Eugene Allen, Butler for the White House, Died at 90

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Dead, Eugene Allen on March 31, 2010, at the age of 90, he was a waiter and butler who worked for the White House for 34 years until he retired as the head butler in 1986.

Born in Scottsville, Virginia on July 14, 1919, he worked as a waiter for many years, in “whites-only resorts and country clubs”, including Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, and a club in Washington.

He started in the White House in 1952 as a “pantry man”, a job which involved basic tasks such as dish washing, stocking and cleaning silverware.

Over the years Allen rose in his position, becoming the butler to the president.

Allen was particularly affected by the death of President Kennedy in 1963.

According to his son, “My father came home late on the day that President Kennedy had been shot.

But then he got up and put his coat back on.

He said, ‘I’ve got to go back to work.’ But in the hallway, he fell against the wall and started crying.

That was the first time in my life I had ever seen my father cry.”

He was invited to the funeral, but chose to stay at work to prepare for the reception, because “Someone had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral.”

In 1964 he was cast as the young suitor in the Broadway play “Any Wednesday.”

This role would lead to him being cast in the small role of Norman in Lilith (1964), starring Warren Beatty.

When Beatty was casting for Bonnie and Clyde (1967), he cast Hackman as Buck Barrow, Clyde Barrow’s brother.

That role earned Hackman a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, an award for which he would again be nominated in I Never Sang for My Father (1970).

In 1972 he won the Oscar for his role as Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection (1971).

At 40 years old Hackman was a Hollywood star whose work would rise to new heights with Night Moves (1975) and Bite the Bullet (1975), or fall to new depths with The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Eureka (1983).

Hackman is a versatile actor who can play comedy (the blind man in Young Frankenstein (1974)) or villainy (the evil Lex Luthor in Superman (1978).

Allen, who went by the nickname Gene, was held in the highest regard by many and was noted to have an unassuming, humble spirit, bestowing his colleagues with excellent service and becoming quietly entwined in history’s notable moments.

He was invited to President John F. Kennedy’s funeral after his assassination, but even while deeply mourning chose instead to remain at the White House to serve attendees as they came in from the services.

Allen was promoted to maître d’ during the Reagan Administration, and one year first lady Nancy Reagan invited him to attend as a guest a state dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Allen retired in 1986.

Helene died in the fall of 2008, she and Eugene having been married for 65 years.

She passed right before Barack Obama was elected president.

Allen received a VIP invitation to Obama’s inauguration with a Marine guard escort.

He cried as he beheld the ceremony, thinking back on the harsh days of segregation.

“You wouldn’t even dream that you could dream of a moment like this,” he told the Washington Post.

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