Guntersville attorney Jeff McLaughlin spent the summer of 1983 interning for longtime Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill in Washington D.C.
Now his son Frank has followed in his father’s footsteps. But Frank might have gone a step further. Last summer, he interned for Congresswoman Terri Sewell. This summer, Frank spent a month interning for U.S. Senator Doug Jones.
“He went up the first Sunday in June,” Jeff said.
For the first couple of weeks, Jeff and Frank would talk by phone and Frank would always say, “Hey, Dad, Doug would like to see you.”
“I thought Doug was just trying to make me look good in the eyes of my son,” Jeff said. “He’s very busy. I assumed he was just being pleasant, engaging Frank, and I appreciated the sentiment.”
But Frank continued telling his dad that Doug has mentioned possibly seeing him while Frank was working in Washington.
“I would tell him that was nice and to hang in there and keep up the good work,” Jeff said.
The third time Frank asked, Jeff thought maybe there was something to it. And it just so happened that a court hearing he was supposed to attend that week got continued. A day opened up in his schedule.
“It was kind of crazy, but I caught a flight and went up one evening and spent the next day with Frank,” Jeff said. “It just occurred to me. When would I ever have the opportunity to spend a day in Washington again with my son working there?”
He arrived in Washington on a Tuesday night with enough time left in the evening to have supper with Frank at a restaurant called The Hawk and Dove.
“It had been there when I clerked for Tom Bevill way back in 1983 and I ate there then,” Jeff said. He had to explain to Frank that the terms “hawk” and “dove” stemmed from the Vietnam war. Legislators who favored involvement in Vietnam were called hawks and those who opposed it were doves.
“We had a great dinner,” Jeff said. “The atmosphere was still very much like it was back when I was there in 1983.”
Frank’s experience working for Sewell last year was great. But this year was even more enjoyable for him. For starters, his apartment was within walking distance of his work. Also, some of his classmates and friends from the University of Alabama were also working in Washington at the same time.
“We stayed in Frank’s little apartment,” Jeff said. “The next day, we got up, put on our suits and walked to work together.”
Before starting his practice in Guntersville, Jeff was a lawyer in Birmingham. While in Washington, he ran into Cissy Jackson, the wife of Steve Jackson, a lawyer friend from Jeff’s days in Birmingham.
“We had a great visit and she gave me the nickel tour of the office,” Jeff said.
Cissy shared a funny story about Jones’ office with Jeff.
“One thing about being a freshman senator is you don’t get a large allotment for equipment,” Jeff said. “Doug’s office has a miniature portico. I wouldn’t call it a balcony. Cissy was walking home from work one day and she came across some old lawn furniture someone was throwing out. It had a bronze finish. She scavenged it off the sidewalk for that space. She called Doug and told him what she’d found. He said, ‘Pick it up, we’ll use it.’ That was the way I furnished most of my apartment until I got married.”
Jeff got to see Jones for a few minutes that morning. They were scheduled to have lunch together, but Jones was so busy, Jeff didn’t think that would happen.
“Every minute of the day is scheduled for a senator,” Jeff said.
Frank took his dad for a Capitol tour.
“Because he was an intern, I got to see some places people normally don’t get to go,” Jeff said. “It made me proud to walk the Capitol with my son.”
About 1 p.m., Jones and Jeff had lunch together. It wasn’t anything fancy.
“We went to the Senate cafeteria in the bottom of the Dirksen building,” Jeff said. “Basically, you grab a plastic tray, go through the line and pick what you want. I had pizza and a salad with our Senator.”
Jones and Jeff had known one another from Birmingham attorney days.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with him,” Jeff said. “I asked him how things were going. He said he had adjusted and he was trying to be an independent spirit, not too far left and adequately representing our state. I enjoyed talking to him.”
Jeff got to sit in on one of Jones’ committee hearings involving health and aging issues. The topic being discussed was keeping prescription prices affordable for seniors.
Jones told Frank to take a little time to spend with his dad that afternoon. Frank has always enjoyed the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum so they walked to it.
“As we were heading out, I looked over and noticed what I thought would be a great photo,” Jeff said. He had Frank stop and pose with the Capitol in the background. Jeff has joked that it would be a great photo if his son ever runs for office.
“We spent about an hour walking around the museum, then I had to grab my bag and head home,” Jeff said. “I only spent about 30 hours in Washington, but it was a fantastic little trip and I’m glad I went.”
Before he left for Washington, a paralegal in his office, Haley Nichols, scrawled a message on a piece of paper that said “Hi, Doug” and took a photo. She sent it to Jeff and told him to tell Doug she said hi. Doug scrawled a message back that said “Hi, Haley” and Jeff sent it to her.
“He was very good-natured about it,” Jeff said.
Frank is back in Guntersville now. He said he and his dad packed a whole lot in a short visit.
Frank will enter his senior year at the University of Alabama this fall. He’s earning a degree in political science with a minor in American studies.
He’d like to get a job working in a political campaign when he finishes school.
Would he like to run for office himself someday?
“I’d give it some careful thought if the opportunity presented itself,” Frank said. “But I’d probably jump at it.”
Thanks to his dad and a whirlwind trip to Washington, Frank already has his campaign picture if that day comes.