Tulsa Doctor Recalls Nixon's Inauguration

Tuesday, January 20th 2009, 4:38 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Barak Obama's inauguration brings back fond memories for a Tulsa doctor.  Nearly four decades ago, he attended a presidential inauguration.  But, what makes it unique is his work behind the scenes, which led to a personal meeting with the Commander-in-Chief.

Although hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall to witness Barak Obama's inauguration, few are able to see what takes place behind the scenes during the swearing in ceremony.  Dr. Joe Cole of Tulsa is one of the few who has.

"Admiral Custiss came down and said, ‘I have something I've volunteered you for.' And, my reaction was that never sounds good.  But, he said, ‘no, I really think you'll enjoy this,'" said Dr. Joe Cole.

Dr. Cole was a Navy physician at Bethesda Naval Hospital when he asked to be a part of the medical team at President Nixon's second inauguration in 1973.

"You knew that you were in the presence of someone who wielded a tremendous amount of power," said Dr. Joe Cole.

The medical teams were in place in case there were mass casualties.  Cole says the worst thing they saw was a case of frostbite that cold January day.

"I got to be with the President almost the entire day, stood around 25 feet from him most all the time.  And, fortunately, wasn't called on to do anything except be a spectator," said Dr. Joe Cole.

Even so, it's a role few have filled over the years.  It's an opportunity Cole calls an incredible experience.

"The security even at that time was just totally incredible.  And, you have this sort of out of body experience that you are actually a part of history even though a small and insignificant part," said Dr. Joe Cole.

With the new presidential inauguration for Barak Obama, and during each one since Nixon, Cole reflects on his opportunity for a firsthand look at history and says it was an honor and privilege.  Two weeks after his inauguration, President Nixon came to personally thank Dr. Cole and the other Naval physicians.

Cole remembers President Nixon as very personable and an outstanding person to talk with.