Walton was a friend of both JFK and Jackie. He had been a prominent war journalist and had accompanied the 82nd Airborne division that had parachuted into France behind German lines on D-day.
In addition to being a journalist, Walton had a strong interest in cultural and fine arts and was appointed by Kennedy to head the Fine Arts Commission, with Kennedy afterwards calling him “the Czar of Lafayette Square.”
And it was in this role that Walton played his most historically significant role in lives of the first couple. He had been overwhelmed with grief upon hearing the news of the assassination.
But, shortly afterwards, Walton received a telephone call “from the hospital. Apparently, Jackie had remembered seeing a book in the White House library that had photographs and drawings of Lincoln’s laying in state in the White House East Room. Walton was charged with finding the book and preparing the East Room in an identical manner.
In addition, he was urged to return to the White House by National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. Walton later recalled Bundy’s words,
“Look, I know how shattered you are, but there’s something you have to do. You’ve got to come down and run the White House. I will run the country. I’m very serious. There’s nobody else to do these two things. We have to do it. A car’s coming to get you and it will be there any minute…”
Walton did return to the White House that afternoon and supervised workman putting up black drapes in the East Rooms windows and other preparations. Although Walton was one of the few Kennedy insiders who had less than “good looks” (his face was pockmarked and he had large jugular ears) he was judged to be ” clever and debonair.”
And on this day of mourning and shock he maintained his look and according to deputy Press Secretary David Pearson, he appeared poised and well-put together in a blue blazer, rep time, crisp flannel slacks, and dress loafers.
[3, prologue source notes], [15,xxiv],