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Historic weekend to celebrate Churchill museum anniversary

Historic weekend to celebrate Churchill museum anniversary

January 20th, 2019 by Jenny Gray in Local News
<p>A sign at Westminster College proclaiming the coming of the Wren church and future museum. (Photo/Westminster archives)</p>

A weekend of historic happenings, including visits from the families of Winston Churchill and American presidents, is generating excitement at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton.

In other words, plan to be a part of the museum's 50th birthday celebration on May 3-5.

"I think the importance from the museum's viewpoint is to drive a stake in the ground and tell them this weekend is for us," event publicist Tom Pagano said.

Family members of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston S. Churchill and President Harry S. Truman will be taking part in celebratory festivities later this year to mark the 50th anniversary of America's National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College, it was announced earlier this week.

Churchill and Truman's grandchildren, Randolph Churchill, the Honorable Edwina Sandys, Sir Nicholas Soames and Clifton Truman Daniel will be among the featured guests at the golden anniversary activities during Churchill Fellows Weekend on Friday through Sunday, May 3-5, at Westminster College and throughout the city.

"Since I've been here, this will be the most Churchills I've seen here at the same time," said Rob Crouse, media director for Westminster College.

The public is invited to participate in all of the festivities on campus and at the museum, the only museum in North America that commemorates the life and times one of the 20th century's greatest leaders.

"If we could flood the town (with spectators), that would be outstanding," Pagano added.

Who's who

In addition to the Truman and Churchill family members, Tricia Nixon Cox, daughter of President Richard M. and Pat Nixon, and Anne and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughters of President Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower, will be taking part in the celebration along with other members of the honorary anniversary committee, which is chaired by Randolph Churchill.

It's hoped many members of the honorary committee can make the trip, Crouse said. The committee includes Westminster Trustee Chairman John M. Panettiere; former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, of New York City; Senior Fellow and Westminster College Trustee Philip J. Boeckman, of London, England; former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, of St. Louis; New York City author and business executive Tina Santi-Flaherty; Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin; attorney Richmond McCluer, of Winona, Minnesota; former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon; former CIA Director and retired U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus; Vera Fairbanks, wife of the late American actor and producer Douglas Fairbanks Jr. who worked to secure funding for the museum; and the Honorable Lord Alan Watson C.B.E., of Richmond, England; a member of the British Parliament's House of Lords. Watson visited the campus in 2016 to give the Green Lecture.

"We are very excited and honored to have members of the Churchill and Truman families and many other notables taking part in this historic event here in Fulton," said Timothy Riley, the Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout director and chief curator of America's National Churchill Museum. "This 50th anniversary celebration will be fun, and will inform, inspire and motivate people to learn more about Churchill's leadership and the speech that changed history and still influences the world today."

Riley was referring to Churchill's historic March 5, 1946, speech at Westminster College — "Sinews of Peace," which is often called the "Iron Curtain speech." That now famous speech sounded the alarm on the fracturing relationship between the post-war superpowers, and essentially marked the beginning of the Cold War between the Allied nations and with what was then known as the Soviet Union.

Churchill came to Fulton at the invitation of Westminster College President Franc McCluer, who asked Churchill to deliver a talk on "international affairs." The invitation letter also included a hand-written message from then-President Truman, who wrote "This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. I'll introduce you. Best regards, Harry Truman."

Weekend activities

The 50th anniversary celebration includes many festivities, from a parade of military and high school bands and floats to various exhibits and lectures about Churchill, the museum, and the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which is an integral part of the museum.

"The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which was designed by celebrated British architect Sir Christopher Wren, is historically significant and profoundly inspirational," Lamkin said.

This church originally was built in Central London and dates to the 12th century (and was attended by writer William Shakespeare). It was bombed and burned during the London Blitzkrieg on Dec. 29, 1940, at the start of World War II.

The church was acquired by Westminster College in 1963, dismantled, and all 7,000 stones were shipped, railed, and trucked from Central London to Fulton, where it was reconstructed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Churchill's 1946 speech, Lamkin said.

The museum originally opened in 1969 as the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library. But, in 2009, the United States Congress formally recognized the museum as America's permanent tribute to Churchill, and officially designated it "America's National Churchill Museum," the name it bears today.

Presidential, student exhibition

In addition to the anniversary parade, Riley said exhibits will include paintings by Winston Churchill, a celebrated artist, and by American presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, all of whom were inspired by Churchill's leadership and artistry. There also will be an exhibit of more than 4,000 paintings by Callaway County school children to illustrate the term "special relationship," which Churchill often used to describe the link between the U.S. and Great Britain.

All Missourians and other fans of Winston Churchill around the globe are invited to take part in the May 3-5 weekend festivities.

A parade will start 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, and stretch about 2 miles throughout the city, according to organizers.

"We want as many people to join members of the Churchill family and others as they descend upon Westminster College," Lamkin said. "The parade will culminate at America's National Churchill Museum with a dramatic flyover of World War II military aircraft."

The weekend also will include a special tribute to Eagle Squadron 1st Lt. John F. Lutz, a young airman from Fulton, who volunteered to join the Royal Air Force before the U.S. entered World War II. After the U.S. entered the war, Lutz and other American airmen joined the U.S. Air Force, and on May 4, 1943, his plane was shot down over the English Channel, and he was lost at sea.

Today, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, is the official chapel of the highly decorated Eagle Squadrons.

For more information, please contact Rob Crouse,, 573-592-5019 or 573-291-9399, or Tom Pagano,, 314-602-7549.