Surprising the Mayor
In those days, the mayor of Indianapolis was a guy named Richard Lugar. Lugar was an unusual mayor, to say the least. He’d been first in his class in high school and college, had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and was an Eagle Scout. He was as straight-laced and honest as a country parson. How he’d survived in politics was anybody’s guess.
Previously in this series: “Joining the Force: Richard Lugar, Part III”
Not only was Lugar the mayor of the state’s largest city, but he was also planning a run for the U.S. Senate against a fellow named Birch Bayh, whose son would later be the Governor. Bayh was a Democrat in a solidly Republican state, and Lugar was by far the most popular Republican in Indiana. All Lugar had to do, the Republican establishment decided, was to announce he was running and then not screw up and he would win in a landslide.
Before announcing his candidacy, Lugar prepped for the campaign by traveling all around the state of Indiana, supposedly visiting other mayors about town business, but actually raising his state-wide visibility. Wherever Lugar went, his picture would be on the front page of the local paper the next morning.
When Lugar traveled by car, he rode in the back seat of an unmarked police vehicle driven by two senior cops who acted both as his drivers and bodyguards. This was plum duty, and you had to be at least a sergeant to get it — and more likely a lieutenant.
That particular morning, while I was leaning against a desk in the muster room drinking coffee, Lugar was planning to go down to Bloomington, Ind., to make a speech at Indiana University. It was only about an hour and a half drive, and the scheduled drivers were Sgt. Jancy Yard and some lieutenant. But at the last minute the lieutenant’s wife went into labor and he was unavailable.
I, on the other hand, was spectacularly qualified for the job for the simple reason that I was available.
Unlike Sgt. Hooligan, Sgt. Yard was a terrific guy. He’d made sergeant early, was taking criminology courses at night, and everyone believed he’d be chief someday. I learned more about police work from Yard on that one trip than I’d learned in all the time I’d partnered with Hooligan.
Since the Mayor’s Office and the police station were in the same building, Yard and I simply pulled up to the front door and waited for the mayor to show up. When he came out and climbed into the unmarked, Lugar was with his top aide at the time, a fellow named Jim Morris. Morris would later run the Lilly Endowment, then America’s fourth largest charitable foundation.
On the way down to the university, the Mayor mainly conferred with Morris, but on the way back he was more relaxed. He chatted quite a bit with Sgt. Yard — they’d met on several occasions — and then, as we approached the Indianapolis city limits, Lugar politely turned his attention to me. The conversation went something like this.
“What did you say your name was, officer?”
I told him.
“How long have you been on the force?”
“Less than a month, sir. I’m the newest recruit at IPD.”
“I see. What were you doing before you joined the force?”
“I was an MP.”
For a few minutes we talked military stuff, Lugar telling me he’d been in the Navy for four years, coming out as a Lieutenant (j.g.) He had some pretty interesting things to say about the Vietnam War. Then he asked me what I’d been doing before the Army.
“I was a student at Harvard Law School.”
Lugar nearly fell off the back seat and Jancy Yard nearly drove into a light pole. From the shocked expression on the mayor’s face, I knew what he was thinking: “Kid, if you were at Harvard Law and now you’re a rookie cop, you must’ve screwed up big time somewhere along the way.” So I quickly added, “I got drafted.”
We’d pulled up to the City County Building now, but before Lugar could exit the vehicle, Sgt. Yard asked if the mayor would be doing any more traveling around the state soon. Obviously, Yard wanted to put in again for the assignment of driving the mayor.
Lugar had the rear door open, but now he leaned back against the seat and told Yard that, no, he wouldn’t be doing any more local traveling for a while. The reason, he told us — rather proudly, I thought — was that he was President of the National League of Cities.
In fact, Lugar was just about to leave for the League’s annual congress in Washington, D.C. He told us that the mayors of just about every big city in America would be there, and then began to exit the vehicle. But I turned in my seat and said, “If John Lindsay is there, would you tell him I said hello?” Lindsay being the mayor of New York City.
Lugar already had one foot out of the car, but now he slowly turned toward me and said, “You know John?”
I nodded. “I worked on his staff a few years ago,” I said.
Lugar stared at me for a long moment, then went off shaking his head.
But about ten days later, while I was out on patrol with Sgt. Hooligan, dispatch called in to tell me a lady had called and wanted me to call her back. We stopped at a pay phone — okay, it was in a Dunkin’ Donuts — and I returned the call.
The lady was wondering when my next day off might be. I lied, saying I was off the very next day, and we made a date for 2 p.m.
I picked up my donuts and coffee, sat down at the table with my patrol partner, and said, “You’re on your own tomorrow, Hooligan. The mayor wants to see me.”
Next in this series: “You Meet the Strangest People: Richard Lugar, Part V”