The Buckner Mint Julep Ceremony

The Setting

William C. Buckner:

As an eight year old Army Brat living the Commandant's quarters in May of 1935, I was caught up in the anticipation of an impending important event: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, would arrive the following month to give the graduation address at West Point.

Included in the scheduled activities on Graduation Day, 12 June, was a cocktail reception for the President and his entourage at venerable Quarters One [now 100]. The Superintendent, Major General William D. Connor, was a teetotaler but, nevertheless, a conscientious host. With the advance intelligence that the President "liked his liquor red," Connor consulted with the born and bred Kentuckian who lived next door, my father, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. The Supe and the Com decided that mint juleps would be served at the reception and that Buckner would oversee their preparation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Douglas MacArthur A hot Graduation Day was correctly anticipated. Huge blocks of ice were delivered to the quarters, an enlisted detail crushed the ice, and juleps were prepared and served to the thirsty guests. The juleps were well received by all, particularly the President. My father later divulged that a waiter approached him at the reception and said, "Sir, Colonel, the President wants another drink, but I don't think he oughta!" General MacArthur prudently declined a second julep, saying, according to family legend, "No, thank you. I think I will stop now while I still know who is President."

Two years later, General Connor made plans for another June soiree--this time a reunion luncheon for his own Class of 1897--and again decided to serve mint juleps. To obtain the recipe, he drafted an elegantly worded request and sent it to his former Com, now commanding the 66th Infantry (Light Tank) Regiment at Fort Meade. Light tanks, by the way, were then twin-turreted affairs with a .50 caliber machine gun in one turret and a 37 mm gun in the other. They had not quite the punch of two mint juleps.

Buckner's eloquent response often has been used by a Kentucky distillery in responding to questions about the legendary concoction, but the Connor letter prompting it, to my knowledge, has never before been published. The classic exchange follows:

JULEPS: Home | History | Setting | Solicitation | Recipe | Postscript | Sources
BUCKNER: Home | Genealogy