Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Remembering Dewey Clower

W. Dewey Clower died on October 31, 2014 after being hospitalized from a fall.  

Dewey was one of the five original White House advancemen in President Richard Nixon's administration.

    From left to right:  Bill Henkel, Mike DuVal, Jon Foust,  Ron Walker, Mike Schrauth and Dewey.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 9th at 2:00 pm at Hope Presbyterian Church, 11121 Leavells Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22407.

In November of 2010, I posted a blog about The February Group.  Dewey Clower started the February Group and many of you remember how important the gatherings were to all of us over the years.  Us Nixonites needed each other, and The February Group became the place where we could get together for fellowship and commiseration.

Not everyone could get a group of people together on a continuing basis for more than thirty years, and yet Dewey Clower did exactly that.  I asked him to tell me the history of how The February Group came about.

Here is W. Dewey Clower's story:

It was January of 1975 when he submitted his letter of resignation as Assistant Director of the Domestic Council in the Gerald R. Ford White House.  It had been because of President Nixon that Dewey had the opportunity to work in the White House and he decided he wanted to see the former President and thank him for the honor of working for him as a senior advance man and member of the domestic council staff.

Dewey called Jack Brennan, the president's aide, in San Clemente and asked for an appointment to see the President.  When the appointment was confirmed, Dewey flew out to La Casa Pacifica, that had been known as the Western White House when President Nixon was in office.  The President greeted him warmly and they spent forty-five minutes together, talking about the Ford administration, world events and the 1976 presidential election.  But, Dewey said the President was most interested in what his former staff people were doing.  Dewey remembered that they talked about Ron Walker, Steve Bull, Bill Henkel and others on his advance and travel staff.  The President said he wished there was some way a network could be established so he could stay in touch with the members of his White House team.  He asked Dewey if he could establish such a network.  Dewey said he had not really thought about such a group, but promised the President he would look into it.

When he returned to Washington, every one he talked to liked the idea.  Dewey decided to host a luncheon on February 10, 1975 in the China Room at the Mayflower Hotel.  The people who attended were: General Larry Adams, Pat Buchanan, Steve Bull, Henry Cashen, Red Cavaney, James Clausen, Michael Raoul-Duval, Michael Farrell, Dave Forward, Gerald Gilbert, John Gartland, Dave Gergen, Ashton Hardy, Bill Henkel, David Hoopes, Tod Hullin, Noel Koch, Tom Korologos, Anne Morgan, Pat O'Donnell, Terry O'Donnell, Dave Parker, Jack Pettit, Bill Rhatican, Howard Roycroft, Geoff Shepard, Bill Timmons and of course, Dewey.

President Nixon sent a telegram saying how glad he was they were getting together, and loved the symbolism of the group being in the China Room.  Dewey told me that those listed above in red are the FEBRUARY GROUP CHARTER MEMBERS.

More gatherings were held and the group got bigger with each event.  People suggested other people that they wanted to invite to join the group.  At first it was mostly limited to those who served in the Nixon administration, and then to those who had remained in the Ford White House.  Dewey would send out a notice saying, . . . . "The next gathering of the February 10th Luncheon Group will be . . "
After a while, they went to cash bars and Dewey could usually talk the hotel into serving some food.

After about a year, they decided to ask for donations to cover mailings and they needed a treasure to keep track of it all.  And, they needed a proper name for the group.  The February Group was what everyone had come to call it, and that was the name they wanted to keep.  The purpose of the Group, as Dewey understood it, would be to provide a forum for the like-minded, former Nixon Administration members to be able to keep in touch with each other, through social events and written communication.  They held at least two events each year and established The February Group News.

The February Group met regularly from 1975 to 2003.  Jack D'Arcy, at the time working for a bank, volunteered to be the treasurer and he, along with Steve Bull and John Gartland, asked for volunteer contributions and the membership was very supportive.  The group grew rapidly, especially during the Carter years, and soon it was no longer made up of just former Nixon staff members.  It had become much bigger than that.

Dewey and Melinda Maury Thompsen managed the mailing list and the newsletters.  The newsletters always included news and updates about the members, because that's what President Nixon wanted to hear about.

The February Group reached a peak of more than 400 members just prior to Ronald Reagan's first campaign in 1980.  It was about this time that Jack Anderson, a liberal political writer for the Washington Post wrote an article that labeled the February Group, a "government in exile."  That caused a lot of former Nixon/Ford folks to want to join the group and the result was that the membership list became a valuable document for Republican candidates.  Dewey was constantly being asked to provide the mailing lists to various campaigns, but he always insisted that members "vetted" the request before he released the information.  In June of 1981, the newsletter announced that 47 February Group members had joined the Reagan administration and nine more were listed in the next edition.

In September of 1986, it was noted that group members had raised $132,000 toward the goal of $200,000 for the Nixon Library and Birthplace.  Dewey led a large group of February Group Members to the opening of the Library.  Now, with the help of Steve Bull, the February Group members have become a valuable list of "Nixon Alumni" that is now housed at the Richard Nixon Foundation.

Dewey  worked for several associations over the years and in 2003 he was named President Emeritus of NATSO where he served as President and CEO for 15 years.  He had been an officer in the United States Air Force.

Dewey retired in 2002 and he and Shirley moved out near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Shirley has battled cancer for a long time and Dewey was such a solid rock and source of strength by her side .
I can't imagine what the impact of his death must be having on Shirley and her family.  Dewey and Shirley's children are Candice Clower Scala, Mike Clower and Cathy Clower Shirey.

Ron and I send our deepest sympathy, prayers,  and much love to all of Dewey's family.  We thank you, Dewey, for giving so much to your family, your friends, your country, and your President.  You are a great American.  You will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Dewey's name be made to either Hope Presbyterian Church or to Young Life of Greater Fredericksburg, 1210 Princess Anne Street., Fredericksburg, VA 22402.  Dewey was very active in both of these organizations  and his son Mike said they were both very dear to him.

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