My story Sunday about former Congressman Tom Railsback's key role in the impeachment of President Nixon prompted a response from Marlen Luff, who considers a letter he received from the president during the crisis one of his prize possessions.
Luff now lives in Caldwell and is food safety manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. In 1973, he was living in Nebraska when Railsback, an Illinois Republican who now lives in Meridian and McCall, was preparing for impeachment hearings on the House Judiciary Committee. He contacted me after reading the Railsback story, saying, "It just brought back so many memories."
As a activist in the Lancaster County (Lincoln) Young Republicans, Luff was recruited to chair a group defending the president, the Nebraska Support the President Committee. The group collected signatures and $10 donations and published full-page ads in the Lincoln Journal.
"It was a whole page of names, a thousand names in little bitty type," Luff said. "It was no problem getting people to sign. Nixon was very popular in Nebraska."
Somehow, the ads came to Nixon's attention and Luff received a letter of thanks dated Dec. 21, 1973, reading, in part, "this expression of confidence and trust reaffirms my faith that this Administration can achieve the great goals all Americans seek."
The letter hangs in Luff's home office. He also has a letter from President Clinton, who replied to Luff's criticism of Clinton's views on gun rights, but the Nixon letter is his favorite. "He was a hero of mine. And I'm a history geek. I preach to my grandchildren about history."
Then 36, Luff was a grass-roots activist who attended two Nebraska GOP conventions and was state vice president of the Jaycees. He met Nixon during a campaign stop in Lincoln in 1968 and said he'll still remember him as a great president because of his foreign policy triumphs.
Luff worked in the family steel business and then ran his own company building livestock trailers. In 1989, he moved to Caldwell and worked for Circle J Trailers as vice president of manufacturing. Two years later, he joined Whiteman Industries, a manufacturer of concrete construction equipment. Three years ago, he retired from Whiteman with plans to return to Nebraska, but wound up staying when he got the job at Treasure Valley Seed.
Luff was a wrestler at Nebraska, lettering two years at 123 pounds and facing the top guys from top wrestling schools including Iowa State, Oklahoma and Nebraska. He said his greatest match was against Dick Delgado of Oklahoma, a national champion who beat Luff 3-1.
In some official wrestling results Luff's first name is misspelled, as it was by Nixon, who addressed his letter to "Marien" Luff.
"Everybody misspells my name," Luff said, laughing. "It should be spelled Marlon, like Brando, or Marlin. It's just one of those things that history can't change."
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