"Al-a-bama. Alaska. Arkansas. ..." Since 1944, Dorothy Vredenburgh Bush has called the roll at the Democratic National Convention. And Madame Secretary still can't pronounce Massachusetts. "Coming from the Deep South, we were taught to say 'Mass-a-tu-sits,' " she says with a tiny drawl. "The delegation once said, 'We're not going to answer you until you say it correctly.' " And that's about the meanest thing anyone has ever said to her. Democrats may not agree about much, but they all love Dorothy Bush who, after 45 years on the job, is stepping down today as secretary of the Democratic National Committee. Last night, more than 500 of her fans turned out at the National Museum for Women in the Arts to give her a proper send-off. Former DNC chairman John White calls her the "First Lady of the Democratic Party." "At that microphone, she has always sparkled. Everyone just always loved her," he said. "At conventions, nobody listens to anybody. The only people they listen to are Dorothy Bush and the nominee of the party in his acceptance speech." "She never yelled. She was the essence of graciousness," said Richard Moe, chairman of the Minnesota delegation at the 1972 convention. "She was the only one that I recall that didn't yell at that convention. She's just terrific." Before their marriage in 1962, her husband, Jack, said he was pulled aside by the late speaker of the house Sam Rayburn. "He told me he was in love with Dorothy, everybody else in Washington was in love with her, and if I didn't treat her pretty darn well, I wouldn't last long in Washington." Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) stopped by for hugs and kisses. Former DNC chairman Charles Manatt praised her inspiration and commitment. DNC Chairman Ron Brown named her the first-ever secretary emeritus of the DNC. "She has served as secretary with 17 chairmen of the DNC. She has served during the tenure of 10 presidents of the United States," he said. "My only regret is that they weren't all Democrats." While serving as national vice president of Young Democratic Clubs of America, the 27-year-old Bush was elected secretary of the national committee -- the youngest person and first woman elected as an officer of either major political party. She took office just before the Chicago convention nominating Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his historic fourth term. Roosevelt, in his wheelchair, motioned her over and took her hand in both of his. "Young lady, what this party needs is more young women like you." Dorothy Bush was hooked. She ushered in television at the 1948 convention in Philadelphia. "One of the cosmetic firms sent us 1,000 tubes of lipstick that were deep, deep purple because lips looked smaller on TV in those days," she said. "Every woman you saw had on this almost-black lipstick because they thought they might have a chance to be on TV." In 1956, Bush was romantically linked with Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. After the convention, Bush took a trip to Europe planned months before. Although there was no truth to the rumor, she was greeted across Europe as "Possibly the Next First Lady" of the United States and given presidential suites everywhere she stopped. "That was great fun." But she is best known for her personal greetings and asides while taking roll at the conventions. "I loved it in the old days when you could just lean over the banister and shake hands with all the delegates," she said. "I knew them all by first name." Atlantic City in 1964 was the easiest ("No controversy, no problems, no credential fights that amounted to anything -- just pure fun"), Chicago in 1968 the hardest, and the 1972 convention in Miami, where voting went on until 3 a.m., the longest. "She never tried to rush us in terms of presenting the vote or making whatever commercial announcement we wanted to make," said Gov. Toney Anaya of the Great State of New Mexico. "She understood that was part of the process -- in fact, that's part of the flavor of a Democratic convention." Bush confided: "Well, Tennessee usually goes on about Andrew Jackson. Puerto Rico always has to do something to get some attention. I once answered them in Spanish and they were very pleased." And that's about the meanest thing she'll say about anyone.