Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The very colorful and sometimes controversial career of Frances G. Knight, who spent 38 years working for the federal government and the past 22 as director of the Passprot Office, closed Wednesday night at a reception in her honor in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
When people come to say goodbye to an old friend, there is a special kind of thing they do. George Murphy, the ex-senator from California, wore a straw boater, put his arm around her waist and the two faked a little soft shoe for a couple of photographers.
A musical group from the U.S. Navy Band, "The Commanders Trio," helped out the effort by playing "Back Home Again in Indiana," maybe figuring, with Knight having been born in Newport, R.I., and Murphy from California, that they had hit a geographic center.
During her career Knight felt the wrath of presidents, senators, members of Congress, State Department officials and newspaper columnists.
She also had a lot of praise heaped on her by an equal number of titles and admirers, many of whom came to say "goodbye" or "so-long" last night.
Women's lib got an early boost back in 1957 when Knight told a lot of people, "There is not the slightest question in my mind but that there is considerable discrimination against women as they move up in the echelons of administration and operations which men have long since considered their domain."
There was a tiny setback in 1963 when the headline over an Associated Press story said, "Passport Head Chided For 'Glamor' Show."
Rep. John Rooney (D-N.Y.), then chairman of the House APpropriations Subcommittee, wanted to know if the "glamor show" had taken place during the Cuban crisis and at first was given an evasive answer.
Further prodding by Rooney revealed that indeed the 105 women in the Passport Office had been given a lesson on grooming by a "distinguished speaker," named Jacqueline Cochran, on manners and dress.
Cochran, head of a cosmetics firm, also presented each of the 105 employees with a card entitling her to a complimentary box of face powder.
In 1969, Marquis Childs wrote about the "fly now, pay later" promotion that started an overseas travel boom and resulted in long lines at the Passport windows. He described Knight as "the most irate citizen" and said, "the tart-tongued miss Knight has run an efficent shop. She was caught in the travel deluge without essential extra personnel through no fault of hers, according to her staff."
Knight had her share of controversy. In the mid-1950s, she researched Paul Robeson's political views in order to defend State Department denials of his passport applications. In 1966, she denied the Passport Office engaged in surveillance of travelers, but said a "lookout" list was maintained to advise the courts about persons applying for passports. She made the news frequently two years ago with her proposal that all Americans be issued identity cards as part of a national registration system. she characterized critics of the plan - it was challenged as an invasion of privacy - as "nervous nellies."
Those who came to say good-by last night held a mixture of political beliefs but all felt that she was a public sevant" who carried out orders.
Ron Mackay, acting chief of the legal division of the passport division and a long-standing Democrat, said, "I couldn't exist as a Democrat if I didn't believe in what she was doing.
"She is a wonderful public servant. She followed the law," he said adding:
"Frances, the right-wing Republican, was only a public servant. Police stopped when she walked into the office."
Members of her immediate staff went back to the days of F.D.R. and right up to Jimmy Carter.
Rep. Margaret Heckler (R-Mass) said, "I came to this party with great regret. It is a great loss to the country. The elderly deserve a bill of rights. She was one of the brightest women in government."
Called on the carpet by the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles one day and told that she was a "controvesial figure" in this town, she answered, "So are you, and when you are not a controversial person in this town you might be out o business."
At the age of 72, with two extensions on the mandatory retirement age of 70. Knight said, "I am a realist about what politics can do to a person."
She worked six days a week fro 38 years, once did not like the color of the walls in her office and bought her own paint and came in on a day off to change the mood.
Asked, "What are you going to do on Aug. 1, a Monday morning, when you have no place to go for the first time in 38 years?" she said, "I have a clothes basket full of letters and post cards. I will answer every single one of them. After that, who knows."