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Eisenhower turns 130

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
Photos of veterans line the walls in the Katy Depot as a part of the Wall of Honor, which will be held in Denison's Katy Depot throughout the month of October.

Celebration to be marked with day of activities

A local legend and hero would be celebrating 130 years of life this year. Even though he died in 1969, Denison and the surrounding areas continue to celebrate the works of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This year’s birthday celebration for the Denison native will be just as large but will have a socially distanced them.

“I think that it is important that we pass on Eisenhower’s importance to our youngsters so that they can see how history has changed and he molded our society,” Main Street Director Donna Dow said. “It is specifically important to us because he was born here.”

On Oct. 10, the city will hold its annual brick-laying ceremony for the Eisenhower monument. Festivities will begin at 8 a.m. with music and a reading for the names of the people who will have bricks laid at the site in their honor.

A larger formalized ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the Eisenhower Auditorium at Scott Middle School. Dow said this is possible due in part to the size of the auditorium, which allows for social distancing.

This year’s festivities will also feature the return of the Wall of Honor throughout the month of October at the Katy Depot. The wall features 231 photos of local veterans ranging from those who served in World War I to present.

Dow said that Eisenhower was always passionate about the armed forces, so it made sense to work the two events together.

“We have a committee that works on the Eisenhower birthday. Of course, we are all passionate about veterans and their contributions to the freedoms we enjoy.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in 1890 into a railroad family that had settled into a small white house near the tracks in Denison. Eisenhower’s father worked with the railroad as an engine wiper.

Eisenhower’s stay in Denison was brief, and he moved early in life to Abilene, Kansas which he later in life referred to as his hometown. It wasn’t until later in adulthood that Eisenhower would return to his birthplace.

Eisenhower rose to fame through his military career, which was capped of when he became the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, and helped orchestrate the landings on Normandy Beach — one of the largest military operations in history.

Following his military career, Eisenhower was courted by both political parties as a potential presidential candidate. Eisenhower eventually ran as a Republican candidate and was elected as the 34th President of the United States in 1952.

Other contributions of Eisenhower include his work in the establishment of NASA and his work in creation an interstate highway system.

“He made such an impact on American society and we are blessed to have that connection,” Dow said. “Sure there is a tourism aspect, but for a lot of people it is much more personal than that.

“It is about how you can be born in a house by the railroad tracks, not have family wealth, and still work hard and become a great world leader and president. To me, it is a message of hope and a message of pride.”

Traditionally, students with Denison Independent School District would conduct field trips to the birthplace as a part of the anniversary. However, COVID-19 led organizers to instead focus on in class study and presentations this year.

“So, we are going to be doing more things to feature his visits to Denison in the future,” Dow said, referring to a trip Eisenhower made as a hero to his birthplace where he was served breakfast with U.S. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn.

“We always like to showcase the Texas Big Breakfast because it also highlights our volunteers and we tie that in because it took volunteers and local citizenry to preserve the birthplace and we are very fortunate that that occurred.”

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.

President Dwight Eisenhower is flanked by England Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn during an unknown occasion in Washington.