Pacific Coast Association of Port Authorities

Where Were You When Nixon Resigned


After four years with MarAd, I decided to bite the bullet and start my own consulting business. I had the technical know-how from my work with Matson, and my MarAd experience had provided me with many contacts. I envisioned my services would center around the port and marine terminal industries. My first client was the Pacific Coast Association of Port Authorities (PCAPA). They hired me and kept me on a retainer to act as their Executive Vice President. This would consume about a third of my time. My basic duties involved running the Association, overseeing various research projects, collecting dues, publishing a newsletter and organizing a convention once a year.

There were approximately 35 ports in the membership and seven of them were Canadian. PCAPA was primarily an organization of commissioners, as opposed to staff. Some of them were elected but most were political appointees. Appointments were usually made by the mayor of a city or, sometimes, by the governor of a state or province. They tended to be successful businessmen in the community associated with a particular port, and in the U.S. they were, to a man, Republicans.

Each year a particular port would act as host for the annual convention, and since one fifth of the ports were Canadian, the convention was held in Canada once every five years. This was the case at the time of the Watergate Scandal that over took the Nixon Administration. The host port at that time was the Port of Vancouver, B.C. The Chairman of their commission was President of PCAPA for that year. At one point during the course of the convention (August 9, 1974) the membership was gathered for lunch in a large banquet hall filled with large round tables that would seat 10 or 12 for  a meal. I was seated at one of these tables in the middle of the room. On my right was a friendly and outgoing commissioner from the port of San Diego. He was, in fact, a personal acquaintance of President Nixon. The Watergate Scandal was the hot topic of discussion and right of the middle of our conversation, the President of PCAPA entered the room and went up to the podium:

“Gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make. The President of the United States has just resigned.”

The entire room was stunned into absolute silence. You could have heard a pin drop. Being as he was a Canadian, addressing a room full of mostly Americans the President of PCAPA was now in a rather awkward position. He felt like he should make some comment but finding the right words was a problem. Finally he said;

“Well, I guess. . . well, that shows. . . well, I guess that proves that democracy works.” He spun on his heel and left the podium quickly.

Slowly, a low murmur filled the silence. Then the commissioner on my right, addressing the whole table, said;

“Yeah, but how many of you can say you voted for the other guy [George McGovern] in last election?”

No one answered. I hesitated for a few seconds, then I raised my hand and said softly,

“I did.”

He slowly turned and looked at me squarely. Then he smiled and said,

“You know, I like you. You’re honest.”

Tags: , , , , , ,