General’s visit here was ‘farce’

Sam Stockard, The Daily news Journal, October 10, 2006

Fifty-five years ago, Martin “Marty” McCullough was working security for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s visit to Murfreesboro when his National Guard detail grew suddenly tougher.

McCullough, who was 19 at the time and serving in the Guard while attending Vanderbilt, was assigned to traffic control on East Main Street as thousands of people turned out April 30, 1951 to see MacArthur, who at that time might have been the most widely known person in the world.

The general had just been relieved of his Korean command by President Harry Truman for making overtures toward war with China and the Soviet Union. After his speech before Congress in which he said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” MacArthur and his wife, the aristocratic Jean Faircloth, decided to visit her hometown.

“We were trying to put on the dog for MacArthur,” said McCullough, now a retired MTSU professor and former City Council member.

The James K. Polk Hotel on East Main rolled a red carpet all that way into the street, people made sandwiches to sell to the townsfolk and local officials rented a touring car, possibly a Rolls-Royce, for the general and his family to parade through town. They even chopped down a tree in front of the Confederate Monument on the Public Square so it wouldn’t be obscured from MacArthur’s view. Central High School prepared a big sign that said “Welcome Arthur” for the general’s son.

All of this apparently made very little impact on the general. Legend has it he didn’t even look up at the Confederate soldier during his procession, presumably because he was a U.S. Army man, and when the touring car headed up East Main toward the college where MacArthur would speak, it broke down.

“When he got to the light at Maney, it stopped, and it would not start,” McCullough said. “Somebody said, ‘Push the thing,’ and that’s what we did.”

McCullough was wearing his winter Guard dress uniform and sweating like a dog while he and the Guardsmen pushed that car up East Main.

The general “was sitting and he had a persona about him. He looked back, but he had too much presence to look embarrassed,” McCullough continued.

“I’m sure he was highly irritated to be down here with these yokels.”

Mabel Pittard’s husband, Homer Pittard, was the principal of Central High and his students hung the welcome banner.

“He drove right by the high school and never looked in that direction, and they were disappointed,” Mrs. Pittard said.

Turnout was sparse for his speech at Middle Tennessee State College, because few people outside Murfreesboro attended the event.

Indeed, Mrs. Pittard said, “The whole thing turned out to be a farce.”

In the run-up to the event, Murfreesboro City Council considered naming what is now Broad Street “MacArthur Boulevard,” but according to McCullough, as council members were talking about the matter one night, someone suddenly interjected the fact that MacArthur was a Republican.

“That was the end of it,” McCullough said, because at that time there was only one Republican in Rutherford County.


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