It’s Odd Sometimes How You Remember Someone. Wendell Harris and I were classmates in high school. Neither one of us was in the inner circle of friends of the other. We had respect for each other, and that’s all you expect in those circumstances. We had conversations. I can’t remember exactly what they were.
Neither one of us planned to save the world. We probably talked about every day events or who he or I was taking to the prom, or were we attending the high school dances at the auditorium on Friday night.
I’m not sure that Wendell didn’t go on to somewhat save the world.
My memory may be a little fuzzy here, and I may have left out a step or two, but I think the main elements are correct. After college, Wendell became a reporter for a local TV station, then he started anchoring the news, I’m guessing like 6 and 10 o’clock at night. I think his last professional stop was in Austin, Texas, where he managed a TV station there.
What brought this to mind was the picture “Argo” I saw on TV which was based on a true story. In case you’re not up to date on this Hollywood term, it means the main elements are true, but pardon us while we inject some drama and timing that didn’t happen. We’ll just blend it in, there will be smooth continuity, and you won’t even stop to think about it being manufactured.
If you’re not familiar with “Argo”, it concerned 6 Americans who walked out a secret exit of the American Embassy in Iran on November 4, 1979, and rather nonchalantly and half in fear ambled over to the Canadian Embassy, and were given exile, until a CIA operative played by Ben Affleck did manufacture a way to get them out on 1/28/80.
Meanwhile the radicals of the high holy man on that 11/4/79 day stormed the rest of the Embassy and took 66 Americans hostage. They did release the women, and later a hostage that was ill. The remaining 52 were held for 444 days until they were released on January 20, 1981. Jimmy Carter left office on that day, and Ronald Reagan became President.
President Reagan allowed Carter and his state department to absorb the credit for securing their release, a nice gesture on his part, considering the fact that during Carter’s tenure interest rates rose as high as 21% which resulted in somewhat of a “hostage” situation over here for people because they were stuck with those high rates until they paid off their loans. No state department official stepped in to negotiate them better interest rates.
While all of this was happening, every night Wendell came on the local news cast with the fact it had been 100 days, 200 days, 300 days, etc. since the Americans were taken hostage. I think Wendell was in the reserves of one of the armed services (not sure which one, possibly army), and occasionally he would show up on camera for the opening in his army camouflage.
Now those who didn’t know Wendell might think this was over-doing it, or showboating as we used to call it. Not me. In my mind that fit Wendell perfectly. I have no doubt he would have been glad to lead our forces against those heathens, and wipe every one of them out, and bring our folks home.
He didn’t get the chance, but to me that didn’t change a thing. I liked somebody who backed up their play, so to speak. Strong, authoritative. All the time, not just when he was live on TV. He believed what he said, and said what he meant.
Wendell’s gone now. In a National Cemetery. But for that period of time, we looked on Wendell not as the backup option in case all else failed. We looked on him as the primary force. If I had known anyone in D. C. at the time, I’d have called them up and told them, “Forget the wrangling of these politicians, send Wendell.”
I have no doubt Wendell would have gone. A true American. A great number of people might not have known that, but I knew him in those formative years. Actually they weren’t formative years. He already knew who he was.
You came this way but once, Wendell. Glad I knew you.