Former First Lady signs books in Blytheville

Thursday, July 31, 2003
Hillary Rodham Clinton was at That Bookstore promoting her new book, "Living History." (Town Crier photo/Nan/Snider)

One of the most influential women in America, Hillary Rodham Clinton, visited That Book Store in Blytheville Saturday to sign copies of her latest book, "Living History."

Hundreds of fans lined Blytheville's Main Street, anticipating their few seconds with the outspoken U.S. senator. She greeted each person and made eye contact, as she hurriedly autographed their copy of her book.

Six hundred numbers were given out to those purchasing advance copies of the Clinton book, for personal autographing. A bookstore employee stated that Clinton signed 1,200 overall during her visit.

Ms. Clinton has always held high-profile roles as a lawyer and children's activist and has fought tirelessly and passionately for what she believes. "Living History" is a detailed political memoir, in which she discusses her eight years in the Clinton White House and the events of her husband's historic presidency. In the book, she describes the triumphs and defeats of those eight years in office, from the optimistic beginning, to the criticism concerning the Whitewater investigation, the Lewinsky scandal, and the Clinton impeachment hearing. This book provides a thoughtful and provocative read, and gives an intimate glimpse into the writer's mind and heart.

Many visitors had met Ms. Clinton before at political gatherings, at state or national functions, or when visiting state or national capitols, while her husband, Bill Clinton, served as governor of Arkansas or president of the United States.

The overall theme of respect for Hillary Clinton came through loud and clear as visitors talked about her dignity and grace, while waiting in the long line to see her.

Leachville Mayor Ralph Wells and his wife June were among the fans waiting in line to see the former first lady.

"She is wonderful," Mrs. Wells said. "I wish she would run for president."

"I have had a long friendship with the Clintons and support the programs they have worked on," Mr. Wells said. "I think they are both great, and they did a lot for Arkansas while they were here."

Shirley Harvell of Forrest City took her place in line. Ms. Harvell served as former president of the NAACP in Blytheville and was a national delegate.

"I supported the Clintons in the beginning and still believe in them today," she said. "If there is anything we can do to promote them in a positive fashion, we will."

About a dozen members of the "Red Hat Society" (chapter name: Mesdames of Mirth) came from Jonesboro. Ms. Clinton commented on their red hats as they passed through the line and asked for their society website so she could learn more about the organization, stated it sounded very interesting to her. They listed the international webpage as

Members Melissa Baldwin, Claudia Stumpf and Bettye Gibson praised Clinton for her honesty and integrity in writing the book and setting the record straight.

"Next to John Grisham, Hillary is our favorite writer," Baldwin said.

"I am a big fan of Hillary and have seen her many times," Pat Fleetwood of Caraway said. "My son worked with security for the Clintons for years, and our whole family came to admire them."

"I would like to see her become our next president," Genevieve Lane of Monette said. "I have seen them many times and traveled to Washington, D.C., for their inaugural. The more I read about her the more I admire her."

Jim and Jo Ella Finley traveled from Ironton, Mo., to see the former first lady.

"It was worth the trip to be here today and meet Hillary," Mr. Finley said. "She is an important part of our history, and is a very intelligent lady. It would be hard not to admire her, as she has worked so hard on progressive programs for our nation."

Anna Bell Bracey and her daughter Brooke Bracey traveled from Little Rock to see Ms. Clinton. Brooke was a childhood friend of her daughter, Chelsea, and had not seen Ms. Clinton in several years. Ms. Clinton appeared to be touched with seeing Brooke again and was quick to give her a hug and show her appreciation.

Charlotte Griffin of Blytheville waited in the long hot line of visitors to get an autographed copy of the book for her granddaughter, Melanie Weathers, of Jonesboro.

"Melanie is big on political science, and admires Mrs. Clinton," Ms. Griffin said. "I wanted to get this for her, as it will mean so much."

Cheryl Chrathan of Jonesboro came to purchase a gook for her friend, Shari Eliott, in Oklahoma.

"I love my friend enough to stand in this long line to get this for her," Ms. Chrathan said. "She is going to be so happy to have an autographed book, as she is such a fan of Hillary's."

Former State Representative Charles Moore took his place in line, for just a brief chance to meet with his longtime friend and get an autographed copy of her new book.

"She was the first lady of Arkansas when I was in office," Moore said. "I have the greatest admiration for her."

Donna Kirksey of Jonesboro serves on the Criaghead County Democratic Women's Central Committee and works in speech communications at Arkansas state University.

"I have been an admirer of the Clintons from the beginning," she said. "I met Bill when he came to ASU, on three separate occasions, for dedications. I am anxious to have a copy of Hillary's book, as she is great at expressing herself, and has tremendous insight on the political arena."

Billy Jack Layne and family of Monette were also in line to see Ms. Clinton.

"I admire Hillary and will vote for her any time I get the chance," Mr. Layne said. "She is a very dignified lady, and very smart."

Calhoun Sanders, 95, of Little Rock came to see Ms. Clinton recalling the time she first shook hands with the Clintons and dancing twice while Bill Clinton played his saxophone. Calhoun now lives with her daughter, Virginia Heinrich, in Bartlett, Tenn.

Owens' sisters, Winnie Spikes, of Monette, and Janet Brewer, of Lake City, took their turn in line also.

"My brother, Ronald, was Bill Clinton's campaign manager, in Crittenden County," Ms. Spikes said. "He traveled with the Clintons and thought so much of them. In turn, we are big fans of the Clintons also, and could hardly wait to come to the book store and see Hillary today."

I think Hillary will come to be one of the greatest women in history," Ms. Brewer said.

People came from all across Arkansas, and the adjoining states, for their chance to see Hillary Clinton up close and personal. They willingly braved the long lines out on the pavement, the ever-rising heat index, no place to sit or get a cool drink, and the cost of the book, just for the opportunity to meet the famous lady who got her political start in Arkansas.

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