By James Pickett Wesberry, Jr., House Page 1949-1951
When President Truman fired General MacArthur, the Republicans were apoplectic. Former Speaker Joe Martin (R-Mass.) was so flushed we predicted he would have a heart attack any minute. The Democrats were in a panic. Many of them didn’t support the decision but couldn’t declare so publicly. There was talk of impeaching Truman.
When Gen. MacArthur came to speak to the Joint Session, there was more security and press coverage than I had ever seen. The occasion was so great it represented the only time I ever pulled rank as an Overseer – I had my assistant man the Page desk and I went down to the front of the Chamber in order to be as close to Gen. MacArthur as possible. In pictures of the event, you can see me under the portrait of Gen. Lafayette.
As the dignitaries entered the Chamber, I saw some of the great heroes of World War II that I had only heard about from newsreels. The most compelling of them was Gen. Wainwright, thin and frail, who never recovered his health after the Bataan Death March.
The Chamber was packed. Gen. MacArthur was probably the greatest orator I had ever heard, and he had the rapt attention of every Member of Congress during the entire speech. It was a very moving experience. I learned later from the Democratic Pages that Rep. Bosone (D-Md.) rushed from the Chamber in tears. In fact, there were few dry eyes in the Chamber that day. I confess that I cried too, and the depth of emotion on display has stayed with me ever since. What stunned me as a 16-year-old boy, who had been taught that grown men don’t cry, was what was happening right in front of my eyes. Sen. William Knowland (R-Cal.) was wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. My eyes were riveted on Richard Nixon, now a Senator, who had tears streaming down his face, unashamed, with no effort to wipe them away. Here was a man I looked up to, who delivered the historic “Pumpkin Papers” speech, with whom I remember talking as we once walked to the House Office Building together. Ever since then I have felt that many of the cruel things said about Nixon were simply unjust. At that moment, I saw a man I admired honestly showing a kind of patriotism for the United States that I have ever seen anywhere else.
Jim went straight from 11th grade at Capitol Page School to Duke University, then moved to Georgia State University where he received a degree in Accounting and earned his CPA. His Page experience and interest in government led him to specialize in government accounting, auditing and financial management as well as fighting corruption – at a time few CPAs had such an interest. He then went on to head his own CPA firm and served three terms in the Georgia State Senate. In 1967 he went to Peru with the Alliance for Progress and spent the rest of his career working in and/or with Latin American countries’ governments. He retired in 2006 and now lives in Quito, Ecuador.