We are in the middle of the holiday season which allows us to spend time with family. So, I’m going to jump on the family fellowship train with a very special relative of mine, Ann McCoy. She really needs no introduction because everyone knows her as either the successful million dollar club (when that meant something) real estate agent, or as the Governor’s Mansion Administrator for Governor Clinton, or as the Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Social Secretary and Director of Personal Correspondence for President Clinton’s administration.
There was a time when she could have boasted that she had met all the leaders of the Free World and had her picture taken with every living US President, but she doesn’t. She is the most gracious and lovely person I have ever had the privilege to meet. Yes, she is my mother-n-law; and yes, it will soon to be time to sit down for a family dinner; and yes, I am getting brownie points for all these compliments! But I would never lie to my listeners for ill-gain.
Tune in Today and hear this super interesting woman tell her story of how she went from a wife and mother to the personal assistant to the most powerful person in the world.
To learn more about Ann McCoy you can also read the article Brave Move: An Insider's Story from Brave Magazine.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:07.3] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:22.2] KM: Thank you, Tim. Like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. My guest today is Ann McCoy who needs no introduction, because everyone knows her. Either as the successful realtor for [inaudible 0:00:35.9] Gibson Real Estate Agency in Little Rock, Arkansas, or the ever-present mansion administrator for Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton, or the gracious personal and special assistant to President Clinton in the White House for the full eight years.
We’re going to talk and tell stories, even though I can honestly say this about Ann, I’ve known her 30 years, and she never talks or tell stories about anybody. I can’t think of any time that she’s ever said a bad word about anybody, but that’s not true about me. On the other hand, I love a good story.
Today we’re going to talk and we’re going to hope that our listeners find something that will inspire them, educate them, or make them want to get up and take action in their own life. I got up off the couch 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag & Banner. During the last four decades, Flag and Banner has grown from door-to-door sales, to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales, and now we rely heavily on the internet.
Each change in sale strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge and my company grew. The hard-earned knowledge is what inspired me to start this radio show in September of 2016. Each week on the show you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that I hope you’ll find helpful and interesting.
Starting and running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience. No one, and I mean no one has a straight path to success. I worked part-time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag & Banner grew enough to support just me. Today, we have 10 departments and 25 coworkers. Thus, reminding us all small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and empower people’s lives.
Before we start, I want to introduce you to some of the men in the room and the people at the table. We have my cohost and coworker at Flag and Banner, Tim. Say hello, Tim.
[0:02:31.2] TB: Hello, Tim.
[0:02:31.2] KM: Running the board and taking your calls is our technician, Jessie. Thank you, Jessie.
[0:02:35.4] J: No problem.
[0:02:35.8] KM: My guest today is Ann McCoy, who’s next to last job before retiring was that of special assistant, deputy social secretary and director of personal correspondence to none other than President Bill Clinton. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, student at both Little Rock Central High School and University of Arkansas, and lived what would appear to be a typical life of wife and mother of three. So how did this suburbian mother come to live in Washington, D.C. and be the special assistant and personal correspondent for the most powerful man in the world? Well, we’ll find out today as we follow her career path up to and through the 21st century.
Oh! Did I mention she’s family? Yes, Ann McCoy is my mother-in-law. Throw out all those preconceived notions of mother and daughter-in-laws not getting along. Though Ann is the epitome of southern grace and hospitality, and I am a crass women’s liber that often drops the F-bomb, we love and understand each other. To everyone’s amazement, we find we have more in common than not, just different ways of expressing it.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome to the table a strong southern woman, the worldly and always gracious, Ann McCoy.
[0:03:54.4] AM: Thank you, Kerry.
[0:03:55.3] KM: Can you believe that intro?
[0:03:56.8] AM: That was fabulous.
[0:03:58.9] KM: That’s because you’re fabulous.
[0:04:00.8] AM: I take it. I take every bit of it. Thank you.
[0:04:03.6] KM: I didn’t even read everything, so I’m going to really quick read more about you. Just real, real, real fast, kind of on bullets points, and then we’re going to start with your life. You went to Central High School around the time of the Central High crisis. You went to college at the University of Arkansas and pledged Pi Phi. You married and had three children, one of whom passed away from cancer at the age of 15 and are now an active supporter of CARTI.
As a young adult you worked at the Arkansas State Capital as Lt. Governor Bob Riley’s receptionist. As your children grew up, you became a successful realtor for the [inaudible 0:04:36.9] Gibson Agency and part of the million dollar club back when that was a big deal, because houses — What was the average price of a house back then, 150,000? She’s nodding. She has to talk on the radio. She’s, “Yes.”
When your daughter, right out of college, took a job at Chelsea Clinton’s nanny, you volunteered at the governor’s mansion and eventually was offered the job as mansion administrator. In 1992 you followed you President Bill Clinton to the White House. Last, before retiring, you did a short stent, not really short, 4 years, at Heifer International in their new headquarters in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. What a life.
[0:05:13.2] AM: It was great.
[0:05:13.8] KM: Did you ever think it would be like that?
[0:05:15.9] AM: No.
[0:05:16.9] KM: What did you think? When you were graduating and getting married and marrying Grady McCoy Sr., what did you think you were going to do for the rest of your life?
[0:05:28.1] AM: Well, actually when I was at the university, I went to business school. I was one of eight women in the business college at the University of Arkansas. It was kind of great, but it was tough too. I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to be an accountant or something, engineering, something along that line. I really wanted to work in an office as a secretary, which now we call them assistants.
I did work for the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission and I was secretary for two men. It was a very small office. I kept the books and paid all of the bills. Loved it. It was very, very interesting. That was early on when Bill Rock was the head of it, and it was new to Arkansas.
[0:06:26.5] KM: Was that the AIDC.
[0:06:28.2] AM: AIDC.
[0:06:28.9] KM: Arkansas Industrial Development Center.
[0:06:31.7] AM: Economic Commission today.
[0:06:34.6] KM: Yeah.
[0:06:36.2] AM: I met Grady McCoy who was here out with the Little Rock Air Force Space.
[0:06:41.0] KM: That’s your husband.
[0:06:41.9] AM: Yes. We had kind of a whirlwind courtship. He was a lieutenant in the Air Force and I had already planned to trip to California, which I went on and spent the summer. When I got home, he was shipped out to Sacramento. We really didn’t know each other very well and we’ve always said for the last 58 years that we’re getting to know each other. It’s been good.
[0:07:13.5] KM: How did you end marrying? If he shipped out and you went away, how did you end up — How long was the courtship? You went with him? You dated three months?
[0:07:19.0] AM: No. I didn’t go any of that. He came back to Arkansas and we corresponded over that time. We got together when he came back and he asked me to marry him, and I married him.
[0:07:34.5] KM: What do you think you were going to do? Just be his wife for the rest of your life. Do you think you were going to go back to work?
[0:07:39.2] AM: I didn’t think about work at that time. We went off to the Air Force, and of course I was the young bride at [inaudible 0:07:46.1] Air Force Base, which is one of the smallest Air Force bases in the United States and it was like a homecoming. It was wonderful. All of the officer’s wives were wonderful to me. I really thoroughly enjoyed it. Didn’t think about working, because when you are in the military as a wife, you don’t really get a job, because you might be transferred the next thing you know.
Actually, I did not work for the first 14 years we were married. During that time, we had three children and when I did decide I wanted to work, and I wanted to work, I wanted to do something. Our youngest was only 4 years old. He did go to a little day school, which I think he had a lot of fun there, and I worked for Bob Riley, Lt. Governor Bob Riley. He happens to be my cousin, Claudia Riley’s husband. Bob Riley is a wonderful character and very interesting.
I was a receptionist in his office and —
[0:08:53.1] KM: At the capital.
[0:08:54.5] AM: At the State Capital. Yes, thank you.
[0:08:55.6] KM: The Arkansas State Capital.
[0:08:57.4] AM: I would answer the phone, and it was kind of colloquial that I would say, “Oh, I’m sorry. Lt. Governor is tied up right now. May I have him call you back?” Obviously, I said that two or three times and one day Bob Riley called me into his office, he said, “Ann,” he said, “I hear you every now and then telling people that I am tied up in here and they think I’m all wrapped up in ropes, and we just can’t do that.” I said, “Oh my lance! Of course.” I said, “That’s just an old expression. I didn’t even realized what it meant.” I’ve never used that again.
[0:09:38.6] KM: Who would have thought?
[0:09:40.3] AM: He’s a terrific guy. I had another interesting experience when I was working for him. I would give tours to young people all over. I loved it, because I learned all about the Arkansas capital.
[0:09:53.5] KM: You could give tours of the capital.
[0:09:55.1] AM: Of the capital. I learned more about the house and the senate, because I would go sit in the balcony and hear what they were doing and so on and so forth. I loved to give young people tours. One time I was giving one to a middle school and high school group. We went to the senate, we went to the house and finally we all gathered in a conference room and I was continuing to tell them more about what they do and at one point I said, “They generally work individually, but there are times that they will gather together in the house chamber and have a joint session,” and the entire crowd just burst out laughing. I didn’t really realize what I had said, and the teacher kind of moseyed over to me and said, “You know, joint is marijuana,” and I said, “Oh! That’s not it.” Then I learned another lesson.
[0:10:54.9] KM: You got to measure everything you say. Those are great stories.
[0:11:01.4] AM: I then went on to real estate. Grady McCoy had been in real estate or was in real state, had been in for about six years. Of course, we talked about it as a couple. We talked about it all the time. I thought I would really like it. So I took the test. Would go upstairs every night by myself and study and study, hadn’t studied since I was at college, and then I went down to take the test. Got in the room. It was all quiet. A big room. All of these tables, everyone gathered around. The envelope was in front. They said, “Don’t pick up the envelope.” There was a pencil by it.
Finally, they said, “Pick up the envelope. Take it out and write your name.” I took it out and wrote Ann Askew, which was my maiden name. I frantically started erasing and everybody around me would was just looking and shaking their head.
[0:12:04.7] KM: Because you can’t erase on a test, I guess.
[0:12:06.1] AM: Because I had wrongs.
[0:12:09.4] KM: That’s the beginning of your real estate career.
[0:12:11.3] AM: Well, then I got back to the office and when they got my results, Gibson at [inaudible 0:12:19.2] Gibson said, “Well Ann, you made a 98. Now, if you’d spelled your name right, you would have made a hundred.”
[0:12:27.9] KM: That’s a good story. All right, this is a great place to take a break. We’ve got to sign off, say goodbye to our Facebook friends. When we come back, we’re going to continue our conversation with the interesting, Ann McCoy, and she’s a great storyteller. We’ll hear about life at the Arkansas Governor’s mansion, the behind the scenes story and preparations for moving to the White House, and if we have time, she’ll talk to us about all the movie stars and world leaders she accommodated while working for the Clinton administration.
[0:12:52.7] TB: You are listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of this show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you’d prefer to listen on iTunes, YouTube or Soundcloud, you’ll find those links as well. Lots of listening options. We’ll be right back.
[0:13:40.8] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Ann McCoy who’s career includes mansion administrator for Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and personal assistant and correspondent to the President Bill Clinton.
Before the break, we talked about your stent at the Arkansas State Capital for Lt. Governor Bob Riley and how you loved making tours. Who had any idea that that was going to end up, you will one day end up doing tours at the White House. Talk about good training. We talk about that in the show all the time. You never know where life is going to lead you. Just say yes to everything. Isn’t that true?
Then we also talked about a little bit about your real estate career. We’re going to pick up where we left off. You got your real estate license, went to work for [inaudible 0:14:29.0] Gibson. Actually, so successful. I think that’s when I met you, you were selling real estate and you were so successful. You were in the million dollar club. What was the average house?
[0:14:41.9] AM: 150, like you said.
[0:14:43.5] KM: Yeah. You sell 10 houses in a month to make the million dollar club. What? Why are you shaking your head?
[0:14:50.5] AM: Not quite that many.
[0:14:51.9] KM: Okay, 8. Close enough. That’s a lot. That was a big deal to be in the million dollar club back then. Today, you get one house and make the million dollar club or two houses and make the million dollar club. How did you make the jump from private sector to public?
[0:15:06.9] AM: I love the jump. I knew, as I said, enough about real estate, because Grady was in it, and actually he and I shared an office for about five years. I was in for 10.
[0:15:21.0] KM: In for 10! Sounds like jail, “I was in for 10. Five with my husband in a back office.” It’s like solitary confinement with her husband. All right, go ahead.
[0:15:31.3] AM: I loved looking at houses, working with people, finding just the right thing for them. I realized that I had to — Number one, I had to know my business, up my business as you say, and I would research the houses, find out where the schools were, the shopping, the hospitals. All of these is just an added feature to be able to tell someone how to get downtown to do this, that and the other.
Also, I learned to listen to people. When they would see a house, walk in and look around and start saying things, you just listen and you got to feel for what they really were looking for, what this one had or did not have. Also, I learned to read body language, because not everybody is as talkative as others.
These aspects as well as knowing the financing, people want to know this is a very emotional serious decision for people, and they wanted to know the details without having to reveal a whole lot about themselves sometimes. The experience that I learned there helped me the rest of my life as far as dealing with people. Of course I had to deal with plumbers. I had to deal with lawyers. Know how to write context, this, that and the other. It was a grand learning experience, particularly to go to the governor’s mansion as I did.
You mentioned about the million dollar club, and I was thrilled that I did make it. It was ironic, because it was, I believe, 1983, and Governor Bill Clinton was the one who gave out the awards.
[0:17:32.0] KM: Oh, really?
[0:17:32.2] AM: Yes, and we would all walk up on the stage and shake his hand and receive it and go down. I had met him, but I had never had any other dealings with him. I think there are certain things that people observe such as him seeing me work to receive this award that made him feel like I was someone that he might like to have later on. I’m sure at the time he was not thinking about that, but when you think back on the people you’ve met and the things they’ve done —
[0:18:10.1] KM: He had an impression of you as a hard worker.
[0:18:12.6] AM: Well, you’re exactly right.
[0:18:13.7] KM: Yeah, he’s like, “There’s a can-do, hard working woman.”
[0:18:16.4] AM: Right. I did go on to the governor’s mansion and —
[0:18:23.8] KM: Your daughter got a job.
[0:18:25.4] AM: Our daughter.
[0:18:26.2] KM: Came out of college.
[0:18:26.6] AM: Graduated from the University of Arkansas. She had babysat for a number of the Clinton’s friends, and Hilary needed someone to take care of Chelsea. So a good friend introduced Becky to Hilary and she had the job for two years as Nanny for Chelsea. They had a wonderful time, because Chelsea was three to five years old and they traveled a lot and they would take Chelsea would them, so that was a great opportunity for her. We did meet the Clinton’s during that time.
Then in 1985, the administrator at the time decided to do something else and Hilary called me and asked if I would meet her at her brother’s law firm office to talk about the job as administrator. So I did. I walked in his good size office and there was a large desk and a chair in front of it and she greeted. She said, “Please sit down,” and I did. She went behind her desk and she said, “Ann, Bill asked me to talk to you about the job as administrator for the governor’s mansion.” I thought, “Aha! A good lawyer is the first disclaimer if it doesn’t work out.” Anyway, it worked out beautifully.
[0:19:53.5] KM: What do you mean a good disclaimer?
[0:19:55.5] AM: I mean it was if you don’t work out, it wasn’t my idea.
[0:20:00.1] KM: Oh! I get you.
[0:20:00.4] AM: I don’t mean that critically. I mean that as just sort of a way to prepare me.
[0:20:05.5] KM: A good negotiator. Yeah.
[0:20:07.8] AM: Bill would like — Yeah.
[0:20:08.7] KM: I think all wives do that with their husbands actually. So maybe we’re all great negotiators. Grady says it’s time for us to go home.
[0:20:15.9] AM: Right.
[0:20:18.0] KM: What happened?
[0:20:18.8] AM: I take it as exactly what I thought it was that this is a joint decision they’re making, and he is the governor and I am employed by the governor. I absolutely loved working at the governor’s mansion. I was a supervisor for all of the staff, all of the five, eight staff that we had. It was very small. We had five inmates from the commons prison unit, that class-A inmates. They were excellent.
[0:20:54.7] KM: That means murderers. What is class-A mean?
[0:20:58.3] AM: It means they are the best behaved. They have a very good record of good behavior. They actually do not live at commons. They live in a unit out on 25 Street. They did then. They worked everywhere. They worked in the yard. They worked in the kitchen. They would help us when we had events, and it was really — My first experience was a good experience with them. I worked well with the state police. We had a little guard house and we always had state police on guard.
I had the responsibility for seeing that everything worked in the house. If not, to get someone to repair it. Also, the responsibility to see that all of the exterior was taken care of. We worked of course with the capital building service when we needed anything. Therefore, it gave me just a broad area. Then Hilary really wanted to have people in who she felt needed to be introduced —
[0:22:14.1] KM: To who? To the public? To the people?
[0:22:15.3] AM: Well, just to the general public for what they have done. We had awards —
[0:22:22.3] KM: She wanted to promote some people that she thought were doing good public service.
[0:22:26.5] AM: Yes.
[0:22:27.0] KM: Okay.
[0:22:28.6] AM: We always had the awards for the 4H award of the year, honorary of the year. We had the foster family. We had all kinds of charity organization, nonprofits.
[0:22:43.9] KM: Prior to Bill Clinton, nobody had ever opened the governor’s mansion up like this.
[0:22:48.1] AM: No. They really had not.
[0:22:50.9] KM: But he had a philosophy that it was the people’s.
[0:22:54.1] AM: That’s it. It was the people’s house.
[0:22:56.2] KM: It was the people’s house. I remember that about him.
[0:22:57.8] AM: I tell you, Governor, President Bill Clinton has always wanted to share what he had with other people, whether it was his knowledge or his — I personally think his goodness. He wanted people to see the governor’s mansion as well as the White House, and this was a wonderful way to compliment them and to tell the general Arkansas community what’s going on out there.
[0:23:30.0] KM: You worked every day. I remember that.
[0:23:31.6] AM: I loved it, yes.
[0:23:33.1] KM: Because you were starting to have grandchildren, I was starting to have children, and you were busy all the time.
[0:23:40.6] AM: It was an on-call job, and we had a lot of events at night, which I’d have to be there all of the time. We had events in the yard, and you’ve got to be there early and stay late. I loved it. I didn’t mind it, and thank heavens, Grady McCoy has been Grady McCoy, was fine with it.
[0:24:02.6] KM: He went to a lot of them.
[0:24:03.4] AM: he went to a lot of them, yes. They wanted him to be there.
[0:24:07.5] KM: He was a volunteer. I guess you could say he was a nice volunteer.
[0:24:11.6] AM: Nice volunteer.
[0:24:12.3] KM: Do you have a favorite story about the governor’s mansion? Let me see, you had some president’s visit while you were there, didn’t you?
[0:24:21.2] AM: We did not have a president.
[0:24:22.3] KM: A vice president?
[0:24:23.4] AM: And we really did not have that many celebrities. We had the crew of designing women, and that was the cutest, most fun thing we’ve ever had, and we had — Bob Hope was there for a — It was welcoming home veterans from Vietnam, and we had Captain Kangaroo, we had Billy Graham. He was in town —
[0:24:53.3] KM: I bet that he was interesting.
[0:24:55.1] AM: He was in town actually for a crusade and we had him for lunch. It was just delightful. I was going to say he was so gracious. He wanted to go in the kitchen, he wanted to meet everybody in the kitchen. He was very gentle.
[0:25:16.0] KM: Before we go to break again, tell us about Bill Clinton deciding to run for the presidency. Skip Rutherford was here and he said that he called a group to the play to the governor’s mansion, a focus group and Skip said, “I told him not to do it. It was crazy.” He said, “I was wrong.” What do you remember?
[0:25:38.2] AM: I remember it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever been through, and I was the one who said to him, I said, “If you can shake hands and look enough people in the eye for his 15 seconds, you will win the presidency.”
Bill Clinton has an ability to just engage someone even if it’s just for 15 seconds. It was so exciting. We had more going on that you can imagine. They set up a small office at the governor’s mansion. Now, of course the gazette building was the big campaign. We even had what I call a small war room, because we had James Carville, we had different people and they would get in there and I mean they strategize with Clinton and Hilary and it was pretty ferocious. They really wanted to cover all the areas that they needed to make this thing work.
As it went on, we worked to get Hilary dressed to go on the trips over — Of course, I’m skipping ahead. I didn’t even mention the announcement at the old state house. That was of course terribly exciting, but we were even — We were pretty much getting together even before that. But we had people in and out for jobs on the campaign.
[0:27:17.5] KM: They didn’t use the capital. They used the mansion.
[0:27:20.0] AM: No, they used the governor’s mansion.
[0:27:21.5] KM: Okay so [inaudible 0:27:21.9].
[0:27:22.0] AM: But it was not a huge office, but a lot of people would come and go out of it, and it was just a place, for instance, the press of course were watching everything, and if you did go to the gazette building, they were really watching that. They could not come on to the grounds at the governor’s mansion.
[0:27:40.0] KM: Oh, it was a safe place.
[0:27:40.8] AM: People could drive in and have their interview about the job. One morning I went to work and everyone entered the kitchen door. I got out of my car and I noticed a young man seated over by the backyard and sharing the table and reading the newspaper. I went in and I asked Liza and I said, “Liza, who is that outside.” She said, “Someone here to interview with Governor Clinton about a job.” I said, “Give me cups of coffee.” I took the cups of coffee out and introduced myself to George Stephanopoulos. He was this grand looking young man in pressed blue jeans and a white shirt with a navy blazer thrown over the chair, and we had a delightful conversation. Of course, the rest of history, as you know about George Stephanopoulos. He’s a fine fellow, and when he was there in Little Rock, I saw him. We had a good visit.
Of course, as I said, getting Hilary dressed to travel was really fun. She had a little group that she called Hilary Land, and these were — I call them — They were all about 20s. They were in their 20s and they were all over the United States from good families, well-educated, but they were just kids out of college and they were so excited about the campaign.
[0:29:18.0] KM: You were probably the oldest person on the whole —
[0:29:19.6] AM: I was. I was practically the oldest person at the White House too.
[0:29:23.8] KM: Yeah. I mean he was a young president.
[0:29:27.4] AM: Yes, and younger than I, and most of those who work for him were younger. It was a family deal. It was really working together to get things done. For instance, as time went on, for some reason people started sending Bill Clinton gifts, and over the, I think, eight months it amounted to — He received over 30,000 gifts. Most of them were very small, little hand-made things or something, but it went on and on. I mean even one person sent his Purple Heart, which Bill Clinton tried to give back and ended up on his desk at the White House, of course.
It was the most heartwarming thing. It was really overwhelming, because when they realized that it was almost time for the vote and they were going to give up the gazette building, they brought it all over to the governor’s mansion and put it in my area downstairs. What we would do, we would go in at night and we had two tables spread out and then we would take out things and spread them out on this table in the wee hours of the morning, because Bill Clinton rarely slept much. He would go down and look at things and he would find things that he wanted to give to people and things he wanted to keep.
He had a ball and it was so emotional to all of us that people were so carried away with him.
[0:31:07.1] KM: Such a responsibility to have so many people believe in you and have their hopes set on you.
[0:31:10.4] AM: You’re right. Exactly.
[0:31:12.0] KM: So much responsibility. I don’t know if everybody knows that Bill Clinton does not sleep.
[0:31:16.5] AM: No. He doesn’t sleep.
[0:31:17.3] KM: He doesn’t sleep.
[0:31:18.3] AM: When we got down to the election, election night, if you recall, Bill Clinton had just about ruined his voice, and Dr. James’ son told me, he said, “Ann, don’t let him talk.” We told Bill Clinton too. I mean he said he must not talk, because if he wins, he will not be able to accept. We sequestered him up in his library upstairs and I was running back and forth taking up hot tea with honey for his throat, and he called down and he said, “Ann, I think I’m ready for another one.”
This was late in the game, there were few of us there. Hilary was there, there were just a few staff way down in the basement area, and so I fixed the tea and I went upstairs and he was on the phone when I got upstairs. I thought, “[inaudible 0:32:19.2] is talking again.” He was talking to then President Bush who was conceding the election to him, and it was very quick and very polite and very nice, and when he hang up, of course my eyes were big as saucers, because I knew what he was doing. He said, “Run! Get Hilary,” which I did.
Then everybody got on makeup and got dressed and everything was just frantic, but everyone was so excited. We had a motorcade and we had everything in the motorcade, and they even added to it when he won. They had an ambulance. They had all of the secret service. It was just huge, and we all got in and we headed out. We got on Broadway and we were going downtown on Broadway, and we got to the Broadway Bridge and the Worthen Building broke out with red, white and blue lights of Bill all the way up the whole building.
[0:33:28.4] KM: They had planned it.
[0:33:28.9] AM: Of course, we all just cheered and it was so exciting.
[0:33:33.9] KM: That is just a great story. It almost brings tears to your eyes to hear it. I don’t know if it’s because you’re my mother-in-law or what, but it was just so emotional. I don’t want to take a break, Tim, but I do want to tell everybody who we’re talking to. You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, that’s me, and I’m speaking today with Ann McCoy, the mansion administrator for the Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, and later to the personal assistant correspondent to President Bill Clinton in the White House for eight years.
We’re going to jump on into the White House, because the story of how y’all went to the White House is a good one. So he’s won. You have now got to pack up the governor’s mansion, and if I remember correctly, you go see the White House before President Clinton does. Tell us how he’s won. Tell us what starts the ball rolling and how you had to do that.
[0:34:23.3] AM: Okay. Hilary asked me to organize a group to unpack the items that they would need immediately after the inauguration at the White House, which I did. I had 15 people. We had boxes that were at Chelsea’s room. Hilary’s this, the president’s that. Everything was — We also had a lot of bric-a-brac to make them feel comfortable.
Now, to move back a moment, [inaudible 0:34:57.3] Hackersmith and I made three trips to the White House for this very purpose. The first time we went, Hilary was there visiting with Mrs. Bush, and she gave her — Mrs. Bush gave Hilary a tour of the White House. We met Mrs. Bush and then Hilary took us on a tour of the White House. We went back two other times after that and just figured out where things would go for each member of the family.
We also went to this incredible facility in Maryland where you can choose what you want. The president’s desk is out there and he told us what he wanted. There were all kinds of beautiful pieces of furniture.
[0:35:45.2] KM: It’s like a big warehouse for all past presidents living furniture that they use and you get to go in there and shop, basically, for do you want Kennedy’s desk, or do you want Isanhoward’s. I don’t know what Isanhoward is known for.
[0:36:00.7] AM: It’s a phenomenal place and they almost — They keep the location on a secret —
[0:36:05.4] KM: Did Jacky Onassis — Is she responsible for that, for starting to collect and save the president’s things? I think she is.
[0:36:13.2] AM: They had a lot of things well before her.
[0:36:16.2] KM: Okay.
[0:36:17.2] AM: But I’m sure that she was, because that was kind of her forte.
[0:36:19.8] KM: Yeah. You went there and went shopping basically.
[0:36:23.2] AM: Absolutely. We could have everything we wanted, not personally, but for the president. We went to the inaugural and we saw the president sworn in. The 15 people that I had got on a bus and we went down the parade route and waved to people like we were somebody and we got to the White House. The two huge vans that were packed were on the south lawn, and they would not let us unpack them —
[0:37:03.0] KM: Okay. Hold it. Before you move on, so you have spent — Just for our listeners to follow. You have packed up the governor’s mansion, given away a lot of the stuff, chosen what you want to take to the White House, made two or three trips up there deciding where they go. Did you move up and live up in Washington during this time, or did you move yet?
[0:37:26.0] AM: No. We made three trips.
[0:37:28.4] KM: You made trips up there. You’ve decided where everything is going to go, and now he’s been sworn in at the inauguration. In fact, I was sitting with you during that time, and you and some other people jumped up and did exactly what you just said, jumped in the car, went down the parade route to the White House while everybody else is leaving the inauguration, and the president and first lady are getting ready to walk the parade path and you have made a b-line for the White House. Now, you’re at the White House in the parking lot, I guess it’s called, and it’s full of big vans and — So start, pick it up right there.
[0:38:15.1] AM: The vans would not — The secret service would not let them take the furnishings out for almost two hours. The White House gave all —
[0:38:24.8] KM: For security reasons or what? Did you say, “Hey, I’ve got to get this unpacked before the parade ends.”
[0:38:30.9] AM: Well, I don’t know what the reason was, and we didn’t worried too much about it except that we were on a deadline, but the White House staff gave us a complete tour of the White House. All of these 15 people got to go completely through the White House and see everything —
[0:38:51.3] KM: While you were waiting to get those —
[0:38:55.9] AM: The White House staff is incredible. They have about 98 permanent staff and they are career professionals. They are all good.
[0:39:06.3] KM: They’ve done this before.
[0:39:07.2] AM: They have done this over and over and over and they do everything with the idea of, “You’re just the best one yet.”
[0:39:17.5] KM: Oh! How gracious are they. I don’t think everybody realizes this, but when the president steps up to the podium to accept the presidency, he does not live in the White House. When he walks down Pennsylvania Avenue in two hours later, he has moved in the White House and he now lives there. You have hours to move the president in. I think that is just shocking.
[0:39:41.8] AM: Hilary did have the tour with Mrs. Bush and she saw the private quarters, but that was the first time she had ever seen it. I had seen it three times. I did see it three times before she did, before the president did. He had never been the private level. It was all terribly exciting for everybody.
[0:40:03.6] KM: They have approved you and you get to move in and you start moving in.
[0:40:06.9] AM: We finally got the items. Everybody like beavers put everything in the drawers where they needed to go, and the boxes — We had to have it by 5:00, because that’s when they were coming in.
[0:40:18.3] KM: Who put in the underwear drawer? I just want to know. Ann, did you let anybody do that, or did you do that? You know, really? I don’t know who I want putting in my underwear drawer.
[0:40:30.0] AM: We had a woman do that.
[0:40:31.9] KM: I figured you had to think about all that stuff. Go ahead.
[0:40:35.2] AM: My brother has laughed. He was one of our 15, and he said, “I got to put Chelsea’s things in her drawer.”
[0:40:43.4] KM: Yeah, that is a big deal.
[0:40:45.2] AM: But it was really neat, because the Clinton’s got back, everything was out and actually one of the housekeepers at the governor’s mansion, Virginia, who’s wonderful. She went with us and she stayed and helped Hilary get everything organized and dressed and everything.
Chelsea had five young friends from Little Rock spend the night with her that night and they had White House organized a scavenger hunt, and they had an absolute ball. It was really a wonderful night.
[0:41:15.9] KM: How old was Chelsea at that time? I can’t remember.
[0:41:17.4] AM: 13.
[0:41:18.9] KM: What a night!
[0:41:20.1] AM: Yeah.
[0:41:22.1] KM: That’s a great story. Tell us about when Bill Clinton came and saw the White House. Wasn’t it that night he came and he had all his friends over? Tell us about him going out on the Truman Balcony.
[0:41:33.2] AM: [inaudible 0:41:33.2]
[0:41:33.9] KM: Yeah, I interviewed you for Brave Magazine. I remember all these.
[0:41:37.0] AM: Okay. Actually, it was three weeks later, and the Clinton’s had a lovely party up in the living room upstairs. It’s called the Yellow Oval, which is surrounded by the Truman Balcony. There was a very nice man that I was visiting with and I was explaining to him the different things and I said, “The Truman Balcony is right out that door,” and he said, “Oh!” He said, “Could we go out and look at it, walk on it?” I said, “Of course.”
We went out, we walked all around the Truman Balcony, and then he came back in and he was talking to President Clinton and he said, “Oh my word! It’s so beautiful on that Truman Balcony.” He said, “The Truman Balcony?” “Well now, let’s see. I haven’t seen it. Let’s go.”
We all three went out to see the Truman Balcony three weeks after he’d lived in the house, but he loved everything about that house and he wanted everybody to see it. I had since a fabulous experience, because I was deputy social secretary. We planned every event that took place in the White House. We invited the people. We attended all of the events, pretty much in a hostessing capacity. I say we, not all, everybody attended, but primarily there were two of us that did.
Therefore we met so many people. I was fortunate when we were at the governor’s mansion that President Clinton, president elect, interviewed all of his cabinet members in Little Rock, and my job was to visit with them before they talked to him. I didn’t know who they were. Lloyd Benson from Texas, nicest fellow, wonderful, became the treasure secretary. We had Governor Riley, secretary of education, and on and on.
[0:43:39.2] KM: Robert Reich? Wasn’t he somebody?
[0:43:40.6] AM: Robert Reich. Oh! He was around there. He was there before. All of those, and some of the directors of the — I met them, and Bill Clinton time, he was never on time, so the conversations went on and on, but they were just delightful people. When we went to the White House, part of my job was to great people that were coming over there to see them and do things and we’ve recognized each other and we had a wonderful visit about that, “How do you like your job?” “How do you like your job?” It was comfortable for both of us.
There was one thing I wanted to talk about. The first day after the inaugural, we had three events. We had no pen to paper, computer phone, anything else. We did get that later. When someone leaves the White House, they pretty much strip it of everything, but we had 900 people who came through, friends of Bill they’re going to say thank you to. We had 200 DNC members and he had a meeting with them in the east room. We had 125 students who missed walking in the parade and Bill Clinton wanted them to come see the White House, and then we had 250 family and friends for reception that night.
[0:45:10.8] KM: That was the first day on the job.
[0:45:11.9] AM: That was the first day at the White House and it hardly slowed down after that. It was a learning experience. Then another fabulous event was in October of 93. We had five days to plan a 3,000 member event on the south lawn.
[0:45:37.3] KM: How many?
[0:45:38.5] AM: 3,000 people on the south lawn. It was the Israeli-Palestine peace cord.
[0:45:45.0] KM: Oh, just a little event.
[0:45:46.9] AM: It’s a little event involving little people, and we had — That morning I met President Carter and Roselyn as they were walking across from Blaire house, which is right across the street where they stayed. I took them to the south lawn where we had all the press from all over the world set up for interviews. Then I rushed back to the north portico to greet former President Bush, and it was the first time that had had been in the White House since he left, and he was so excited. He was visiting around with the security and saying hello to everyone, and then we were walking across the Rose Garden. I took him over the cabinet room and he’s really a nice looking tall man. He looks so rested and everything and I said, “President Bush, you just look wonderful.” He said, “I feel wonderful. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do.” Eight years later I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Then of course I was in the room when Arafat and Rabin had their first handshake, and that was not easy. They wanted to do it. Bill Clinton insisted on this. They were practicing this. Of course, the event was wonderful. It turned out just great. As we all know, Rabin was assassinated, Arafat has died, and we still have problems with the two.
[0:47:26.1] KM: Bill Clinton is the world’s greatest compromising negotiator. He can bring people together better than anybody. Speaking of that, what do you think Bill Clinton’s biggest strength is? You said a lot of them. He can connect with anybody in 15 minutes. He always gets a bad rep it seems like, but he did a lot of really great things and his heart is really in the right place.
[0:47:48.1] AM: Everything you said I believe is true. I think that he and Hilary had a deep commitment to people all over the world. They wanted to make life better for everybody, and there are ways they felt it could be done, healthcare for heaven’s sakes, education, the basics, and they really knew that it just took the right legislation and the right people to try to get this done.
Of course, it’s interesting, because I recently read a book that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote when she was literally dying. She wanted to write this, and the issues that she brought up in this book are the same issues that we are fighting with today.
[0:48:43.7] KM: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Humans are just humans. People are human, and we have the same — Every generation seems like we have the same human flaws that we had before and they’re usually — Greed is usually one of them and fear is another one of them. The wrong motivators for doing things that are good. You think we learned, don’t you? Don’t you think we’d learned? Don’t you think we had learned, Tim?
[0:49:12.2] TB: Depends on what we’re trying — Were we trying to learn it?
[0:49:17.0] KM: Oh, there you go.
[0:49:17.4] TB: Because if so, then we might have. If you’re not trying to learn, you’re not going to. You can’t help someone that doesn’t want help.
[0:49:25.1] KM: Oh! Has he been to AA? Are you going to write a book, Ann?
[0:49:32.0] AM: I have a lot of information. I had given lots of talks and I’ve kept all the information. I’m struggling with it, because I’m not a book writer, and everybody says, “Give it to somebody. Give it somebody.” I said, “No. No. No. No. No. My grandchildren are the ones that want to have it,” and I want it to be my words, my stuff. I’m working at it, and I better get with it as times goes by.
[0:49:58.8] KM: You cannot give it to somebody, but you can hire somebody and dictate it to them.
[0:50:03.2] AM: Okay. I have one other story. Do we have time?
[0:50:05.5] KM: You absolutely do. Come on.
[0:50:07.0] AM: Great.
[0:50:07.5] KM: You’re a great storyteller too.
[0:50:09.8] AM: I was lucky, the last three years at the White House, I was deputy — Pardon me. I was director of personal correspondent, and with that the Clinton’s asked me to host overnight house guests Now, by that they would call me and say, “Ann, we want so and so and so to spend the night this weekend,” and usually a specific night, “you call them and invite them.”
Can you imagine anything any more fun than to call someone and say, “This is Ann McCoy at the White House and I’m calling on behalf of the president and first lady to invite you to spend the night at the White House.”
[0:50:56.3] KM: She said that a few times.
[0:50:57.6] AM: It was interesting, particularly the women would say, “Ahm — Now, come on. Who is this?” That didn’t happen too often, and most of the time, to tell the truth, that they were really important.
[0:51:13.0] KM: They expected it.
[0:51:13.5] AM: Their assistant was who I talked with. I then would make all arrangements, particularly when they got to Washington, D.C., and I would have them picked up at the airport, greet them when they arrive, take them to their room and then stay with them basically for anything. Give them tours. If we’re having dinners, just make sure that they saw everything and had all their needs.
One story that I want to tell is we had — I was asked to call an invite, Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings, coach, and Hank Aaron of baseball fame, which I did. I invited them, and I had the times that they were arriving at the diplomatic reception room. It ended up where Dennis — One of them came a little early. I have to say I didn’t know either one of them. I had no idea what they looked like. I didn’t know anything about them. I greeted them, and people like this will not give their name. They expect you to know their name, and I introduced myself. I didn’t hear their name. We got on the elevator and I said, “Mr. Aaron,” and he looked at me and his wife was right there and he said, “I’m Dennis Green.” I said, “Excuse me. I’m sorry.” She said, “Oh, I’m sure that you didn’t recognize him. He’s lost 75 pounds.”
[0:52:57.3] KM: Good save.
[0:52:58.3] AM: Good save. Then I said, “Oh! That’s just wonderful. You look great.” It was so fortunate that that happened, because we had certain rooms and the Clinton’s would give — We want Hank Aaron in the Lincoln bedroom and we want Dennis Green in the Queen’s room, the best rooms in the house.
I lucked out, because I probably would have taken them in the wrong room.
[0:53:23.2] KM: Would have put them in the wrong room.
[0:53:26.0] AM: I learned after that to find some identifying, something I could go with.
[0:53:34.2] KM: Yeah, or at least — Clinton was in office during the internet. You could have Googled up these guys probably to see what they looked like.
[0:53:40.7] AM: We did not have cellphones. We did not Google.
[0:53:45.8] KM: Well, during the first part of his presidency, there was no internet. It didn’t happen till the last part of his presidency. You’re right. It’s hard to believe.
[0:53:55.0] AM: It was interesting. Hank Aaron was absolutely delightful. Oh! He’s a fine looking gentleman, he signed about two dozen baseballs and he said, “I want you to give them to the staff,” and we just had a great visit. His wife is absolutely adorable, [inaudible 0:54:13.2].
[0:54:14.8] KM: So I did an article with you and interviewed you for Brave Magazine and you said that everybody, when they come to the White House, is humbled by the White House. Did anybody make an impression on you that came that — I don’t know, that you were like, “Wow!”
[0:54:33.9] AM: Yes.
[0:54:34.5] KM: Who?
[0:54:35.7] AM: Nelson Mandela.
[0:54:37.2] KM: Really?
[0:54:37.9] AM: Nelson Mandela came to the United States to accept the Congressional Gold Medal. It’s the highest honor that congress can bestow upon a citizen. He received the medal and then they had a gathering of African-American ministers at the White House. He was invited by president. Mandela was invited by the president to stay at the White House and I made all of those arrangements for that. He and his wife of five months. He spoke to the group at the White House after he received the medal, and then he was really very frail and he wanted to go up to his room. So he was escorted down the hallway greeting people as he walked down the hallway, and I was at the elevator and he took my hand in both of his hands and we got in the elevator. We walked upstairs and I took him to the Lincoln bedroom and I told him that I’ve remembered well when Chelsea Clinton was 10 years old and he was released from prison, and Governor Clinton at that time had both of us in the kitchen to watch this on television. Then Chelsea and Mandela corresponded over the years and that night when he was at the White House, he called her at Stanford when she was at the university and they had a good visit.
With that, he’s the most gentle person. Bill Clinton introduced him to this group and saying, “Nelson Mandela is the man we would all like to be on our best day.”
[0:56:29.0] KM: Oh! What a good story. He had a lot of movie star friends. Tell me about Barbara Streisand.
[0:56:34.4] AM: Tell you about what?
[0:56:34.9] KM: Barbara Streisand.
[0:56:36.2] AM: Oh, yes! Barbara Streisand came early on to spend the night. She had never been to the White House. Now, this was in 93 and she was not married at that time. She was by herself. She was going to stay in the Queen’s room. I took her up there and I was telling her as I did everybody. I said, “Four queens had stayed in this room, the Queen of Norway, the Queen of Denmark, the Queen of Greece, the Queen of the U.K.” She said, “Oh! I’ll make it five, the queen of arts.” I said, “Oh! Sure.”
[0:57:09.8] KM: Wow!
[0:57:10.2] AM: She came back, and this was in about 98 or 99 and she was married to James Brolin. They stayed in the Queen’s room, and James Brolin is a doll. James Brolin is a history buff, and he wanted to see everything in the White House, every memorabilia, every picture. I didn’t mind showing him everything. I had more fun with him. But she was really very friendly and fun. I think it’s different when you’re in a situate. Everybody was in awe of walking into the White House.
Ralph Lauren and Ricky were the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life. They had their two beautiful children. Ralph Lauren had given $3 million to renovate the original American flag that hangs in the National Museum in Washington. He was adorable. They were so much and they would just say, “Oh! This is so exciting. This is so great.”
Will Smith and his wife, they were a hoot. Walter Cronkite and his wife were absolutely delightful. I enjoyed them so. Of course, Billy Graham and Ruth came a couple of times. They were so friendly.
[0:58:36.1] KM: Just first name basis. You know Ann, your Pollyanna attitude towards everybody is just enduring. It’s just great.
[0:58:44.9] AM: You have given me a gift to talk about it, because it was such a fabulous experience and I love to share it.
[0:58:54.4] KM: You’re welcome. Thanks for coming on. Where is your memorabilia going to be? You’ve got a lot.
[0:58:59.6] AM: The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, university studies. I am getting things together and my adorable daughter-in-law —
[0:59:09.4] KM: That would be me.
[0:59:10.5] AM: Has allowed me to take boxes down to Arkansas Flag & Banner and spread things out and look at them, which has been another gift to me, because it’s been memory lane and just such a — I realized we were working. I mean we worked 24/7. I was on call all the time. I loved it though, and Grady was with me. He worked with General Services Administration and loved his job. We had one of the greatest experiences anybody could have. We had friends in Washington. We were all over the place.
I didn’t even get to tell about my trip on Air Force One to Japan. That was incredible.
[0:59:50.3] KM: All right. Give me my gift for Ann. We have three gifts for Ann. One, because it’s Christmas, you get three gifts.
[0:59:57.3] AM: Oh, it’s exciting!
[0:59:58.6] KM: I know, right? The people at Arkansas Flag & Banner, because you’re down there spreading out all your memorabilia see you all the time, and how can they not love you? They gave you this book that you may have, because you are part of Arkansas history, and this recipe book is Recipes in Perpetuity, timeless and tastetells from the residents and future residents of the Mt. Holly Cemetery. It’s very historical.
[1:00:20.3] TB: And that copy is signed by all of the people involved.
[1:00:23.6] AM: Oh! How wonderful. Thank you.
[1:00:24.6] KM: Where did they sign it? Inside? Oh! Right there. Yeah! The people at Arkansas Flag & Banner gave you that because you are part of history and that is part of history. The recipe book about history, and you can get those at Flag and Banner, not to just keep plugging my business. Because you and I love scarves, and I always give you scarves, I got you a Razorback scarf from Arkansas Flag & Banner.
[1:00:43.1] AM: Oh, yes!
[1:00:43.8] KM: You can wear it on game day. You need this. That’s from me.
[1:00:47.1] AM: I will wear this Razorback scarf. Yes, it’s wonderful.
[1:00:49.1] KM: Because your husband, or my husband, your son, probably has not gotten you a gift yet, so I’m getting you a gift from him. It’s a Christmas ornament that’s a key, because you have the key to our hearts. Isn’t that sweet?
[1:01:04.1] AM: Okay. Isn’t Kerry McCoy wonderful?
[1:01:07.3] KM: Thank you mother-in-law.
[1:01:09.0] AM: [inaudible 1:01:08.5] you are so smart and so clever. I love you, Kerry.
[1:01:14.1] KM: I love you too.
All right! If you’ve got a great entrepreneurial story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch. Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[1:01:53.6] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you’d like to hear this program again, next week go to flagandbanner.com, click on the tab labeled radio show and there you’ll find podcasts with links to resources you’ve heard discussed on today’s show. Kerry’s goal; to help you live the American dream.