Among the Luminaries Honoring Averell Harriman There Was Only One Star, Jackie Kennedy Onassis

800 Democrats and dozens of and reporters and photographers crowded into the hotel ballroom, all eyes on the former first lady

The Washington Star News, May 16, 1974 ander (with Washington Star reporter Isabelle Shelton): “Stars have left their firmaments to honor His Utmost, or, if you will, the big enchilada of the Democratic party, Averell Harriman,” said Rep. James Symington, D-Mo. He was introducing the guest of honor at a sentimental testimonial given by the Democratic Study Group at the Sheraton-Park.

But eclipsing the honoree and even such luminaries as Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., son of President Franklin Roosevelt, Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of President Harry Truman and Lynda Bird Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson was the brightest star of the evening, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She was making her first public appearance here in two years. Most of the 800 guests were already packed tightly into the anteroom of the ballroom when Mrs. Onassis suddenly appeared on a side balcony bathed in television lights, smiling and smiling, her wide-spaced eyes opened wide.

Security men tried in vain to keep back surging photographers and reporters, but the smile never left Jackie’s face, and she answered reporters’ questions with little jokes. Her only interest in politics, she said, was her escort Bill Walton, artist and old friend. “Bill Walton is my candidate for mayor of Washington,” she said laughing. “That’s my goal.”

“Do you miss the American press?” someone asked, and Jackie simply turned up the wattage of her smile. As the Harrimans joined her they confided they were leaving today for Russia. “What energy!” breathed Jackie. Finally escorted to her table, Jackie held court to table hoppers the rest of the evening, led off by Rep. Bella Abzug of New York, noticeably slimmer than anyone could remember. “Yeah,” said Mrs. Abzug, “I’m dieting ferociously. The only trouble is, I’m getting more ferocious.”

Mrs. Daniel, along with Mrs. Onassis, Mrs. Robb and Roosevelt, each gave a speech as representatives of a president under whom Harriman served. Harriman was obviously moved.”It is a thrill for me to have Jackie here tonight,” he said, and recalled going to be remembered as the man who escorted Jackie Kennedy to Paris. Mrs. Robb said she would never forget the engagement parties Harriman gave for her.”He had the whole world in his hands and in his living room. He chose the intellectual and moral elite of America.”

Just about everybody even whispered as a Democratic Presidential candidate was there, except George Wallace. Some ran in and out between other engagements, perhaps the surest sign that they are current candidates. Sen. Walter Mondale of Minnesota came briefly to the pre-dinner cocktail party, then disappeared to make a speech elsewhere in the hotel. Sen. Edward Kennedy came down from New York on the 8 o’clock shuttle.

Reporters didn’t see Sen. Henry Jackson, but his supporters said he dropped in at the cocktail party. Sens. Edmund Muskie, George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey were much in evidence. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was on the guest list.

Four Democratic administrations were represented: Tommy Corcoran and James Rowe from FDR, John Snyder and Paul Porter from HST, Orville Freeman, Kenneth Galbraith, Sargent Shriver, Luther Hodges and Paul Nitze from JFK, and Henry Fowler, Alexander Trowbridge, Endicott Peabody, Liz Carpenter, Leonard Marks and Mary Lasker from LBJ.

Democratic National Chairman Robert Strauss and the House Democratic leadership were there, of course, since the House Democratic Study Group was giving the dinner to raise funds for non-incumbent Democrats seeking House seats next year. “Incumbents may need it more” in this Watergate era of disenchantment, Harriman suggested. At $125 a head, the dinner reportedly netted more than $50,000. The one Republican in the crowd was Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She had been a good friend of Harrington.

Jackie Stole Harriman’s Show, But He seemed to Love It — Original headline

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Judy Flander

Judy Flander

American Journalist. As a newspaper reporter in Washington, D.C., surreptitiously covered the 1970s’ Women’s Liberation Movement.