A large crowd of Memphians, invited under the auspices of the Stratford Financial Group and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., turned out Tuesday at The Majestic restaurant downtown for a book-reading and signing by Ben Barnes (right, here with former president Lyndon Johnson in the early '70s).
Barnes regaled the crowd, which included such government luminaries as Tennessee Lt. Gov. John Wilder of Somerville, with tales from the book recounting his life and times. In the lexicon of a long-lost TV series of the distant past, He Was There as historical deals of various kinds went down.
Barnes, who was an acquaintance of LBJ's and an intimate of former Treasury Secretary John Connally (wounded in Dallas as he accompanied JFK on that fateful 1963 motorcade), relates in the book such circumstances as his involvement (as Speaker of the House in Texas) in getting one George W. Bush a bypass of Vietnam via a berth in the Texas National Guard.
Having been elected to the catbird seat of Texas lieutenant governor, Barnes was poised to run for governor of his state and was actually being touted as a future president by LBJ when he fell victim to a Nixon-administration disinformation campaign.
All that and more is related in the book (Barn Burning, Barn Building, Bright Sky Press, , 256 pages, $24.95). A fuller review of Barnes' book will follow in this space.