Each time our Washington Post library makes me look good by answering a question of fact, two more questions arrive to stump me. This time, alas, the ratio is 3 to 1.
One letter wants to know, "Who were Martin, Barton and Fish?" Another asks, "Who were Nixon, Dixon and Yates?" And the third asks, "For whom was Shirley Highway named?" Was it Shirley Povich?
Let the record show that Martin was Rep. Joe Martin of Massachusetts, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's favorite whipping boys. Bruce Barton had made his millions as head of an advertising agency before he became a GOP congressman representing a "silk-stocking" district in Manhattan and a bitter foe of Roosevelt. Hamilton Fish was also a New York congressman and an implacable foe of the New Deal. Only FDR could have given a cadence to "Martin, Barton and Fish" that made all three sounded like minions of the Devil.
The Nixon in "Nixon, Dixon and Yates" was Richard M., of course -- not yet a president, but already a member of congress and a thorn in Democratic sides, Edgar H. Dixon was head of Middle South Utilities, Inc. He teamed with engineer Eugene A. yates, chairman of the board of The Southern Co. and a director of Alabama Power Co., Gulf Power Co. and Mississippi Power Co., to obtain a contract to build a power plant that the Tennessee Valley Authority planned to use for the Atomic Energy Commission. Cancellation of the contract raised a political dust storm that led to the repeated use of "Nixon, Dixon and Yates" in a pejorative manner reminiscent of "Martin, Barton and Fish."
The Shirley in Shirley Highway never in his life covered a Washington Senators baseball game or accused George Preston Marshall of skimming too much off the top of a Redskin "charity" game. Frank Gottshall, who raised the question of Shirley's identity, will be interested to know that Henry Garnett Shirley had become Virginia State Highway Commissioner in 1922 and was still at his desk, hard at work, when he died in 1941, Shirley was the father of Virginia's "pay-as-we-went" highway system.
The concept of paying as one goes instead of putting it on the cuff (plus interest at murderous rates) may prove unsettling to moderns who read these lines, so it may be best to say no more in praise of H. G. Shirley.