It had been a long day on Capitol Hill for Senator John Stennis. He was looking forward to a bit of relaxation when he got home. After parking the car, he began to walk toward his front door. Then it happened. Two people came out of the darkness, robbed him, and shot him twice. News of the shooting of Senator Stennis, the chairman of the powerful Armed Forces Committee, shocked Washington and the nation. For nearly seven hours, Senator Stennis was on the operating table at Walter Reed Hospital.
Less than two hours later, another politician was driving home when he heard about the shooting. He turned his car around and drove directly to the hospital. In the hospital, he noticed that the staff was swamped and could not keep up with the incoming calls about the Senators condition. He spotted an unattended switchboard, sat down, and voluntarily went to work. He continued taking calls until daylight. Sometime during that next day, he stood up, stretched, put on his overcoat, and just before leaving, he introduced himself quietly to the other operator, “Im Mark Hatfield. Happy to help out.” Then Senator Mark Hatfield unobtrusively walked out.
The press could hardly handle that story. There seemed to be no way for a conservative Republican to give a liberal Democrat a tip of the hat, let alone spend hours doing a menial task and be “happy to help out.”