In his eulogy for fallen U.S. Capitol police officer Billy Evans on Tuesday, President Joe Biden shared a hugely personal story about former New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Hughes.
Biden spoke of losing his wife and child in a car accident just six weeks after he won election to the United States Senate in 1972.
To Evans’ family, he relayed a phone call he received from Hughes.
“I got a phone call when I first got here and lost my family, part of my family, from a person I never knew, never met, the former Governor of New Jersey who was literally 40, 45 years my senior. He told me he knew how I felt. And I didn’t say anything. He said, “I know what you’re thinking.” He said, “But I did know.”
Hughes told Biden that he came home from lunch “because I lived just across the green from my office.”
“And one day, a woman who helped out at our home came running across the green, saying, ‘She’s gone, she’s gone,’” Biden recalled. “His wife had had an aneurysm.”
Biden had most of his details correct – perhaps an indication that he was off the cuff; if his remarks were prepared his staff would have fact checked. For a 48-year-old story, the president didn’t get much wrong.
Hughes’s wife, Miriam, died in 1950, at age 38. While Biden said Hughes was the state attorney general at the time, he wasn’t far off: he was serving as a Superior Court Judge and didn’t live far from the courthouse. And Hughes, who served as governor from 1962 to 1970, was 33 years older.
Biden repeated some advice Hughes gave him: “He said, ‘You know what I did?’ He said, ‘I kept … I got graph paper. And four months out, I put the month on it and in a horizontal line, I put the date, the month. In the vertical line, I put the numbers one to 10. 10 would be the happiest day of my life and one would be like that moment I got the phone call.’”
“And he said, ‘And every night before I go to bed, I graph it. I put a dot on that day, where I was,’” Biden said. “And he said, ‘Don’t look at it for three or four months.’ He said, ‘You’ll look at it and you’ll see, put it on a graph.’ He graphs it. ‘The downs are just as far down, but they get further and further and further apart.’”
Watch at the 5:27 mark: