History time here at the Blue Ridge Caucus:
Former President Calvin Coolidge is back in the news lately, thanks to a much-heralded biography (at least in conservative circles) by historian Amity Shlaes.
Writers in various conservative publications have been waxing poetic over “Coolidge,” which attempts to revise history’s opinion of the Republican chief executive from a “do nothing” president into one who quietly did a lot of good (partly from preventing bad things from happening.)
Our local connection? Coolidge’s top aide for part of his presidency was former 9th District Congressman C. Bascom Slemp. Syndicated columnist George Will recently extolled the book and noted that Slemp was “splendidly named.”
Slemp, who hailed from Lee County and was educated at Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia Law School, represented Southwest Virginia in Congress from 1907 to 1922. (He was, like Coolidge, a Republican, at a time when GOP members from the South were hard to find, except in parts of Appalachia.)
Shortly after Coolidge became president in 1923 (following the death of Warren Harding), the new president named Slemp as his secretary, a forerunner to today’s chief-of-staff position.
We haven’t read Shlaes’ book yet, but if you any of you have, feel free to weigh in with a review, or let us know how big a mention Slemp gets in it.
Also of note: The student center at the University of Virginia-Wise is named the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center. It was funded in part through the Slemp Foundation, a philanthrophic organization set up in his will. The foundation continues to endow certain scholarships in far Southwest Virginia.
And, finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that Slemp was born in a place that was also, to quote George Will, “splendidly named”: Turkey Cove.