Remembering a Former Macon Poet's Inaugural Day

1:37 PM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
US President Bill Clinton is sworn in 20 January 1997 for his second term as president of the United States by US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist as First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea look on. At left rear is US Vice-President Al Gore and at right rear is his wife Tipper Gore. (Photo: TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou before him, poet and former Macon resident Miller Williams was asked to craft an inauguration day poem for President Bill Clinton's second term in 1997.

It's pretty select company considering only three Presidents have invited poets to inaugural festivities: John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. 

Here's how Williams' inaugural poem, "Of History And Hope," begins:

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words, 
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.

RELATED | Read Miller Williams' Entire Inauguration Day Poem 

An Arkansas native, Williams came to Macon to teach at Wesleyan College where he was a professor of biology. (And apparently, he made a few extra dollars working at Sears selling refrigerators.) 

While in Macon, Williams also made friends with one of central Georgia's most famous residents, the writer Flannery O'Connor

That friendship meant his young daughter, Grammy-winning songwriter Lucinda Williams, grew up chasing peacocks on O'Connor's Milledgeville family farm, Andalusia

A year after her dad read at Clinton's inauguration, Lucinda took home her second Grammy for "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," an album named for the title cut which begins by recalling her childhood in Macon: 

Sittin' in the kitchen, our house in Macon
Loretta's singing on the radio
Smell of coffee, eggs and bacon
Car wheels on a gravel road

The elder Williams had some of his work included in "Writing on Napkins at the Sunshine Club," a compilation published by Mercer Press featuring poets with ties to Macon.

His career has also been honored by the University of Arkansas Press with the establishment of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize.

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