Archive for Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Presidential Bible collection ready for another year

August 23, 2000

As the presidential race turns from convention rhetoric to campaign trail rhetoric, Baker University's John Forbes is considering the signature of the next president. That is mainly, how he will get it in a Bible for the Quayle Bible Collection.

President Bill Clinton was the 10th and last consecutive president to add his signed Bible to the collection, which dates back to the Truman administration.

Forbes, curator of the collection, said it took two tries to get that one. He's hoping an Al Gore or George W. Bush signature will be easier.

"When we first sent the Bible to Clinton, we got it back unsigned with a note saying his lawyer didn't think he should sign it," Forbes said.

Forbes then considered going through former Sen. Bob Dole's office, but was told to work through the U.S. archivist, former Kan. Gov. John Carlin.

"It seems Dole and Clinton weren't exactly friends at the time," joked Forbes.

"When I usually deal with Washington D.C. folks, I usually get a bit of a runaround," said Forbes. "But Carlin wasn't like that at all. He called me and said 'Sure, send it up.' We got the Bible back just before Christmas 1995."

The collection began with Harriet "Hattie" Osborn, who was librarian at the university from 1925 to 1945 and helped at the facility after that on a part-time basis. She wrote to President Truman requesting that he donate an autographed Bible. Truman complied, sending one from his own collection and making reference to two sections he felt students should pay particular attention to the Ten Commandments and the beatitudes.

Since then, every president has added their signature to the collection.

Forbes chooses a different version of the Bible for each signature, wanting to reflect both the religion of the signee and language of the moment. A Masonic Bible was donated for the signature of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a mason, and a Roman Catholic Bible for President John F. Kennedy.

All 10 presidential Bibles went on display this month for about a year.

The bibles are only a small part of the Quayle collection, which contains several old, rare and unusual Bibles. The collection is a gift from bishop and former Baker president William A. Quayle, who died in 1925.

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