John M. Slack Jr.

Charleston Daily Mail
March 20, 1980

Slack Had More Than A Good Record

By Adrian Gwin
Of The Daily Mail Staff

Everybody's talking about John Slack's brilliant, or at least impressive record, in Congress. That's right and proper, too, for he had a good record.

I prefer to remember the Slack that I knew not in Washington but in Charleston.

When I came back from 'the' war in in 1946, it wasn't long before I became acquainted with him down at the courthouse.

He was a member of the county commission and a bright young fellow in a room full of older county politicians.

But it wasn't until he became county assessor a few years later that he really impressed me. I was then the Daily Mail courthouse reporter.

One day when I wandered into his office for some tidbit of news, he was wearing a tie that I admired immediately.

He had some interest at that time, monetary I feel pretty sure, in what was then Bell Lines Trucking Co., based in Kanawha City. Most Bell Lines vehicles were Mack trucks, I think.

Anyway, this morning he was wearing a brilliant blue silk tie with a little yellow bronze and golden brown Mack truck bulldog on it.

I jokingly said, as everyone might in admiring something like that:

'John, when that tie gets old, you can give it to me.'

I didn't know the man that well at the time - for he promptly undid the knot, pulled off the tie and stuffed it in my coat pocket.

Sure, he was a politican even then, but very few Democrat politicians would have gone tieless the rest of the business day to try to impress the writer from a newspaper which had Republican leanings.

The other time I like to remember John came some years later, after he was firmly ensconsed as this district's congressman in Washington.

I was covering a fire at a business place near Patrick Street and, as is the case with newsmen, I could go inside the fire lines to get my story from firemen and officials.

It was a hot daytime fire in the summer and firemen were making a fierce try to diminish the flames.

Then I noticed John Slack standing near the edge of the crowd at the curb. He was holding an armful of soda pop which he'd just purchased from a vending machine across the street - and he enlisted me to distribute it to thirsty firemen who were bundled up in their big asbestos and canvas coats in July weather.

When the policemen holding the fire lines saw who he was, they gave him permission to go inside the fire lines, too, and he and I tossed many cans of pop to the firemen, who probably never saw who it was giving them a refresher.

But if they noticed, and even knew that John Slack changed several dollar bills into coins to buy those cold drinks, they'd have been impressed - and if they voted for John on that account maybe it was just smart politicking on his part.

I don't think so.

I think he'd have done it if he hadn't been a member of Congress. He didn't need to buy votes with soda pop. He was just doing a favor for his friends and neighbors, the firemen, who couldn't get a drink from the high pressure fire hoses they were manning on that hot July day.

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