Crowd gathers for Clinton book signing
BLYTHEVILLE -- Over 1,000 people withstood the July heat for a chance to see former President Bill Clinton and the opportunity to obtain a signed copy of his bestselling memoir, My Life. Clinton appeared Thursday afternoon at That Bookstore in Blytheville for his first Arkansas book signing event.
That Bookstore owner Mary Gay Shipley announced on Wednesday, July 21, that the former president would be coming to Blytheville and that 1,000 books would be pre-sold for the event.
Clinton fans that had pre-purchased the book began gathering as early as 9 a.m. Thursday morning in order to secure a place in the front of the line. As the morning progressed, more and more people from all over Arkansas lined both sides of Main Street for their turn to see the former president. As the line began to form, ticket holders were given a break from the balmy summer weather by heavy cloud cover over the Blytheville skies. However, as the time for Clinton's arrival drew near, the clouds parted and exposed the sun's sweltering rays.
Originally scheduled arrive at 12:30 p.m., the president's arrival was delayed until close to 1 p.m. Shortly after his arrival the doors were opened, and small groups of people at a time were granted admittance by bookstore personnel. Upon entering the store, Secret Service agents checked each attendee with a hand-held metal detector before waving them through. Once inside, relief from the sun and heat made the wait easier for those anxious to see Arkansas' favorite son.
Many in attendance got the chance to carry on a brief conversation with President Clinton, especially those longtime supporters that he recognized. Among those that had an extended chat with Clinton was Monette resident Billie Layne. When Layne's turn came, she thanked Clinton for a letter he sent her and her husband, Jiggs Layne, congratulating them on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1999.
"I thanked him for the letter, and I told him that John Edwards was almost as good as he was, but not quite," Layne said in reference to the Democratic vice-presidential nominee's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston earlier in the week.
Layne explained that she came to the event because of her longstanding admiration of Clinton.
"I thought he was a good governor and a great president," Layne said. "I've always felt that he was looking out for the common man."
Layne's respect also extends to Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton as well, as she has been present at the Blytheville book signing events for both of the former first lady's books as well.
Manila resident Mary Williams also expressed her esteem for the former president while waiting in line for her book to be signed. Williams, who attended the signing with her granddaughter, Lindsey, noted that she felt Clinton was one of the best presidents the country has had. When Williams' turn came before the former president, she cheerfully invited him to the family's barbecue restaurant in Blytheville.
"I'm a big barbecue fan," Clinton responded. By the time Williams and her granddaughter reached their turn in line, Clinton's voice was noticeably strained from several hours of talking with those in line.
Clinton's entourage was not able to take Williams up on her offer, as they were headed to another book signing on Friday in Little Rock and Saturday in Fayetteville.