Political stories will be precious

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Travel this great land through and through -- from north to south and east to west -- and you will not find anyone better qualified than Frank B. Morrison to personify the finest traditions of American politics.

Frank, who celebrated his 98th birthday Tuesday, remains an imposing presence, standing well over six feet in height and speaking with a booming, gravelly voice that surpasses the stump appeal of southern "Boss Hogg" types.

Anyone who has met Frank can attest to the truth of these statements. And, for those who haven't, a great opportunity is upcoming.

A week from Saturday -- on Saturday, May 31 -- Frank will be the headliner for a "Political Stories" presentation at the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival.

It's anyone guess what Frank will speak about because he has so many stories, dating all the way back to 1928 when he cast his first vote in a presidential election for Herbert Hoover.

Frank, who served as Nebraska's governor from 1961 to 1967, could also speak about his face-to-face meetings with President John F. Kennedy, or the fact that there are actually four -- not just three --governors with McCook ties.

Most know that Ralph G. Brooks, Morrison and Ben Nelson lived in McCook before becoming governors of Nebraska, but few know -- as does Frank -- that Jack Gage, a Wyoming governor in the early 1960s, was born in McCook. Ah, the stories. The many, many stories.

No matter how many years have passed, images of Frank's storytelling sticks in your mind. Who could forget Frank asking, with his jowls trembling for added emphasis, "Do they call this river the Republican because it is so crooked, or because it is so shallow?"

Although Frank started off by voting for a Republican, Hoover, he spent most of his life as a Democrat, including the years he served as governor. But, now -- in later life -- party's not so important. Ideas are. Frank is a passionate peace advocate, and he has returned to McCook with his wife, Maxine, to push for the creation of a Heritage Park on the northeast corner of Norris and H.

For the political discussion during the storyfest, Frank will be joined by what festival promoters call two of the "most inquisitive and ornery political observers in recent Nebraska history." The reference is to Ed Howard, a longtime statehouse correspondent, and Dick Herman, whose writings have appeared in Lincoln newspapers for many years. The Gazette's publisher, Gene O. Morris, will serve as moderator.

The political panel -- especially the appearance by Frank Morrison -- offers a chance to hear about history in the making. It's amazing that this one man, esteemed former Gov. Frank Brennan Morrison, is well into his tenth decade of life, and still has a crystal-clear memory of all he has witnessed.

The discussion will be in the Museum of the High Plains, beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, and lasting until 1 p.m. Don't miss it. America's premier political icon will be there to share his marvelous stories.

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