Colonel Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick and President Wilson

Among Charlotte lawyers of the 20th century, none will be remembered more vividly than Colonel Thomas LeRoy Kirkpatrick, good roads enthusiast, mayor, public servant extraordinary, and orator. It was he who spoke three times as long in introducing President Wilson as the President, himself, spoke when visiting Charlotte for the May 20th celebration in 1916. Of this event Mrs. Edith Bolling Wilson, widow of the President, has this to say in her book My Memoir (1938).
 
"It was a boiling day. The ceremonies were in the open to accommodate the thousands of people from all over the state who had poured into town. A large wooden platform had been set up, with no cover, not even an awning; and rows of chairs placed to seat the official party, all facing a blazing afternoon sun. The hapless Marine Band had been summoned from Washington and they wore the thick, red uniform coats of winter weight. It was terrible for them. Fortunately for me, I was wearing a thin white dress and a large straw hat - which did afford a little shelter.
 
"The front of the platform was draped in bunting, and a table with ice water and glasses placed before the Mayor of Charlotte who was to make the address of welcome and introduce the President.
 
"This dignitary arose - as I can see him as though it were yesterday! He was about five feet high and wore a frock coat that must have belonged originally to an ancestor who was a giant; for the tails of the coat just escaped the ground, and the sleeves were of proportionate length. Nothing daunted by this handicap the little man began and, as he warmed to his subject, the sleeves were pulled above his elbows, the coattails would be lifted nearly as high as his head, and after holding them there a few minutes the hands would release them only to come down with forensic force on the table where the pitcher and glasses would jangle their contribution to the uproar. On and on and on he went, thirty, forty, fifty minutes - when suddenly the members of the Marine Band began to succumb. They dropped like flies, and the valiant little Boy Scouts tried to lift and carry them to some blessed shade.
 
"The speaker would look at the prostrate forms, but, with a debonair flirt of his coattails, attack another page of the typed matter before him. Hardly had the band received first aid when women all around me began to faint, and the scouts, with perspiration pouring down their boyish faces, came to tender their services.
 
"At last he stopped, for lack of breath I think, and sat down more like a vanquished prize fighter than anything else I can think of; for both cuffs had slipped their moorings, and one was open. His hair was standing on end and the necktie had sought sanctuary under his left ear.
 
"My husband's address was calm and mercifully short."
 
Following the two speeches that day, a stranger who just happened along remarked to a bystander, "That was a wonderful speech the little guy made - and the tall fellow who followed wasn't so bad either."

Section: 
Page Order: 
460