Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Outside the Box - April

Object: AMVETS Silver Helmet Award
Collection: Erwin Mitchell Papers

Harlan Erwin Mitchell was born in Dalton, Georgia, on August 17, 1924. He served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps (1943-46) during World War II. He returned to Georgia in 1946 and earned an L.L.B at the University of Georgia School of Law. Following further service in the U.S. Air Force (1951-52), Mitchell became solicitor general, and briefly served as a Superior Court judge, for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit.

In early 1958 Mitchell was elected as a Democrat to the 85th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Henderson L. Lanham (7th District) in November 1957. He won re-election the following year and during his term in the House (1958-61), he served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Patents and Scientific Inventions, as well as a member of the Committee on Science and Astronautics and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. After leaving Congress, Mitchell served as a State Senator in the Georgia General Assembly (1960-61) and then returned to Dalton to resume practicing law.

"The Veteran's Oscar"...
Also known as American Veterans, AMVETS is a volunteer led organization which has provided wide-ranging assistance to American veterans and their families since its founding in 1947. The Silver Helmet Award, often called “the Veterans Oscar,” is presented annually by the organization to recognize excellence in “Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional service and other fields.” Erwin Mitchell received this honor in 1960 for his service on the Veterans Affairs Committee in the U.S. Congress.

Erwin Mitchell's Account of the Award Ceremony: “The award ceremony was held as a luncheon in the majestic old Mayflower Hotel, and no detail was left unattended. The attendance of Members of Congress and the Executive Branch was significant. If memory serves me correctly, in addition to the honorees, among those addressing the luncheon was Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee Olin (Tiger) Teague of Texas, and Congresswoman Edith Norse Rogers of Massachusetts.

Presidential politics was the main course of the luncheon. This was 1960 before the political party nominations at which Vice-President Nixon and Majority Leader Johnson were the "odds on" favorites to be the nominees. I was first to speak and began by announcing that I was not seeking the Presidency this year. This seemed to loosen the crowd and we all were warmly received. Neither the Vice-President nor the Majority Leader made openly political speeches but Richard Nixon, who followed me to the podium, did comment "if I could make a speech like Congressman Mitchell, I would have no problem being elected." This was the most generous statement which I, of course, greatly appreciated. However, my appreciation was not great enough to cause me to support the Vice-President in the General Election in November. I spent all my efforts during the campaign working in behalf of Jack Kennedy, whom you will recall carried the State of Georgia by a greater percentage than any others, including his home state of Massachusetts.” -- Erwin Mitchell, 3/23/2009

April's "Outside the Box" object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday through Friday, until May 1st. For further information on the Erwin Mitchell Papers, please contact russlib@uga.edu or visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/.

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