The Green Book

by Editorial

The wild card in this game is the President. He can change the rules, or change the rank of the Speaker of the House (Kennedy), the Secretary General of the UN (LBJ), the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (Carter), or the director of the CIA (Reagan – twice). The President could even set social behavior. Grover Cleveland once poured coffee into a saucer and saw cabinet members follow suit. Only later did they find out that the President poured the coffee into the saucer for his dog.

The Green Book persevered, however, even with Mrs. Hagner’s death in 1943. Her distinctly less “social” (but no less well-mannered) daughter, Carolyn Hagner “Callie” Shaw would rule the roost for 35 years from her office in “Callie’s Alley” in Georgetown. She did not merely inherit her post; she had been social secretary to Evalyn Walsh McLean and Cissy Patterson.

The War’s end trumpeted an expected “trend back to formality”. Callie Shaw was the acknowledged “Fairy Godmother of Etiquette”. She even undertook a radio show on WMAL Radio. This was in addition to 16 – 17 hour days on the post-military Green Book, incorporating 3,000 changes out of 5,550 names. The Soviet embassy ordered 31 books to send to Moscow and ordered the same number six years later.

There have been problems with the upscale Republican regimes too, causing revisions, deletions, wholesale reprints and rebindings. The Green Book management still shudders over the mess Watergate made of things in 1974. The Washington Star reported that the Green Book’s deletion list read “like the lineup at the Watergate hearing.”

The book’s “big boom” exits made headlines during Callie Shaw’s reign. At times there was even a news release of sorts on who was bounced out, though rarely saying why. The dumping of Drew Pearson in 1944 made Time magazine, and the elimination of Alger Hiss, Abe Fortas, Justice Douglas (notorious marriage), Barbara Howar, former attorney general Ramsey Clark (“too far out”) and Hamilton Jordon got national coverage. As the Green Book grew (literally, from one-half to two pounds) some changes were made. Our litigious age encouraged the Green Book management to cease promoting the list of the outed. The book began getting more notice for who it included. Divorced people, “invisible from 1930 to 1975”, surfaced in the regime of Callie’s daughter, Jean Shaw Murray.

Following Jean Shaw Murray’s death in 1977, things continue to remain within the family under the direction of editor David Howe. The book still lists the gentry at the White House and the executive departments, the Supreme Court, the Congress, diplomatic corps, and the OAS delegations – in that order. Then comes the social list, complete with maiden names and former married names, clubs and societies, and useful phone numbers. Finally, come the sections on precedence, the proper ways to address officials, and social forms.

Ten calls a day continue to pour into the office asking about precedence and protocol and the more prosaic wedding or debut. Newcomers are often told that they can’t get along without The Green Book.

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