Wednesday marked the passing of two men who, in their respective ways, were part of memorable moments in White House history. In Takoma Park, Maryland, Eugene Allen died at age 90. He joined the White House pantry staff in the last months of the Truman presidency, and rose through the ranks for the next 34 years, retiring in 1986 after five years as the White House maitre d’.
Allen traveled with President Nixon on the historic visit to Romania in 1969, the first time a President had visited the Communist world in peacetime, and shortly before his retirement he, along with his wife, had the honor of attending a state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s guests. After two decades of quiet retirement, Allen gained national prominence in November 2008 when he was the subject of a fascinating and moving article in the Washington Post by Wil Haygood.
And, in North Carolina, Jerald F. terHorst died at age 87. He was the head of the Detroit News’ Washington bureau in the 1960s and early 1970s, and in that capacity was a member of the media delegation accompanying President Nixon to China in 1972. But he came to national notice just after Nixon’s resignation, when he was President Ford’s first major appointee as press secretary.
Thirty days later, he became the only major figure in the Ford Administration to leave office over the 38th President’s decision to grant a pardon to his predecessor. Several years later, terHorst co-authored The Flying White House: The Story of Air Force One with longtime AF1 pilot Ralph J. Albertazzie, which contains a lengthy opening chapter describing RN’s flight on the plane from the White House to San Clemente on August 9, 1974. It’s a fascinating account of that trip and the rest of the book is just as worthwhile.