Friday, November 7, 2008

Butler who saw racial history being remade

FOR more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land.
Mr Allen trekked home every night, where his wife, Helene, kept him out of her kitchen.
At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than the large desk in the Oval Office. Mrs Allen didn't care; she just beamed with pride.
President Truman called him Gene, while President Ford liked to talk golf with him.
He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," he says.
His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print; the man in the kitchen.
He was there while America's racial history was being remade: the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.
When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Mr Allen, 89, recalls of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

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