Obama presidency a long time coming for many

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
EAST SPENCER ó Odell Scott and Willie McCree watched Tuesday as Barack Obama took the oath as the 44th president of the United States.
Scott, who’s retired from the Army, stood almost reverently for the grand event.
Once Obama finished his oath, Scott remained silent for a moment before finally observing, “He’s in.”
Following another pause, McCree agreed.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
Jones Barber Shop in East Spencer was one of numerous establishments around the county, state and nation where people gathered Tuesday to watch the presidential inauguration.
For many ó blacks, especially ó it was a momentous occasion, watching the first president of African-American heritage take his oath.
That was certainly the case at Jones Barber Shop where both Scott, 59, and McCree, 38, cut hair.
“I never would have dreamed it,” Scott said of watching the ascent of a black man to the nation’s highest office.
“I’m glad I was able to see it.”
“I never thought I’d see a moment in history like this,” McCree agreed.
Admittedly, business at Jones Barber Shop was slow. For most of the inauguration, Scott and McCree were accompanied by but a single customer.
Scott and McCree said the morning’s snow and ice had something to with the downturn in business, but they said the bad economic times have filtered down even to barbershops.
People, they said, are putting off all unnecessary expenses, even haircuts.
They’re hoping, Scott and McCree agreed, that Obama’s election will prompt an economic spike.
Scott and McCree watched Tuesday as President Bush followed a group into the inauguration ceremony.
“That’s where he belongs,” Scott said of the now-former president’s placement. “In the back.”
“Bye, Bush,” McCree said.
The pair’s demeanor improved dramatically when Obama arrived. Scott flashed a thumbs-up.
When the announcer intoned, “Ladies and gentlemen, President-elect Barack H. Obama,” both Scott and McCree seemed on the verge of tears.
“Oh, man, I’m getting chills,” McCree said.
“I’ve already had ’em,” Scott replied.
Scott grew up in Fredricksbug, Va., and said he joined the Army in 1969. He retired as a sergeant first class.
Scott said he grew up alongside white children, and said he never witnessed any overt signs of racism until he joined the Army and traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training.
Racism deeper in the South, he said, was more prominent than it was closer to his home near Washington, D.C.
Scott admired the television view Tuesday as the camera panned the hundreds of thousands who crowded the National Mall for Obama’s inaugural address.
“Know what I like about this?” Scott asked as he surveyed the masses that included people of all racial makeups. “The beautiful color. That’s true color, that’s true color, there.”
“Look at all those American flags,” McCree chimed in. “That’s what you call a million-man march.”
The inauguration went slightly past the anticipated noon-time start of Obama’s swearing-in, but that didn’t seem to bother greatly the folks at Jones Barber Shop.
“We’ve waited all these years, what’s a few more minutes?” Scott asked, chuckling as he spoke. “It’s happening, it’s finally happening.”
As much as Scott and McCree admired Tuesday’s proceedings, they couldn’t help but point out a single flaw.
Obama’s hair, they agreed, wasn’t up to the standards produced by barbers at Jones Barber Shop.
Scott and McCree critiqued aloud Obama’s haircut, one of them noting it wasn’t blended as it should have been.
“He should have come to Jones” Barber Shop, McCree said. “I’d have said, ‘This one’s on me.’ “