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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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At the end of January 1993, the nation was welcoming a bright young man to Washington as the new president of the United States. And back in Memphis, the most powerful and controversial politician in town was the target of federal prosecutors.

This is how Flyer reporters covered the inauguration of President Bill Clinton and the jury selection process in the trial of U.S. representative Harold Ford Sr.:

"One quarter of a million people, an apparent record number, would gather out of doors on an unexpectedly warmish day, on and around the U.S. Capitol and its surrounding grounds, to see the 42nd president take the oath in the flesh."

The inaugural bash was called "an American reunion" in a bid to symbolize "the spanning of ages, genders, tribes, and persuasions in our fractious, multicultural times."

At the Washington Hilton, Clinton greeted a crowd of Tennesseans "and whatever fatigue had set in disappeared as the once-pilloried candidate, now an idol, paraded across the stage in the manner of his adopted alter ego, Elvis."

In Memphis, Ford was about to go on trial for the second time, his first trial having ended in a mistrial due to jury tampering. The big controversy was over jury selection from a pool of West Tennesseans outside Shelby County.

"The potential jurors in Jackson have been equally exposed to the media and have developed equal, if not stronger, biases," Ford said. "The issue is not that I am a U.S. congressman or that I am black. The issue is that no citizen of the United States should be denied his or her constitutional rights to be judged by a jury of his or her own peers."

Ford's protest was in vain, and the majority-white jury was chosen from outside Shelby County. Six weeks later, he was acquitted. — John Branston

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