In 1994, Alonzo Fields died at the age of 94, having lived a life that was nothing short of fascinating. Fields is best remembered for having served as a butler and then Chief Butler at the White House for 21 years under four Presidents. In 1960, he wrote this short but intriguing memoir of his time in Washington and the many important historical figures that he encountered during his time at the White House. As a book about the behind the scenes workings of the White House kitchen and support staff, one may be tempted into thinking that the pages of the book will be filled with curious tidbits of gossip about the personal lives of the occupants. This is book is anything but that. Never intended to be a gossip account, Fields stays away from rumors and the secretive lives of the presidents and their families. He mainly recounts his encounters and his opinions regarding his day-to-day interactions with the presidential families.
While Fields’ account does not contain any provocative information, students of history will pick up things here and there throughout the book. And the foreign leaders and ambassadors that visit provide additional memories that Fields fondly recalls. The encounters with Sir Winston Churchill are nothing short of humorous and support the common notion of Churchill being one of the most grand leaders in world history. More often than not, a common misconception about the presidency is that the holder of the office has unlimited power and lives in the most grandest fashion. From Fields’ eyes, we see that isn’t always the case and level of frugality varied from one President to the next. Additionally, the President serves as the top-level head of the nation but his job and the job of the First Lady also dedicates a significant portion of time hosting others. And supporting these endeavors is an amazing and highly tuned supporting staff which Fields proudly recalls having been part of for 21 years of his life. Some of the best witnesses to history are often the silent ones for with the eyes and ears open and mouth closed, they are able to observed and analyze almost everything they encounter. Fields, who remained friends with President Truman and is mentioned in the records of the Truman library, held one of the most important positions in the nation and as a result left us with this good read of what it was like working for the President of the United States.