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PAPER TRAILS: Hitchhiker writes wife of VIP ride

by Sean Clancy | September 26, 2021 at 4:50 a.m.

HITCHING A RIDE One evening in early June 1950, Harry Jukes was about 40 miles outside of Little Rock trying to thumb a ride. Harry, from Coraopolis, Pa., had recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with an engineering degree and was looking for work.

"I was standing on a corner and it was pitch dark, no moon, no houses and I was scared to death," he wrote in a June 8 letter to his wife, Barbara.

Finally, a "dynaflow buick" stopped to pick him up.

In the car was Arkansas Gov. Sid McMath and a man Harry described as the "Head of the Arkansas State Police."

He told McMath that he'd planned to hitch through the night, but the governor wouldn't hear of it and arranged for Harry to spend the night at the state police barracks. The next morning, Harry had breakfast with McMath, one of the governor's sons and an education official at the Governor's Mansion. Afterward, he flew with McMath on a C-47 transport plane to Dallas.

McMath's youngest son, Bruce, shared the letter on Facebook last week. He'd been contacted by Lisa Jukes, Harry's daughter, of Bay St. Louis, Miss. Both Harry and Barbara have passed away, and Lisa found the letter among their belongings at their home in Picayune, Miss., a few years ago.

She knew a bit about her dad's Arkansas adventure, but the letter was a surprise.

"It's just so cool," she says. "There was the governor's kindness and his trust of other human beings, and then there was my dad's persistence and his love for my Mom."

Lisa also feels some divine intervention may have guided the governor's Buick that night.

"I think it was God showing up," she says. "Sometimes you feel like, 'Where is God?' But He showed up."

Bruce, who had never heard the story, says: "It's an insight into the times and into Sid. That's who he was. He was all about his fellow human beings and service."

He figures it was his older brother, Sandy, at the breakfast table all those years ago. Sandy doesn't remember it, but says this kind of thing was common for their father, a Democrat who served two terms.

"He was always bringing people home -- farmers, hitchhikers -- it didn't matter. They were honored guests in our house."

Harry eventually did find work, Lisa says, spending 37 years with Gulf Oil before retiring.

NO DRONE ZONE Cast your memory back to last week, when we wrote about amateur videographer Ben Stone and his enchanting videos of Arkansas waterfalls, some of which were made with a drone camera.

Law Abiding Reader from Conway points out in an email that there are rules against flying a drone or "unmanned aircraft" in national parks. Drone pilots might want to check out the regulations at arkansasonline.com/926papertrails/.

email: sclancy@adgnewsroom.com

Print Headline: Hitchhiker writes wife of VIP ride

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