary Edgell said they will be handling various other traffic chores as well.

"We're basically in a support role to the Secret Service," said Edgell. "We'll also have roughly 15 officers at the school."

Edgell said police personnel from Anmoore, Salem, Lumberport and Stonewood have all been involved and will help out during the activities. They are taking part as part of the mutual aid agreement.

At the Benedum Airport, metal detectors were being set up Wednesday, said Airport Manager Jim Griffith. All persons heading to the airport to hear a speech as the President departs will go through the detectors.

"They were moving them in (Wednesday) morning," said Griffith. "Along with the detectors, every gate will be locked or there will be a vehicle blocking it. The security will be strict."

Griffith said meetings with White House staff members, the Secret Service and others will continue this morning. "They'll be doing things up until the 11th hour."

Griffith said flights coming into the airport will be delayed when the President's flight arrives. But, at his departure all activity will be suspended.

"From 2:31" to 4:31" we'll curtail operations," said Griffith. "We think the two-hour window will be sufficient to handle any potential problems."

Griffith said a limousine should be waiting near the runway to get the president to RCBHS quickly.

Various notes:

_ Clarksburg City Manager Percy Ashcraft said on Monday the stage used on the Courthouse Plaza for the Italian Heritage Festival will be used at the Benedum Airport for the president's speech.

"Anthony Bellotte (of the public works department) is kind of spearheading many things for us. He's our point person and he's working on the stage," Ashcraft said. "We'll finalize work on the stage (this morning)."

_ The Benedum Airport's Fixed Base Operations (FBO) has basically surrendered the use of their hangar to the government. Airport Manager James Griffith said the hangar will be used in case of inclement weather.

"Actually, with the number of people showing up, it will be used regardless of the weather," Griffith said.

Griffith, who is involved with the $33 million earth moving project at the airport, said the president's arrival "dwarfs everything in comparison."

_ Bridgeport City Manager Harold Weiler said a sign will be placed on the Benedum Civic Center welcoming the president. He also said other banners might go up this morning.

_ Although the numbers aren't in, Weiler said the city will pay a price in the form of overtime, most of it to the city's police force.

"It's considerable," he said. "But it's something we have to do. Still, we'll be able to cover the cost."

_ Ashcraft said Clarksburg's biggest cost will be in the form of overtime. Although he didn't have an estimate, he said overtime will be paid to the city's police, fire and public works departments.

The entire police force will be on duty, according to Capt. Raymond Mazza.

_ Clarksburg Postmaster Paul Dupont said a mailbox has been removed on a possible motorcade route at the request of the Secret Service. However, he said only one, to his knowledge, has been removed in the area.

The box was removed to prevent packages from being dropped off which could contain harmful materials.

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Excitement growing for Clinton visit


A seating chart for the presidential motorcade, snacks and soft drinks for the national press corps, even gifts for the president _ all the last-minute details for President Clinton's visit promise to keep planners busy right up to Air Force One's touchdown at 11:52" a.m. tomorrow.

Several details, including the names of the 162" audience members chosen to quiz the president on his education plans and the motorcade route to Robert C. Byrd High School, are likely to remain cloaked in secrecy.

The White House advance team has steadfastly refused to disclose the names all week.

And staffers for U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd, Harrison Superintendent Robert E. Kittle and Gov. Cecil Underwood have been equally reluctant to divulge their parts of the "guest list."

But Kittle did disclose today one of the souvenirs being readied for the president and the national press corps: ball caps emblazoned with the Robert C. Byrd High School bald eagle.

Airport Manager James Griffith was busy today at Benedum Airport, checking and double-checking details with the Secret Service and with organizers of the arrival and departure ceremonies.

The president is scheduled to deliver a speech shortly before 3 p.m. Part of the preparations call for tents to shelter several hundred VIPs and a large holding area for the crowd expected to flock to the airport for the chance to see a president.

"We're going to have a celebration," to thank the president Kittle said yesterday.

A second distribution of free tickets for the president's stump speech took place earlier today.

The president will also be welcomed by students and teachers from north central West Virginia.

Other highlights:

_ A new World Wide Web page featuring live video and sound for the high school event is now on the Internet.

Computer users around the world can access it at this on-line address: Designed by programmers at NASA's Classroom of the Future at Wheeling Jesuit College, the new Web page is also linked to Clarksburg Publishing Co.'s on-line address, as well as that of the White House and the governor.

Clarksburg Publishing Co.'s on-line address is

_ RCBHS students will have regular classes for the first three periods of the day tomorrow.

After an early lunch, they will go to the school's auditorium to view the education forum on big-screen televisions.

The president will meet the school's 975 students and their 65 teachers after the forum.

There will be no public parking at the airport Thursday. Instead, residents should use a free shuttle service from Meadowbrook Mall to the airport. The shuttle service will begin about 12":32" a.m. with public buses and accelerate about 11:15 a.m. with the arrival of a fleet of county school buses.

_ County school officials extended a special invitation to James E. Griffin, the new president-elect of the local United Way campaign, to attend the education forum as a representative of the city's African-American community. While minority students will be in the audience, the school system acted after Pastor David Kates complained that minorities and "common everyday folks" were being ignored.

_ Two more closed-door dress rehearsals for the invitation-only audience for the education forum will take place early tomorrow morning.

With the exception of RCB High, county schools will have only a half-day of classes tomorrow.

The West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority is going to televise the event live from the RCBHS gym.

In addition, WBOY-TV 12 Clarksburg will also broadcast the forum. The local commercial station is also offering live coverage of the president's arrival and his speech. WDTV-Channel 5 is also planning live coverage, but details weren't available today.

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'Icing on the cake:' local pastry shop honors Clinton


Patrick Hawkins laughs as he shares a little inside joke: "We've been saying around here that doing this for the president is just the icing on the cake. It's a little corny, but it fits the occasion, don't you think?"

Hawkins and his mother, Linda, have put in longer hours than usual this week at their family business, Bonnie Belle's Pastries in Nutter Fort. The result? A confectionery Clinton collage.

Using enhanced computer imagery and photo clippings, Hawkins family members have combined their baking talents to create cakes depicting scenes from the president's life, including taking the Oath of Office, visiting with school children, and hugging daughter Chelsea. Not to mention Vice President Al Gore and the presidential seal. Another cake features a profile of the president with a "welcome" greeting.

Bonnie Belle's, celebrating its 53"th anniversary this month, has provided cakes for state dignitaries such as Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller.

"Anytime there's been a celebrity in town, we've tried to do a cake for them. But we've never done one for a president," says Patrick Hawkins, 27.

The idea for the Clinton cakes began with Linda Hawkins' other son, Steven, a senior at Robert C. Byrd High School, site of the president's education town hall meeting.

"Steven came home last week and said, 'Hey, guess who's coming to our school?' We were in shock," says Linda.

"We just automatically decided to make the cakes then," Patrick adds, "and the rest of it kind of snowballed."

Accordingly, the Hawkinses prepared two full sheet cakes _ white almond with buttercream icing _ for display in the RCBHS auditorium during Clinton's visit.

A third cake is set to go back to Washington with Clinton.

"We're making another one that says, 'Hillary and Chelsea, West Virginia Really Missed You,"' Patrick explains, adding that the cake is set to be delivered to a staffer at Benedum Airport prior to the president's departure.

The cakes are made from scratch with family recipes created by and passed down from Bonnie Belle Hawkins, the hard-working owner who started the operation five decades ago with her late husband, Richard.

Once the cakes are baked and iced the old-fashioned way, modern-day technology is used to create the portraits of Clinton and the first family. Photos are scanned into a computerized decorating machine, which then lays lifelike, edible images on top of the cakes.

"It's completely edible and delicious and wonderful," says Linda.

"We put a lot of extra time into these," adds Patrick. "It's a drawn-out process, a lot of time and care. We're just really excited. It's such an honor to be a part of his celebration."

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City to be in positive light


For the second time in less than a year, the City of Clarksburg will be in the national spotlight.

This time, however, the venue will be a positive one.

Thanks to the recent announcement of President Clinton's visit to Robert C. Byrd High School, Clarksburg will have a few hours to showcase its improving economy and its new, state-of-the-art high school. Clinton's visit and the publicity that will follow it, will provide Clarksburg with a rare opportunity for positive national exposure.

Fortunately, it comes eight months after the incident involving the Mountaineer Militia and an alleged plot to blow up the city's FBI facility. On that occasion, Clarksburg was in the headlines and, unfortunately, there were negative images that accompanied it.

"For the president to come inside your city's borders will be a memorable experience and one we believe will last a lifetime," said City Manager Percy Ashcraft. "If it takes his visit to wipe out all of the negative memories of the Oct. 11 incident, then I'm doubly grateful for the president's appearance."

Much like the militia case which brought in media from across West Virginia, surrounding states and those on a national scale, the president's visit will be accompanied by an entourage of reporters. Because of that, there will also be a large crowd of various federal, state, county and local officials on hand as well.

"There will be a lot of important political people who will be at the gathering," said Ashcraft. "There will be people at this that you normally won't see together in places other than Clarksburg."

One similarity between the President's visit and the incident involving the Mountaineer Militia, will be heightened security. This time, however, the United States Secret Service will be heading the call for security.

It's likely most other agencies _ particularly those on a local level _ will be doing things in a support role.

"We'll be doing whatever they ask of us from a security standpoint," said Ashcraft. "We want to cooperate in any way possible."

While Ashcraft is hoping the visit will be a solid remedy for the ailment of the Militia incident, he's not so sure totally forgetting about what transpired is the best thing.

"That incident brought people together," said Ashcraft. "I think people realized that a tragedy could happen here in Clarksburg or West Virginia. It taught a lot of us not to taking anything for granted."

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Telecommunications Act opening doors of
opportunity for millions of students


Just two short years ago, United States Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) looked wondrously at the Information Superhighway.

It was, to the Senator, a roadway of opportunity which children nationwide could travel to further their knowledge. In order to insure that there would be no roadblocks on this avenue, Rockefeller teamed with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to guarantee that all obstacles would be eliminated.

Thanks to their efforts, an amendment to the Telecommunications Act will now provide every school and public library nationally with Internet access, internal classroom connections and discounts to cover the monthly telecommunications costs of staying on-line.

"This ensures that all kids _ no matter where they live or how much their parents earn _ will have access to education technology," Rockefeller said. "Students who attend small schools in remote areas will be able to connect by computer to the best libraries in the world or take advanced math and science courses offered in larger schools."

Access to the Internet and technology in the classroom will be one of the features of President Clinton's town hall visit to Clarksburg's Robert C. Byrd High School on Thursday. In the same vein as Rockefeller, Clinton puts a high priority on advancing educational standards.

But the politicians know improving on the educational front is as difficult and expensive as it is important.

For starters, the Rockefeller-Snow amendment won't be cheap to put into place. And it won't happen overnight.

A recent Federal Communications Commission ruling on the Act of 1996, will provide $2.25 billion to do the connections for schools and libraries. The money should prove to be sufficient to connect all schools, K-through-12, within the next four years.

In order to reach Clinton's goals of improved education, the money may be a small price to pay.

"In his State of the Union Address earlier this year, the president laid out an ambitious agenda to ensure that the American education system is the best in the world," Rockefeller said. "A key part of that blueprint is to set tough, rigorous national standards _ with national tests in both 4th-grade reading and 8th-grade math, to make sure that children can read and know basic math and algebra.

"These are basic skills," he continued, "that will help ensure that our young people gain the skills they need to compete in the global economy."

As basic as reading, writing and arithmetic are, computer skills are already on the long-standing list of classroom requirements. In fact, Rockefeller estimates that six out of every 15" new jobs will require computer skills by the year 25"5"5".

"Access to information on the Internet is as important today as rural electricity and basic phone service have been in the past," said Rockefeller. "And like these earlier technological advances, recent computer breakthroughs will help our country erase the gap between the haves and the have-nots."

As far as the distance between West Virginia and other states in education technology, the gap has narrowed. Thanks to former Gov. Gaston Caperton's Basic Skills Computer Program, there is a computer in every West Virginia elementary school classroom.

In total, there are more than 19,55"5" computer workstations in kindergarten and elementary classrooms in the Mountain State.

Along with the computers, there are plenty of other areas where West Virginia is considered a frontrunner. The state has training available, Internet access linking all West Virginia schools, a Jobs Through Education Program and downlink and network sites.

Those are just a handful of the reasons which led Rockefeller to ask Clinton to visit the Mountain State.

"I have been urging President Clinton to return to West Virginia since his visit to Huntington in August," said Rockefeller. "I am proud he chose our state as a place to focus attention on his education agenda. This will be an excellent opportunity for West Virginia to showcase to the rest of the country a school system that is rapidly becoming a national model in the use of technology and improving standards."

It's Rockefeller's hope with the amendment to the Telecommunications Act, the president's education plan and the emphasis other lawmakers have put on education, that the nation will once again rank at the top of the world's educational mountain. Already, Congress has put its money where its mouth is.

"The bipartisan balanced budget agreement just negotiated includes the largest increase in education funding in 35" years," the senator said. "We need to keep America's education at the top of our list of priorities. The president's plan does exactly that."

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Writer recalls stories of how
West Virginia helped elect JFK

Editor's note: Politics, even presidential politics, has a style all its own in West Virginia. Troy Graham recalls the stories his family tells about how West Virginia helped elect John F. Kennedy.


In 1960 a young Catholic from Massachusetts named John Kennedy pinned his presidential hopes on a small, rural and mainly Protestant state.

If Kennedy could win the West Virginia Democratic primary, experts believed it would prove a Catholic could win the country's highest office, an office no Catholic had ever held.

At the time, my grandfather, William Graham, was the Hancock County commissioner and part of the county's Democratic political machine. They had a hangout called the Grant District Democratic Club, which was basically the back of grandpa's garage, well-stocked with liquor.

During the '30s and '40s, grandpa and his mentor and leader of the Grant District group, Dick Wright, would trade the sheriff and county commissioner offices every election because, at the time, the sheriff could not serve more than one consecutive term.

While grandpa probably broke more laws than he ever enforced in those Wild West days _ when a thriving Weirton Steel employed the entire county and everyone blew loads of cash at the Waterford Park racetrack _ he and his friends were the ones to see if you wanted to be elected to office _any office.

For example, when Dick Wright got out of politics, grandpa decided to just stick with the commissioner job, and they got a handpicked sheriff elected. When their man decided to stop taking orders from the Grant District crew, they had a recount. Lo and behold, he had actually lost the election.

So, it made sense that Kennedy's entourage should come to Dick Wright and grandpa for the most pivotal primary election of Kennedy's life.

The Grant District people supported Kennedy, mainly because he told them he would stick to his programs, like the Jobs Corps and Peace Corps, and not interfere with the things which had been going on in the state for 100 years, like illegal gambling.

According to my uncle, who now lives in California, Joe Kennedy Sr. called Dick Wright, who was a Catholic, before the primary. The two of them got together in the Pittsburgh airport and Joe Sr. said he was having trouble with the state leadership, including an up and coming young senator named Robert Byrd, who supported Lyndon Johnson.

Although Hancock County had a relatively small population, it was heavy with money and political power. Joe Sr. told Dick the state leadership wouldn't make a move without him and Hancock County, and Dick immediately went to work for the Kennedy campaign.

Of course, the Grant District crew figured heavily in Kennedy's northern panhandle plans. That meant a visit from the campaign's advance team, which consisted mainly of the Kennedy brothers. While Bobby canvassed the southern part of the state, Ted took the northern half, including Hancock County.

Ted's visit has become a legend in my family. Just about everyone remembers when Ted Kennedy came to the Grant District club and took a nap on an old couch in the garage that the dog usually slept on. Everyone got a kick out of Ted chasing the dog off and the dog having to find another place to sleep.

The Kennedy team spent a lot of time in the panhandle, with JFK speaking at a packed Wheeling Island Stadium and the Italian Weirtonian Lodge.

"They hit the state hard, put a lot of money into it," said my uncle, who was fresh out of the 101st Airbourne when he started campaigning for Kennedy.

"We hit every house in the county," he said.

The history books can fill in the rest. Kennedy won West Virginia, the Catholic issue went out the window, and he was elected president.

Kennedy, being the man he was, didn't forget his debt to West Virginia. He pumped a lot of money into the state and, just before Kennedy was killed, Vice President Johnson was slated to appear at the American Legion in Chester, Hancock County, population 2,400.

Ted Kennedy never forgot those days either. My dad and uncle ran into him at Clinton's inauguration in 1992 and they reminisced about Dick Wright, William Graham and that old couch.

"West Virginia elected a president," my uncle says today. "And it all started in Hancock County out of a dirty, dusty old garage."

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