By John J. Duncan Jr.
Last week’s column about Richard Nixon brought back the memory of an interesting Knoxville connection Nixon had.
Erma Greenwood attended Duke University Law School with him in the late 1930s.
Ms. Greenwood was for many years the only woman lawyer in Knoxville. For the last several years, women have been the majority of law students in the U.S.
Erma Greenwood was a very well-respected lawyer here, and she had great respect for Nixon.
She was on a first-name basis with him, calling him Dick, and he reportedly gave her serious consideration for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1974, Ms. Greenwood became the Republican nominee for a seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court. I was her campaign manager.
Unfortunately, she and I were about the only ones involved in her campaign, because races for the state supreme court were extremely low-profile in those years.
In addition, due to the Watergate scandal, 1974 was a terrible year for Republicans, and Ms. Greenwood lost. A woman did not go on the Tennessee Supreme Court until 1990.
When I became judge in 1981, I turned over one of my most interesting cases to Erma, I had such high respect for her.
While I was a student at UT, I worked in the Nixon for President headquarters in Washington during the summer of 1967 and 1968.
The campaigns were much smaller back then, and in 1967, Nixon had only about 20 people working in Washington and Pat Buchanan and Rosemary Woods worked with him at his law office in New York.
In that first summer, Nixon fired his national campaign manager and brough in former Kansas Congressman Bob Ellsworth.
About 10 a.m. on Ellsworth’s first morning on the job, he gathered the staff all around and walked over to me and said, “What I am about to say does not apply to you, so sit tight and keep quiet.”
He then said, “You’re all fired and I want to see each one of you individually in my office upstairs.”
The only other college student there was Mark Pfeiffer, a student at Dartmouth from Columbus, Indiana.
I will never forget him saying, “Boy this is great. My hometown newspaper just had a front-page story yesterday about me coming to work in the Nixon campaign. Now, I’m here not even two hours, and I get fired.”
But they ended up keeping me and him, the only two college students, and the switchboard operator.
I have always said since then that I was not even high enough up in the campaign to get fired.