Summering on Martha’s Vineyard

You hear a lot about Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in the news lately. Martha’s Vineyard is a 100 square mile size island, located off the southern coast of Cape Cod. The population of the island is less than that of Bullock County, Alabama or about 9,000 permanent residents but during the summer tourist season, the population swells to more than 70,000. Settled in 1642, Martha’s Vineyard was a whaling and fishing center in the 18th and early 19th century. The island developed into a summer resort in the late 1800’s.

One of the reasons Martha’s Vineyard is in the news is because President Clinton vacationed there this summer. Not only did he go there for his vacation, but while there he had dinner with a woman with Bullock County connections¼ Virginia Foster Durr. Mrs. Durr is the woman credited with doing the necessary work to eliminate the poll tax.

I spoke with Mrs. Durr about her dinner with President Clinton. She told me that she enjoyed it and thought that he was a nice man. For readers who may not know; Virginia Durr is used to dining with presidents. As a friend of President and Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Durr often dined with the president and first lady. She knew President Lyndon Johnson when he was a young Texas congressman, in the 1930’s. She tells some interesting stories about her relationship with Johnson in her autobiography, Outside the Magic Circle. They remained friends until his death. Lady Bird Johnson continues to visit Mrs. Durr frequently.

Margaret and I were on Martha’s Vineyard two weeks prior to president Clinton’s arrival. We were there to visit Mrs. Durr, at daughter Lucy’s home, and help celebrate her ninetieth birthday. Lucy Durr Hackney is a friend of the President and his wife, Hillary Clinton. Sheldon Hackney, Lucy’s husband is the individual President Clinton appointed head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Hackney is a Birmingham native and former president of the University of Pennsylvania. I first met him at Auburn University in Montgomery when spoke at last year’s Clifford Durr Lecture Series. He impressed me with his vision and his ideas for our society.

There is another individual Summering on Martha’s Vineyard with ideas that I like, even if President Clinton does not. I am referring to Lani Guinier. President Clinton named Dr. Guinier to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, but withdrew her name because of political pressure from conservatives in congress. Some members of congress were fearful of some of Guinier’s ideas about how to achieve minority representation in congress. After having written an article discussing some of Guinier’s ideas, I was glad for the opportunity to meet and discuss her ideas about cumulative voting as a way to achieve minority representation in majority voting districts.

This article started out with the history of Martha’s Vineyard. I want to end it with a prediction about Martha’s Vineyard. I predict that you will find Virginia Foster Durr summering on Martha’s Vineyard next year, even if the President doesn’t return.

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Originally Published: Union Springs Facts, September 1993

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