- Associated Press - Monday, February 6, 2017

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - A new exhibit reflecting the relationships Vincennes’ favorite son Red Skelton shared with several U.S. Presidents is on display now at the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy, 20 Red Skelton Blvd.

The special exhibit, entitled “Red Skelton for President: Make America Funny Again,” features several personal letters and photographs - as well as a video loop of some of his most famous presidential jokes - and will be open through the end of March.

“He had a lot of back and forth with several different presidents,” said Anne Pratt, the museum’s director of marketing. “He performed at seven birthday parties for (Franklin D. Roosevelt) at the White House, and he was good friends with (Ronald) Reagan and (Richard) Nixon, too.”

“This collection includes a lot of those letters they wrote to him on their own personal stationary.”

The unique collection includes a letter written by President Gerald Ford expressing his “gratitude” at Skelton’s willingness to loan him one of his best writers, Robert Orben, for the drafting of a special dinner speech to fellow Republicans. It boasts photos from 1953 of Skelton at a birthday party for first lady Mamie Eisenhower as well as a letter dated 1973 in which Richard Nixon thanks him for a “warm and thoughtful get-well message.”

The collection also features a letter written to Herbert Humphrey in May of 1967 in which he teases the vice-president about a recent letter he’d received from him. It’s not often he gets a letter from Washington, he says.

“Oh, I get one from the Bureau of Internal Revenue,” Skelton writes, “but those are not very complimentary.”

And a letter to Lyndon B. Johnson dated May 1965 thanks the president for a recent piece of correspondence.

“I’m so proud, especially knowing you are strenuously engaged in efforts to bring more sunshine to this darkened old world,” Skelton writes.

The exhibit has been set up, in part, to celebrate Presidents Day on Feb. 20, when the museum will host a special open house from 5-7 p.m.

Pratt said the collection is to honor the patriotic side of Red Skelton.

“And you can really see that through these artifacts,” she said. “And through his ‘Pledge of Allegiance,’ it’s easy to see just how patriotic he was, regardless of which party was in office at the time.

“That’s something we really wanted to emphasize through this new exhibit.”

And when the museum opened more than three years ago, officials there said they would look to host special exhibits using pieces from its own collection of Skelton’s belongings and traveling exhibits from other museums as well.

Now that most residents have had a chance to see the museum’s permanent displays, Pratt said it’s time to make good on that promise.

“This is just part of our long-range plan,” she said. “We recognize it’s time to start showcasing some of the other artifacts we have in the collection. We have so much, especially photographs and letters. And every couple of months, we get another packet from (Lothian) Skelton, things she uncovers. It’s so exciting.

“And we plan to make this an ongoing trend,” she said. “Every year, we want to have one or two special exhibits that will feature other artifacts from our own collection that aren’t always on display.”


Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://bit.ly/2kxwe8d


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://www.vincennes.com

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