We hit the road northward, driving up a freeway accurately marked on the map as scenic. We were between mountains, heading along low hills past farms and pastureland. If we weren't careful we'd get to Washington before lunch -- something must be done! George C. Marshall Museum
William and Mary and the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) sit side by side in Lexington, Virginia. The former is all red brick and white columns; VMI is sand-colored stone with a large central parade ground and cadets, both male and female, in their distinctive blue uniforms. On the VMI campus we found the George C. Marshall Library and Museum.
Just inside the museum is a 1942 Jeep, restored and fitted out with an invitation for "children of all ages" to climb in and try it. A bullet hole in the floor of the passenger side testifies to its wartime service. The spacious galleries provide many photos and story boards telling the life and achievements of General Marshall, who served as Roosevelt's Army Chief of Staff during World War II and later, as Truman's Secretary of State, developed the Marshall Plan for American support of Europe's postwar cooperative recovery.
In the Reading Room, texts on political and military history are available for use by visitors. We were impressed to see several copies of The Officer (the magazine of the Reserve Officers Association) on their magazine rack, along with Foreign Affairs, Janes, and the journal of the Cryptogram Association. Woodrow Wilson's birthplace The Marshall Foundation provides scholarships for study in Britain. They also sponsor a competition among college history students designed to encourage the use of primary source material for the study of history; successful entrants are given a stipend to do research at VMI among the library's collection. This pleased us both, as our recent genealogical studies have acquainted us with the risks of trusting secondary sources!
If the Marshall Library and Museum is any indication of how VMI goes about its business, it must be a very fine institution, indeed.
A half-hour up the road in Staunton, Virginia, another historical landmark beckoned. The birthplace of Woodrow Wilson enabled us to add another presidential museum to our log book. The museum presented a comprehensive view of Wilson, from his first position as a teacher (teaching female students “relaxed my mental muscle” he said, implying that they were less challenging than male students, but also that they were less apt to participate actively in business and political life. Already, according to the museum, he had big ambitions and was collecting material for his resume!). During his tenure as president of Princeton University he tried to do away with the eating clubs, quarreled with the Board of Trustees, wouldn't compromise, and left rather soon after his arrival.
Wilson and his first wife were both children of Presbyterian ministers. She was a beautiful, artistic woman. Samples of her artwork, both portraits and landscapes, testify to her talent. She subordinated her life to his, as was customary at the turn of the twentieth century. She died of Bright's disease Placard holder in Staunton and Wilson remarried while President.
In politics, as in university life, Wilson was an uncompromising idealist, which left him with fewer successes, although he took some courageous stands, such as opposing the laws which turned off the faucet on immigration for almost fifty years (Congress overrode his veto.) He can be credited with the establishment of the Federal Reserve, but his efforts to achieve world peace with the League of Nations were unsuccessful. As so often seems to happen, being President tends to swell the head and take away common sense; instead of acknowledging his debilitating stroke and turning over the government to the Vice President, he let the government coast and even thought to run for a third term.
Actually, our favorite view in Staunton was the lone picketer by the side of the road. The picket sign read, "AILEN CLEMMER YOU ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW YOU COMMITTED PERJURY." All we know is that Ailen Clemmer better watch out!
As we continued our drive to the Washington exurbs and then suburbs, farms gave way to country estates and then commuters' homes and beltway businesses. Now, in Fairfax, we are in the midst of city life, and after our weeks in bucolic West Virginia we headed at once for Borders and CompUsa. Ah, the sacrifices of the adventuring life!