Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help

Go to Inaugural History

Go to Inauguration '97

Go to National Section

Ike Takes Helm in a 'Time of Tempest'; Says 'We Are Linked to All Free Peoples'

By Edward T. Folliard
Post Reporter
Wednesday, January 21, 1953; Page A01

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed the presidency of the United States yesterday in the radiance of an unlooked-for sun, as Washington rang with one of the greatest inaugural celebrations in its history.

The new Chief Executive, after taking oath of office, dedicated himself to the pursuit of peace, and told the world that the United States faces this "time of tempest" not "with dread and confusion," but "with confidence and conviction."

He then rode westward in a glittering Inaugural parade to the acclaim of a crowd which police estimated at 750,000 persons, who jammed this historic route between the capitol and the White House.

The parade went on for four hours and 39 minutes, into the darkness, and may have been the longest of its kind in history. President Eisenhower , standing most of the time, remained at his reviewing post in front of the White House until the last marcher had walked past.

The greatest spectacle of the Inaugural—a mingling of consecration and carnival, of solemnity and celebration—was warmed not only by the sun, but by the good will of those departing from the political scene.

A moment after Mr. Eisenhower took the oath that raised him to the pinnacle of his career, Harry S. Truman, suddenly become a private citizen, reached over and shook his hand warmly.

Mrs. Truman kissed Mrs. Eisenhower who, but a little while before, was trying to hold back tears as her stalwart husband was being sworn into office.

The irresistible swing of the political pendulum in the United States brought back to Washington the last Republican president, Herbert Hoover, now 78.

The old gentleman, experiencing emotions one might well imagine, sat next to President Eisenhower as the Inaugural parade moved past the White House. He appeared to enjoy the lilting band music, the smart marching units, the mounted horsemen, and the high-stepping drum majorettes, whose bare legs suffered none at all from the weather.

In another place of honor, just behind Mr. Hoover and alongside Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce, sat a man whose name figured prominently in the 1952 political campaign, although he himself spoke not at all. This was Gen. George C. Marshall, who, as Army Chief of Staff, was the new President's boss in World War II. He smiled in paternal fashion on the younger man.

President Eisenhower was in a gay mood at the White House, as he reviewed the Inaugural parade. At one point he submitted to being lassoed by a California cowboy named Marty Montana, who made good with his lariat after one nervous failure.

At the Capitol, earlier, while waiting to take the oath, his expression was for the most part grave.

First to be sworn in was the new Vice President, Senator Richard M. Nixon of California. In repeating the oath after Senator William F. Knowland of California, Nixon failed to repeat the word "support" in that part of the oath wherein he was to swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." However, no hair-splitter appeared to challenge the validity of the oath.

At 12:30 p.m. there was a sound of flourishes from the Marine Band—a signal that it was time for General Eisenhower to take the oath and assume his leadership of the United States and its 158 million citizens.

General Eisenhower took his place on the left side of the rostrum on the pillared stand and Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson faced him on the other side. Two Bibles were brought forward, one of them the Bible the soldier-statesman got upon his graduation from West Point and the other the Bible upon which George Washington took the oath to become the first President.

By this time the Weather Bureau's forecast had run into "Eisenhower luck" and had been routed. A large part of the sky was free of clouds. There was a haze, but the sun was coming through to glint on the horns of the musicians, add vividness to the Flag and give brightness to the drama under the Capitol dome.

The voice of Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson came over the loudspeakers, followed by that of the new President like an echo:

"I Dwight D. Eisenhower, do solemnly swear . . . that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States . . . and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . So help me God."

After shaking hands with Mr. Truman, now a member of the Ex-President's Club, President Eisenhower crossed the platform to Mrs. Eisenhower. He kissed her, and then returned to the rostrum.

He raised his arms in the familiar V salute of his campaign days.

Then he adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses and began to speak.

The words that come were not those expected by the reporters in the press section below. All of them had texts of his inaugural address, and were prepared to hear him start reading it. Instead, he started out by saying, "I have a little prayer of my own, and I want you all to bow your heads."

He had written it a little while before in his suite at the Hotel Statler, between the time he returned from church and the time he started for the White House to join Mr. Truman for the ride to the Capitol.

There was complete silence in the great concourse of people as the Chief Executive read his "little prayer."

"Give us, we pray," he intoned, "the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our works and actions to be governed thereby and by the laws of this land."

Having finished his prayer, President Eisenhower launched into his Inaugural address. He was interrupted by applause five times, the first time when he said that the United States faces the threat (obviously that of Russia) with "confidence and conviction."

He got another handshake from Mr. Truman, and also from outgoing Vice President Alben W. Barkley and Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.

The benediction was said at 12:55 p.m. by the Most Rev. Henry K. Sherrill of New York, presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The invocation had been said at the outset by the Most Rev. Patrick O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, and there had been a prayer in between by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland.

The "Star Spangled Banner" was sung by Dorothy Maynor, so small that she could hardly be seen behind the rostrum. Eugene Conley of the Metropolitan Opera Co. sang "America, the Beautiful."

General Eisenhower had gone down to the Capitol with Mr. Truman in a White house car, a Lincoln. The reason was obvious: Mr. Truman still was President and would continue to be until the moment the General took the oath.

After the greetings on the White House portico, Mr. Truman insisted that General Eisenhower get in the car ahead of him.

Mr. Truman made another friendly gesture toward his successor. He followed the other's lead, and instead of wearing the silk topper ordained by tradition he wore a black homburg.

Actually, the crowds along the Avenue saw little or nothing of the homburgs as the two men rode toward the Capitol, followed by Mrs. Truman, Mrs. Eisenhower and Miss Truman. They rode bareheaded, chatted amiably and waved to the crowds.

On the way back up Pennsylvania Ave., in the Inaugural parade, President Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower rode together -- the first time a new President and the First Lady had ever done so.

They rode this time in a white Cadillac, with its top down.

Stands Up In Car

The cheering began on Capitol Hill and mounted the nearer the Chief Executive got to the White House. He waved at first, but as the noise grew in intensity he began to stand up to acknowledge the acclaim.

It was 2:30 p.m. when the First Citizen came in sight of the stately old mansion that is to be his home for the next four years. Dropping out of the parade, he and Mrs. Eisenhower drove into the White House grounds. At this point, however, they did not go into the house, but went instead to the reviewing stand out on Pennsylvania ave.

President Eisenhower was seen to square his shoulders and smile happily as the cadets of West Point marched by. They must have reminded him of many things, including March 4, 1913, when he himself marched with the cadets in the first Inauguration of Woodrow Wilson.

A soldier for 40 years, it must have required restraint on President Eisenhower's part to keep himself from saluting as the Flag came by. In each instance, however, he simply brought his homburg up over his heart.

The one time he gave anything resembling a salute was when Gov. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina came by, smiling and waving. The President grinned, waved, and then gave "Jimmy" a sort of half salute.

As the parade moved on, wave after wave, darkness settled over the avenue and the street lights were turned on. The elephants, symbols of the GOP plodded past. Then came an Army truck, and the parade was over.

President Eisenhower and the First Lady moved to the front of the reviewing stand, holding hands. They waved, then turned around and walked across the lawn and into the White House.

They had a small family dinner, got into evening clothes and then set out for the Inaugural Balls.

© Copyright 1953 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help