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A Senator's Surprising Inauguration Shout-Out Probably Wasn't So Surprising

Posted: January 22, 2013

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Lamar Alexander, the Republican senator from Tennessee, and Alex Haley, the author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, were close friends and native Tennesseans.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee Chip Somodevilla

It may have struck many people as odd that Lamar Alexander, the senior senator from Tennessee, gave a shout-out to Alex Haley, the author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, during his remarks at the presidential inauguration.

"The late Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by these six words: Find the good and praise it," Alexander said Monday on the National Mall, just before he introduced Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who swore in Vice President Biden. (Alexander was the only Republican lawmaker to speak at President Obama's inauguration.)

But it turns out that Alexander and Haley, who died in 1992, were old friends from way back, according to The Washington Post.

"The Tennessee Republican and the celebrated author were good friends. During his second term as governor, Alexander invited Haley to co-chair a homecoming celebration for Tennesseans. During the planning, Haley was convinced to move back to the state. The two once traveled for weeks on a cargo ship together, both working on books. Alexander has called Haley 'the greatest storyteller Tennessee has ever produced.' "

In 2011, Alexander donated many of his papers, including his long correspondence with Haley, to Vanderbilt University.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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